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Power Gig: Rise of the SixString Review

By Jeff Buckland, 11/1/2010

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When the company behind the First Act series of musical instruments announced they'd be getting into the music game business, quite a few people became pretty interested in what these guys could bring to the genre - could players plug in their First Act instruments? Could we finally have a game where we are playing real bands' music on our real instruments?

Not really. First Act spun off Seven45 Studios to make Power Gig: Rise of the Six String, and this first effort from them comes off of a series of missteps that does innovate, but then doesn't actually fully commit. What we get is a real guitar that has two separate modes: a true electric guitar that plugs into an amp, and a video game controller that only vaguely makes you feel like you're playing guitar. And the big disappointment is that these two modes are mutually exclusive.

The Power Gig guitar controller is a real, albeit smaller-sized, guitar that has both video game controls on it as well as six actual strings and an amp input. It's much heavier than a plastic controller, although its body is also made out of plastic. You can tune it if you want, and while I've heard that "real" guitarists will be hesitant at best to put their stamp of approval on anything related to First Act, it'd be tough for a layman like me to know the difference. In controller mode, a little dampener must be raised to stop the strings from vibrating, but when you play, you do hold your fingers over actual strings and strum those strings with a pick. (Unfortunately, with the dampener on, it doesn't feel the same at all, removing some of the realism right there.) There are five fret positions which correspond to the standard colors in Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and you hold those down to play. And yes, the controller is fully compatible with those games, although it's just in their most basic mode of holding a fret and strumming, well, anything. It's important to note that holding a fret on this guitar is tougher than doing it in the game, and the frets are far apart enough that your muscle-memory skills on the cheap plastic controllers won't go far.

When you start out in Power Gig on easy difficulty, it does seem like you're learning real guitar. Once you get the hang of it, you can increase the difficulty and even at some point start having to do more than just hold the same old frets and random strums - but this is far from getting actual guitar lessons, because the note highway is very basic, and you're still only seeing the five colors. Don't expect to be able to rip out an Eric Clapton solo if the only thing you know about guitars comes from Power Gig.

Visually, the game is drab, and the musical selection might seem good on the cover (exclusive artists: Kid Rock! Eric Clapton! Dave Matthews Band!), but you quickly find that a few too many of the track selections are at least moderately obscure songs that you probably aren't a big fan of - or maybe you've never even heard of them. There's a career mode called Unite the Clans - nice Braveheart reference - that resembles a pretty standard old-school Guitar Hero mode. Play songs in tiers, win game, you know the drill. Besides this and the Quickplay mode, there's not much else to do.

The game does support vocals over a standard USB microphone and there is a wacky drum controller where you hold high-tech sticks and drum into the air over sensors that sit on the floor. It was not sent for us to review, though, and it seems like that idea misses the point of what makes drums fun to start with: actually hitting something other than air. Additionally, it should be noticed that there is no support for bass at all in Power Gig, and so only three players can jump in at once. And finally, the game with the guitar goes for a hefty $180 - a price I'm sure will start getting drastically reduced quickly, as it generated almost no buzz amongst the tougher music game competition this year.

I appreciate the efforts of Seven45 Studios to try and move the music game genre forward, but they seemed hesitant to commit to what First Act is all about, which is in getting real instruments into people's hands, but that hesitancy in this product almost completely ruins it. Oh, sure, the guitar does work when you plug it into an amp, but there's no way to play the game at the same time, and the mild feeling of familiarity you get in handling a "real" guitar in game mode is more of a novelty than a serious thing because playing the game is nothing like the real thing. Any game that goes this far at least needs to also get you started on playing some actual guitar, and that's not something that the Power Gig package even attempts. Hopefully Seven45 goes back to the drawing board and comes up with something better in a year or two. There are some interesting ideas here, but none of them come together well enough for a serious recommendation.

Overall: 5 out of 10



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