Campus Life

Power Gig shakes up the rhythm genre

Gameplay is imperfect, but feels satisfying and genuine

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The newly-released game, Power Gig: Rise of the SixString, features a game controller that also functions as a standalone guitar.
Courtesy of Seven45 Studios

Seven45 Studios released Power Gig: Rise of the SixString released October 19, an indie developer’s first toe–dip into the rhythm game swimming pool. By far the most intriguing aspect of Power Gig is the revolutionary use of a bona fide electric guitar as the primary controller for guitar gameplay, a first at time of release with some serious implications.

Seven45’s intent with Power Gig appears to be to create a game that is equal parts teaching tool and video game, which has its negatives but nonetheless helps address the legitimacy problem that has been plaguing rhythm games for years. Although the song selection lacks many of the big hitters of other games, it is at least unique in many respects.

The wholeheartedness with which Seven45 has tackled the goal of encouraging more rock fans to learn an instrument has earned them kudos from within the music industry. This means a soundtrack comprised largely of songs by exclusive artists like Dave Matthews Band as well as John Mayer, who has historically been against rhythm games as a genre. Getting non–gamers to take video games seriously is no mean feat, and for that alone, Power Gig deserves some credit.

As for the gameplay itself, it’s undeniable that having a real, albeit somewhat undersized, guitar in one’s hands makes for a more visceral experience. During gameplay, just as with a real guitar, players press down strings between frets and strum strings with either their fingers or a guitar pick, no buttons involved.

Tutorials on the game disc teach players the basics of fretting, strumming, power chords, etc., which can be parlayed into an actual understanding of the instrument in hand.

The controller is also compatible with Rock Band and Guitar Hero games, although that doesn’t mean that it translates perfectly to both — the Power Gig controller is more finicky with its strings instead of buttons and a strum bar, and the difference in note charting between the two games reflects that important distinction. Trying to use the Power Gig controller to jump into your favorite Rock Band songs on Expert Guitar is ill–advised, to say the least. The difficulty curve demands a certain level of respect, and there’s no shame in taking your time.

Power Gig is far from perfect, but most of its flaws can be traced back to a common cause. The muted strings “plink” during normal gameplay and must be pressed harder to register, because the controller is a real guitar. The controller has to be treated with more care, because it’s a real guitar. Players should trim their fingernails regularly and take breaks to rest their fingertips, because — you guessed it ­­— they’re playing on a real guitar.

Other problems include reduced customization and only having half of the songs available out of the box. The rest have to be unlocked via story mode, and there’s no cheat to circumvent it.

The story mode has somewhat more depth than the straightforward “you’re a rock star, go forth and rock” premise of other games, involving a dystopian world of limited musical freedom in a similar vein to Double Fine’s heavy–metal RTS Brütal Legend. This is somewhat at odds with the style of some of the music you’re playing in the rebellious underground music venues, but I guess it’s only fair that Eric Clapton fans get some love, too.

The game also supports gameplay for vocals and drums, including a new drum controller that sits on the floor and detects drumming movements in the air instead of on pads, which ironically is less realistic than in other games, but is at least more portable than less wieldy drum kits. Tragically, there’s no available bass gameplay, which makes sense in a way but is still an unfortunate omission.

Ultimately, Power Gig offers somewhat less overall than similar games, and demands more of the player, but is also priced more reasonably, and its rewards are directly proportional to how willing players/students are to meet it halfway and take learning its techniques seriously.

Power Gig: Rise of the SixString is available as a standalone game (about $60), guitar/game bundle ($180), or a band bundle ($230). A full–size controller is also available on pre–order for $250.