With Guitar Hero: On Tour for the DS, it’s clear that Activision is intent on bringing the Guitar Hero franchise to every platform possible, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. Activision rolled through San Francisco earlier this week showing Guitar Hero: On Tour off the the press, allowing me my first actual hands-on experience with the game, and it was both better and worse than I expected.
The software itself does a surprisingly spot-on job of replicating the full-size Guitar Hero feel, both in terms of aesthetics and mechanics. Strumming on the touch screen while focusing on the note patterns on the other screen didn’t take much getting used to, and the game seems pretty forgiving about where you strum on the screen. Scribbling back and forth to use the whammy bar felt pretty intuitive as well. One of my concerns going in was the sound quality, and while it’s definitely not CD quality, it works. There was no mistaking that OK Go song for anything else.
Unfortunately, my time with Guitar Hero: On Tour confirmed another concern of mine, which is that the guitar grip itself is inherently kind of awkward. Hitting the fret buttons on the grip would cause the DS to jiggle about slightly, and I felt like my hand was constantly trying to find a comfortable and stable position that simply didn’t exist. Also, because of the way you have to wrap your fingers all the way around the bottom edge of the DS to hit the fret buttons, the screen with the note patterns is halfway up your forearm, which isn’t the most natural way to play a game.
Keep in mind that this was a relatively short gameplay session with non-retail hardware. I could certainly see getting used to the guitar grip, and I’m sure it would help to play with finalized hardware that hadn’t been manhandled by countless members of the press before me. I’ll admit that it’s pretty impressive that Vicarious Visions has gotten something even resembling Guitar Hero working on the DS, but I’m not sure that’s enough to keep me interested.