Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Shady O'Grady's Rising Star

In-their-dreams rock stars love Guitar Hero because it simulates the rush of the arena tour while skipping all the hassles of building and managing a career. Rising Star takes the opposite approach: You have to earn every gig, replace every guitar string, and sweat through every demeaning day job on your slow rise to fame. Even rocking a crowd depends more on managing your fatigue and energy levels than, you know, rocking.

And that isn't necessarily bad. From building relationships with other bands to printing T-shirts, Rising Star gives you total control of the gruntwork, and if it had stopped at the balance sheets, it could have been an engrossing business game. Unfortunately, Rising Star packs in extra features that hurt more than they help. To get around town, you'll have to steer the band van through the dullest driving sim ever. The musicians can wear dozens of clothes or haircuts, but all of them look equally awful. And while the "trash your hotel room" function sounds hilarious, the hotel room must be childproofed, because every damn thing you throw refuses to break.


But what really sinks the game is its pace. You can grind through a couple of hours before earning your first gig, and your record deal will seem years away. Meanwhile, your daily chores become a numbing rut, your bandmates punish you with lame wisecracks and inscrutable personality problems, and like millions of wannabes before you, you get all the gripes but none of the glory.

Beyond the game: The game comes with an exhaustive library of real-life equipment, and you get to weigh the "stage presence" bonus of a Schure mic versus an AKG wireless.

Worth playing for: Making up your band name and titling all your songs is incredibly fun. It's a shame Rising Star doesn't let you swap content, or support a simple online battle of the bands.

Frustration sets in when: What's the best way to simulate the mysterious creative process that leads to a hit song? A rhythm game? A metaphorical "fighting your demons" mini-game? Rising Star takes an even further-out tact: you have to play a tile-matching game, like that old card game Memory, and the more tiles you match, the better the song. Because nothing rocks harder than good short-term memory.

Final judgment: Rising Star fails the way a rock star should: under the weight of its own ambitions.