A few of us here at The Laser can describe ourselves as ‘music aficionados’. Whenever we’re not off playing video games, a majority of our time is spent listening to hour upon hour of music. Even now as this review is being written, the brand new album from Queens of the Stone Age happens to be blasting on the old home stereo system (incredible album, by the way…we highly recommend it to anyone and everyone). So every once in awhile when that ‘music’ related video gaming title hits the game shelves, our tongues tend to be firmly planted in the cheek even as we ready ourselves to sprinkle the proverbial grains of salt on our pallets as the game’s installation process begins. With that sour note, this reviewer began what he thought would be the arduous process of playing yet another dreary Sim title based on the infamous music management business. Within minutes of playing Rock Manager, however, the downward mood was immediately dispersed, replaced with a sparkling fun sensation that normally wouldn’t be associated with your typical Sim/Management gaming experience. In the end, Dreamcatcher Interactive’s latest underground release turned out to be one of the coolest games we’ve had the pleasure to play in some time.
In Rock Manager, players take on the persona of an up and coming Music Producer who’s main goal is to make him or herself a major success within the beast known as the Music Industry. The entire games’ focus is to put you in complete control of multiple ‘rock’ bands as the game progresses, allowing you to control song publishing, marketing and sales strategy, sound recording, album design aesthetics, public relations, inter-band relations, and tour and gig hall bookings. Everything you do as a manger reflect upon the band’s success or lack of it. The trick is to juggling everything perfectly in order for your band to make it in the music world.
Rock Manager provides you with 8 different scenarios to manage your way through, ranging from aging rockers giving it one last try, to breaking in a new punk band, and even getting the local mafia head’s unskilled daughter a break in the industry. Players have the ability to choose from over 25 skilled (and unskilled) musicians in order to tailor the sound, look, and image that you’re trying to perfect. You can also choose from several publishing houses in order to get the rights to a song that suits your band as well as become a hit. From there, players can pick from one of three recording studios, each with their own quality equipment (high and low) needed to get your sound onto a demo CD. You have the ability to choose from different recording set-ups, musical styles, beats, and general effects in order to produce a product that meets your specific needs. Maybe the singers voice is extremely bad; throw on a delay or timeshift effect that will mask the shrill sounds from that particular frontman. Maybe the guitar sounds a little plain to you? Try changing the style from a standard ‘Heavy’ rift to a Jazz-like style of play. How about bringing that bass volume up a tad bit, giving you a more solid backbeat on the recording. In the end, its all up to the player as he or she mixes down the final recording in the studio, readying it for its release. Once you’ve recorded the demo, shop it around at the various record companies that are available. If you’re sound is akin to Metal, the big time record company or the folk music record representatives might pass on signing you and your band. However, the smaller independent label might see the spark in your musical approach, and give you a fat bonus for signing with them; just that added bit of money you need to begin the marketing phase of your plans.
Next, you have the chance to show off your band to the local media and record shops. Players can drop off demo recordings to the radio station, music magazine, and even the local newspaper. While you’re there, players can buy valuable commercial time in order to promote the upcoming album to the markets, or even grease the palms of the DJ’s or editor, giving them a ‘gift’ or two in order to keep you and your band in mind. At the record store, you can set up window displays and give listeners several days of discounts in order to push your album that much more. In the meantime, stopping by the local TV station and dropping off your song’s video might be another little kick that will help with overall sales and give your band that much more popularity in the eyes of the consumers. Still, all of this costs money, so players have to be conscientious of how much they’re spending and what they’re spending the money on. You can tap out your resources quickly and not have enough to even pay your band members their dues, resulting in the band leaving you in a heartbeat.
Juggling your bands resources in the marketing and promotion realm isn’t the only concern that players have in Rock Manager. Making sure that the record company and band members are happy and able to play is also a major part of the games design. Random bits of fun like inter-band fighting, drinking and drug abuse, and other interesting variables pop up from time to time, forcing players to continually watch over the band as the game progresses. Giving the band members gifts will keep them from petty squabbles that could decay relationships, not to mention scheduling gigs for the band to play in the city (which also helps bring in extra revenue). At times, players might have to send certain members away for media schooling, rehab, or just a plain vacation in order to get the band out of a slump. However, this keeps the band from playing gigs and making media appearances, so you must be careful about cross scheduling.
Created with Macromedia’s
Director and Shockwave software, Rock Manager is definitely not a graphic
intensive game, but then again that’s the point. Its cartoonish design and
easy ‘point and click’ system makes it a rather simple game to start with,
and the title’s first scenario gives players enough info to easily jump into
the recording and managing business without the chore of learning through a
tutorial system. The games characters and scenarios are both cleverly designed
and well scripted, giving the players a humorous and ‘tongue-n-cheek’ romp
through the world of the music industry. Though not overly complicated in its
approach, the sheer amount of options that are given to players, from choice of
musicians, to songs, publishing, and marketing strategies gives the game enough
diversity allowing players to retackle scenarios from an entirely different
viewpoint. With its low price of $19.99 retail, even the cheapest gamer with an
evil streak of humor should find no reason at all not to give this little gaming
gem a try. - Jim McHugh
> Developed by Pan Interactive
> Published by Dreamcatcher Games