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Children's Video Game Review:

Guitar Hero: On Tour (for the Nintendo DS)

Video Game Review: Guitar Hero: On Tour
Children's Video Game for Nintendo DS

By Activision

Our Recommended Age: Ages 13-up

Released: 2008

Our Rating: A

about our reviews:
All reviews at Edutaining Kids are independent and impartial. Our children's video game reviews are designed to help parents and caregivers find the right games for their kids. Evaluations and ratings are based on educational and entertainment value, age appropriate content, and innovativeness.

Many of us know and love the Guitar Hero series (and its close cousin, Rock Band). That a game can provide a challenge of keeping good hand-eye coordination in time with some of the best popular songs of the last few decades is, arguably, brilliant. It's so brilliant that the Guitar Hero franchise has collected a devoted following; most people under thirty have tried it, and almost everyone has heard of it.

Guitar Hero: On Tour presents one obvious difference from its console counterparts: it has no plastic, child-sized, buttoned guitar controller. Rather, the game comes with a unique "guitar grip," a piece with four buttons (instead of Guitar Hero's usual five), which plugs into the part of the DS system usually reserved for backwards-compatibility with Game Boy Advance games. It's a very well-constructed apparatus: it has its own holder for the guitar pick (to be explained soon), as well as a strap to keep the game system in your hand while your fingers are busy pressing buttons.

The game utilizes the system's dual screens very well. On one side, you watch the familiar guitar strut with green, red, yellow and blue buttons scrolling toward you (and seamless animation in the background). The other screen displays your score, your crowd approval, and your "rock out" meter (used to determine score bonuses) - but mainly, the screen shows a big picture of your guitar.

With the strap holding one hand to the buttons, your other is free to use the guitar pick to strum the strings of the picture of the guitar on the touch screen. Note - the game provides a lefty mode with button color reversal that perfectly mirrors the righty mode with a quick setting change.



You needn't worry too much about accuracy when strumming: strumming anywhere on the screen - either lifting the pick between strums or strumming back and forth - will allow you to hit the note (as long as you've got the right button pressed and strum at the right time). Wiggling the pick quickly back-and-forth anywhere on the screen allows you to use the whammy bar for held notes.

While the design of the game is great, allowing it to be played easily on the go, it does expect a small level of awkward contortionism that takes some getting used to. With one hand in the guitar grip, and the other holding the pick, you might feel left to compromise between holding the game out from your body and bending your wrist at an uncomfortable carpal-tunnel-causing angle, and holding the game close to your body to relieve the wrist strain but running into trouble using the guitar pick effectively. You'll have to find what's right for you.

One option, if you find game play uncomfortable and are willing to exchange some of the aesthetic for extra functionality, is to abandon the guitar pick and use your thumbnail. You may want your DS wearing screen protector sheaths in this case. Using your thumb, you don't have to hold the DS at an awkward angle, and can pick accurately: just rest your fingers at the "top" of the DS, above the touch screen, and let your thumb do the work (if you have a long enough thumbnail, that is).


Your "Star Power" bonus is noise-triggered. If you don't want to shout "Rock Out!" like the game suggests while you're riding the bus to work, just try blowing air at the microphone. Another alternative is to press any of the four lettered DS buttons - though this might interfere with your strumming.

On Tour comes with twenty-five songs: less than the console versions, but impressive for that tiny little game cartridge. It includes classic tracks like No Doubt's "Spiderwebs" and Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl," as well as some that are likely to be less familiar - but you'll sure know them by the time you complete them in expert mode!

Expert Mode in this game, by the way, is easier to succeed in than in other Guitar Hero games. With four strut buttons rather than five, those players who love the game but "just can't manage" that pesky fifth button (which requires either moving the whole hand from side to side or having an extra-dexterous pinkie finger) will experience some relief. With On Tour, players get to experience the ultra-fast-paced complexity of playing like an Expert without worrying about moving between buttons. Expert mode is slightly easier than in other Guitar Hero games, but that doesn't mean it's a cake walk: the game still expects a lot from four-finger players.

While this game does have some small problems for players lacking double-jointed wrists, these problems can be overcome easily. Overall, On Tour's equipment does a wonderful job at mimicking a portable guitar and providing a reasonable, reachable challenge with its game play. The songs are catchy - the franchise has by no means run out of popular songs to "Guitar-Heroify" - and the game is easy to play yet demanding to complete in Expert Mode.

Because bringing the game to the DS required a lot of originality and creativity in addition to the other great features mentioned, Guitar Hero: On Tour for the Nintendo DS deserves a five of five star rating.


  • Fun game for teens.
  • Responsive gameplay.
  • Reasonably challenging.


  • Requires some adjustment in order to uses the controls.


Our Rating:


more information:

For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Guitar Hero: On Tour

Reviewed: November 2008

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