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    E4's Guitar Hero II (PS2)

    [March 7, 2008 09:04:45 AM]
    Gamelog 2:

    Having put some decent hours into Guitar Hero II, I found that while the challenges provided by the varying song difficulties provided ample skill challenge, the song selection was rather meager and the limited breadth of music genre left me aurally bored after a while. A larger library of songs with a wider breadth of genres of music using the guitar might have made the game provide more hours of enjoyment in this regard. Since only the most dedicated players are willing to play to purely for the skill mastery, it is unlikely that most players will progress to the 4th difficulty level, if not the 3rd (in terms of player skill), before setting the game aside leaving a good portion of the potential game play inaccessible to the player due to the time required to gain the skill to play at higher difficulty levels.
    There are 30 songs in the initial library, and 15 some unlockable songs. Averaging most songs at around 4-5 minutes, playing through every song would take roughly 3-4 hours. Granted that most players would probably require at least a few extra song attempts to get the hang of the game and hone their skills to a decent level (unless they’d already had previous experience from the first Guitar Hero game), and probably a considerable number of hours could be put into multi-player competition; however, regardless, this yields comparatively few hours of game play to reach a content exhaustion within the limit of player average player interest compared to other games that I’ve played.

    There have been quite a few different beat and rhythm games that have been made, with sequels and spin-offs of all sorts. The unique pseudo-guitar controller used for Guitar Hero games utilizes the dexterity of the player’s fingers on both hands to press the chord buttons and strum the toggle switch. The controller’s design requires the player to use coordination and motor skills similar to those used for actually playing a guitar. This brings the game play experience closer to the experience being pseudo-simulated by the game, much like how Dance Dance Revolution (and similar dance) games use a dance pad to detect dance steps.
    Following the nature of music, the core game mechanic utilizes pre-defined note-charts—effectively equivalent to specifically designed levels using notes and extended chords instead of platforms, obstacles, and landscapes. The use of pre-designed note charts thus rules out the possibility of any form of emergent gameplay, forcing the player through the designed “level” at a pre-determined rate, much like shmups, but with a much more limited range of input possibilities, since there are 5 notes with a 2 binary values based on the input: chord button depression and strum. However, the dual input usage—chord button and strum switch—gives Guitar Hero much more depth than most beat and rhythm games, which have only 1 binary value for each input type (step, note, etc.). The dual input usage allows the game to make use of different input combinations, such as holding down chord buttons and strumming while holding the chord. Thus the game play of Guitar Hero is several levels of complexity above the simple pattern recognition and motor-function mapping of single-tier structure beat and rhythm games such as DDR. This control complexity is effectively implemented through well-designed note-charts for each song and difficulty, using more difficult, complex input patterns in the note-charts for higher difficulty levels, giving Guitar Hero II a good difficulty curve.

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    [March 5, 2008 01:28:06 PM]
    Game log 1

    In Guitar Hero II, the player uses a guitar-shaped controller to symbolically emulate the playing of a guitar through the pressing buttons (representing chord finger positions) and toggling of a switch (in place of strumming the guitar strings) in time to a moving chart of notes synchronized to a song. The player must press the corresponding chord buttons on the controller and ‘strum’ the toggle switch timed correctly as the notes move down the screen, timing the ‘playing’ of the corresponding notes as they reach the bottom of the screen to successfully ‘play’ the song. The objective of the game is thus to hit as many notes as possible in order to ‘pass’ the song, and further more, score as many points as possible.

    When picking up the controller for the first time, I realized that there were 5 chord buttons on the neck of the guitar controller, and that it would require considerable skill to quickly execute a combination of button presses, particularly since the shorter 2 fingers or the hand are generally not known for their dexterity. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when I started playing and discovered that the easiest level difficulty of play required the use of only the top 3 buttons (and thus 3 fingers on the chord buttons). In playing through the tutorial and a number of songs in career mode, I was able in get attuned to the game and acquire a decent level of skill as the songs got more difficult.
    After a while, thinking that I effectively mastered the easy difficulty, I skipped up to medium, which utilized the fourth chord button and presented considerably more challenging note charts. Consequently, I had to replay songs a few time before I got the hang of the more advanced input techniques required to pass these songs, such as keeping one or more buttons depressed during a streak of repeated notes, strumming the toggle switch both up and down when needed for rapid input, and strumming only once for certain indicated slews of notes. I thought that the acquisition of these skills to reach higher difficulties was well curved through the career mode, keeping me inclined to continue playing rather than giving up because the scale of difficulty was steep enough to provide a challenge, but easy enough to make progress on without significant punishment for failure. This kept the game both fun and challenging to play.
    After a while of play, I realized that I had quite a few credits to throw down in the unlock shop, where I purchased the two unlockable characters and a few songs. I then changed the character I was playing with to the grim reaper, and realized how relatively pointless this was. While the visual graphic and animations were different for each character, since the player can’t afford to look at the animated character and crowd in the background during most of the game (since the player must focus on reading the notes of the song), there is little to no significance of the selecting of characters and customization of guitar to play with in career mode. While this kind of character customization feature may attract some people, I personally was not entertained by it, probably because I wasn’t drawn to the particular ‘rock’ artistic style used in the game. I felt the character customization might have had a greater impact if the game utilized character uniqueness in some way, but the structure of the Guitar Hero II effectively removed any and all story elements requiring identity, making the characters in the game little more than moving background animation to go with the song playing, much like the character(s) dancing in the background for DDR games.
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    E4's Guitar Hero II (PS2)

    Current Status: Playing

    GameLog started on: Wednesday 5 March, 2008

    E4's opinion and rating for this game

    Challenging, fun, good difficulty curve, but little backing storyline elements.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

    Related Links

    See E4's page

    See info on Guitar Hero II

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