Whenever anybody asks me if I’m ‘Ready to rock?’, I’m unsure how to answer. That’s a loaded question. It could be taken as a greeting, or confirmation of a pre-discussed plan. I deal in granite, so it could conceivably be asking if I’m looking forward to work that day. Or is it a slight, somehow? Does it mean to gauge my motivation, my desire to see something done? Or does it, in the case of Heroes of Rock (80 MSP), ask if I’m ready to button-mash and suffer from hand cramps for the next half-hour? If so, then my answer is a lukewarm ‘Maybe.’
Heroes of Rock (don’t ask me why it’s ‘Heroes’ when there’s only one character) is a 2D brawler with 3D characters and backgrounds, similar to the dismal Uproar! but thankfully much more stable and responsive. Oh, and there’s a guitar. And an original Heavy Metal soundtrack. The cover strays close to Brütal Legend, though the gameplay isn’t even a genetic match. Jack Black isn’t coming to save you, Heroes of Rock.
That’s not so much condemnation in my words as it is a vote towards the aforementioned ‘lukewarm’ feeling. Though there’s no storyline to speak of, the idea seems to be you’re battling a record company, a satanic one that’s killing music as we know it, or maybe that’s just what I’m making it about. All of your character’s attacks are guitar-based, too, as if to give that noble fight some irony. The game supports an excuse to drag out your plastic guitar. I did to experiment (the face buttons represent strong and light hits, as well as dash moves to either side, while the strum bar moves the character and controls the frequency of attacks), though I found it far easier, and more comfortable, to just use the controller.
Enemies are exasperatingly easy regardless of control scheme, and come in the same three varieties; a devil in a suit, a rocket-launching devil that prefers to hop around the arenas, and a bigger, bouncer-type devil that reminds me of Hellboy. Your tactics with each won’t vary. Taking damage results in a lowered rock meter. Crank it to 11 by attacking and you’re golden (as evidenced by the louder music, a cheering shadow audience, and devil horns). To keep it there and thus stay alive, simply button mash at your own personal peril and you’ll emerge victorious from every skirmish.
One tutorial and five stages later, you’re done. There’s no special moves to build towards or use, no bosses to take down, no ending to witness. Not so much as one line of text or a trivial ‘Thanks for Playing’. Heroes of Rock is a bare-bones brawler that hinges entirely on your appreciation of the music and the mashup genre. Still, it functions reasonably well, and the scene transitions from one path to another are nice, even if the animation is rough throughout.
It’s not going to set the stage on fire or elicit any ‘Encore!’ chants, but if you’re really into the music game scene and need a reason to put the band back together (drag out old peripherals), you could do worse than the $1 ticket price. For those about to (Heroes of) Rock, I salute you. Your fingers, though, will not be as enthusiastic.