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Developer: Vicarious Visions
System: Nintendo DS
Genre: Rhythm and music
Release date: Available now
Review by: Michael Smith
The first game of the massively successful Guitar Hero series arrived on the Playstation 2 in 2005, with other versions released later for the next-generation consoles and the PC. You could even play it on your cell phone starting in the spring of 2008, but owners of hand-held gaming systems were left out in the cold — until now. With the release of Guitar Hero: On Tour for the Nintendo DS, Activision has finally invited on-the-go gamers to the party.
The biggest hurdle to pass for designers has been a control method; nobody wants to have to carry bulky peripherals with their portable systems. GH: OT‘s creators solved this problem with a guitar controller small enough to make the game practical with a minimum of inconvenience. The four-button controller is inserted into the Game Boy Advance slot and includes an adjustable strap to anchor the system to your hand. Players still using the original DS system haven’t been forgotten, as GH: OT ships with a small adapter that allows the controller to attach to the console. If the geek factor isn’t a problem for you, the game also includes stickers you can use to decorate the controller.
Getting started is fast and simple. Just insert the controller and remove the guitar pick stylus from the slot in the grip, push the game cartridge into the usual slot and power up the DS. One of the first things you see is a warning concerning player comfort. This should be taken seriously; in the first week of release, online forums were already covered with posts from players suffering from cramped hands. The designers also suggest the use of headphones when playing, and this is sensible; a decent pair of stereo headphones or iPod earbuds is a significant upgrade to the DS’s built-in speakers.
The main menu offers a choice of single-player or multiplayer modes, a limited options menu and an in-game store, where you can use virtual cash earned in the career mode to upgrade the appearance of your character. Also on the single-player menu is a four-part tutorial, which offers an introduction to GH: OT gameplay, from the basics of strumming and star-power activation to more advanced topics such as hammer-ons and pull-offs. There’s lots of useful information in the tutorials, so new players should take advantage of it.
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