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Last Updated: Friday, 7 April 2006, 07:44 GMT 08:44 UK
Guitar Hero close to musical nirvana
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website

Person playing Guitar Hero
The plastic guitar acts as the game controller
There is a saying that looks can be deceptive. And this is certainly the case with Guitar Hero.

The PlayStation 2 game lets you act out your fantasies of becoming a rock god by playing along to riffs on a controller shaped like a guitar.

But can you really do this with a plastic mini-guitar that looks like it belongs in a Fisher-Price toy set?

The surprising answer is yes with Guitar Hero proving to be a challenging, demanding but ultimately satisfying rock simulator.

The game was released in the US last November and has only now made it to British shores.

But in the intervening months, it has been critically acclaimed and picked up a host of awards, most recently picking up a prestigious gong for innovation at the Game Developers Conference in California.

Stairway to heaven

Guitar Hero is a deceptively simple game to play. In the box comes a disc with the game and a guitar-shaped controller, supposedly modelled on the classic Gibson SG.

Screenshot of Guitar Hero
Format: PlayStation 2
Graphics: 8
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 8
Enduring appeal: 8
Overall: 8
The idea is to play along with a virtual rock band on screen, pressing the right buttons on the neck of the guitar and strumming along in time to the music.

Apart from annoying the neighbours, you will be rewarded by cheers from the crowd and a gradual progression up the stairway to rock heaven.

At an easy setting, the game does not pose much of a challenge. It makes for a fun but lightweight experience.

Turn up the pressure on a higher setting and watch as the notes, riffs and chords come fast and furious. It almost makes you wish you had paid attention during the music lessons at school.

The guitar even has an internal tilt sensor. Turning the guitar upwards unleashes all sorts of explosions on the virtual stage at certain points in the game.

It certainly encourages histrionics and much posing, so it is something best done in the privacy of your home.

Jukebox hero

Screenshot of Guitar Hero
Rock your way to musical nirvana
Of course, no rock experience would be complete without classics like Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water and it is one of the 30 songs included in the package.

The licensed tracks are all cover songs, not the original versions, and the soundtrack suffers from a US bias.

Some tracks like Joan Jet's I Love Rock and Roll and ZZ Top's Sharp Dressed Man will be familiar but other will be alien sounds to the British ears.

These are minor quibbles about what is one of the most interesting and innovative games for the PlayStation 2 which succeeds in even making Queen's Killer Queen cool.

And you never know, you may even learn something about how songs are put together in the process of attaining rock god status.

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