A “Hero” for the Holidays

Amidst the time pressure of the holiday gift-giving season, opting for one monumental “gimme” gift for the kids could be a sensible move. And what better than Band Hero, a music-geeks-only game with a Top 40 twist? With this exciting game, players can sing like an aspiring American Idol, bang drums, and shred guitar. Truly, it’s like gifting a “Hero” for the Holidays! Once it’s unwrapped, you’re done with your holiday shopping.

Band Hero, similar to Guitar Hero 5, is a pop-centric twin (available for multiple gaming consoles) that collects some of the most infectious songs. Overall, it’s a well-rounded mix of oldies-but-goodies aimed at parents, such as the Jackson 5’s “ABC” and Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield,” as well as tween favorites from Jesse McCartney, Hilary Duff, and Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift, too. Taylor Swift, too.

You can be the pop-country princess with Band Hero (who hogs the 65-tune track list with three songs). At least, a very robotic avatar of her. And, as much as kids will enjoy pretending to be an international singing sensation (who plays a real guitar, not a plastic imitation), there are a lot of nice extras. Consider the karaoke mode, in which players can act like the worst American Idol contestant in history, hitting as many bad notes as they want without being booed off the stage.

Yeah, yeah. Is this a bad idea? Then you might prefer the more disciplined version, in which the kids can form their own pretend band and risk humiliation – and there’s no “sing in anyway you want” nonsense (which might only be a good idea if your kid actually is Taylor Swift). It sounds like fun until someone’s eardrums are damaged. Plus, the challenge of hitting the teeter-tottering notes of soul singer Corinne Bailey Ray or keeping up with the lightening pace of “ABC” is far more entertaining.

Almost everything about Band Hero, which is rated for ages ten and up but is appropriate for younger children as well, is user- and family-friendly, and not just because the kids won’t be channeling Metallica. It’s set in shopping malls rather than seedy bars, bad language is bleeped (even the “whiskey” – but not the “rye” – reference during the Don McLean classic “American Pie” is removed), and players can choose from a variety of difficulty levels, including “beginner” – even in the middle of a song, on Party Play mode. That means the little ones can sing or smack the drums haphazardly without a care in the world. Cool again – for them.

But Band Hero is far from a disappointment. Even if it casts a shadow over many of its musical prototypes, there’s plenty of fun – and noise – to be had. This one appears to be the most committed to ensuring that the kids – and you, the shameless pop-loving parent – have it.

And if Taylor Swift gets in the way, after making them listen to you rock out to The Rolling Stones, educate them on what real music is. Mother always knows best, right?

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