We were playing an engagement party gig that had gone on for a solid three hours. It was three in the morning and the air is thick with solid beams of light, blues and greens and reds made manifest in the swirling fog. Our vocalist Lisa wants to sing Rebel Girl by Bikini Kill and I nod because she’s angry and drunk enough to do it justice tonight.
I know she’s there because I can hear her, but I can’t see her through the milky white. I don’t have time to think about it because I’m playing lead guitar and it’s complicated. Maybe we should have practiced more, but now it’s too late and we’re playing.
Then the strobes hit and I see the crowd, floating faces lit up by the light show and made bodiless by the too thick cloud that fills the too small space.
We finish strong and Lisa, her voice raw from the performance, asks if we can do it again.
Someone shouts Aqualung from the back of the family room.
And I knew then in the fog and the lights and roar of the half dozen or so people that were there that evening on the couch, that we could never go back to playing Rock Band 1.
— Praxis Loki, Memoirs of a Rock Band
Rock Band 2 is simply an improvement to the Rock Band interface. That said, they also made some changes to the administration of the band. I’ve heard that they also changed how you unlock songs, but since we play to party, we pretty much punch in the unlock code and then play whatever we want.
It’s not about the game man, it’s about the music.
What’s nice is that you get all the improvements of Rock Band 2, plus the super extended library made possible by combining the track libraries of both Rock Band games. In a surprise twist, they allow you to copy the old music data from Rock Band to the hard drive. Which is a godsend, because having to switch discs would be incredibly difficult if you had the fog machine hooked up and you were appropriately prepared to play Rock Band.
There’s a small convenience fee that you pay, presumably for licensing, but it’s worth it. In comparison, I ran no less than four SingStar parties in the last week. SingStar now lets you switch discs so that you’ve got the music library from all of your titles, but to be perfectly honest, I’d rather have it all out there in one large menu. Paying the convenience fee for licensing is more than worth it to have the songs that I’ve already paid for available to me without having to swap discs out.
But, back to Rock Band 2, and the fog and light show. I picked up the Rock Band Stage Kit, which is the marketing term for “USB fog machine and LED light show.”
First, I’m going to tell you that it is one hundred dollars.
But it is a USB device and the lights and fog are synchronized with the music that you are playing. Also, there is fog. I was not fully prepared for the amount of fog this device puts out. I had even seen a funny review about the stage kit and thought I was ready for the amount of fog it puts out.
I was not ready.
So far, experiments seem to indicate that fog only intensifies the experience. The fog is also incredibly thick. I suppose that it’s similar to why bands practice so often.
Also, the fog makes you giggly. I’m not sure if it is some sort of crazy pharmaceutical reaction to the fog, or the fact that I can’t see 12 inches into it once it gets into the room.
Either way, it is awesome. Was it worth it?
To be honest, when I first heard about it, it seemed a gimmicky accessory, something for hardcore fans to purchase if they had more money than sense.
After experiencing it, I’m going to say that it’s still a gimmicky accessory, but it’s a well executed and crafted gimmicky accessory for people with more money than sense.
Still not convinced? Spend five minutes in the fog, playing Don’t Fear the Reaper with a full band (maybe with a few drinks in you, for realism). I won’t guarantee that it will convince you, but I will guarantee that you’ll never play Rock Band the same way again.