To be completely frank with the TMRzoo readers, I was less than thrilled to see PopStar for the Wii arrive for review. I enjoy the occasional rhythm game, and I don’t have anything specific against Pop Music, but I have to admit the thought jamming out to the Jonas Brothers and Rhianna doesn’t exactly get my motor running. As I read the complete band line-up, which is probably impressive if you are 12 years old, I began to cringe a little.
So I booted it up, and set up my official Wii air guitar (see below for a more in depth description of the air guitar) and began to play.
So first things first, In PopStar you take on the role of a lead guitarist who forms a garage pop band. After naming your band, you pick band mates and begin touring. As you pass the songs you unlock more songs and venues eventually advancing to the final “Battle of the Bands”. There 12 characters to choose from (6 male and 6 female) all of which can be customized to a certain extent. There are 25 total venues and 60 pop songs to play. There are also some single player and multiplayer mini games all of which are pretty similar to the main game, and at best can provide a bit of a distraction, but the main draw is without a doubt the aforementioned “career” mode.
The Wii version comes with the brand new Air Guitar peripheral. This is basically a “sleeve” with 4 buttons. This slips over the Wii-mote to create the frets. The nun-chuk controller is then plugged into the Wii-mote and used for the strumming. The overall effect is actually very much like an air-guitar and I have to say is fun to use. It is not as fun as a good custom Guitar Hero or RockBand Guitar, but it achieves exactly what it was aiming for. The storage is a lot easier which is welcome to anyone who has more than one these rhythm game guitars lying around.
The gameplay in and of itself is OK. Think Guitar Hero but much easier. MUCH easier. There are only 4 “fret” buttons, and they are very close together which makes playing the songs a breeze on all the skill levels. In Guitar Hero or RockBand, finger placement and strategy plays a big part in passing songs on higher skill levels. There is none of that here. The core gameplay on all of these rhythm type games is fun, so I can’t say I had a bad time, but there are far better choices for my age group if I want my rhythm fix. Technically the game played fine with no hiccups in any of my gameplay sessions.
Now, since I know I am not the demographic, and I want to be fair to this game, I decided to bring the game over to my friends house (he has two daughters, aged 12 and 15) to get a quick reaction from the target demographic. Keep in mind I planned to let them try a few songs and get some general feedback.
To say the loved it would be an understatement. They couldn’t stop playing. They used the Air-Guitar peripheral exactly as it was meant to be used, dancing around the living room, making exaggerated movements and having a blast.. From setting up their band to playing the songs they thoroughly enjoyed every facet of the game. They sang along to all the songs, and the difficulty (set to medium) was enough that they missed notes here and there but never hard enough that they were in danger of failing the song.
So my final grade is split. If you are a rhythm junkie go buy RockBand 2. If you are a parent with tween children (I would say the target is 10-13ish) then you can not go wrong putting this under the Christmas tree.
Final grade B-.
PopStar goes on sale November 18th.