On the surface, Rock of the Dead sounds like a great use of all those plastic guitars cluttering your living room. Meteors crash to Earth and give off radiation that reanimates the dead and causes horrible monsters to spawn from the dirt. You need to stop them by wandering the world with your guitar and rocking out. Colored buttons appear over the bad guys, you strum the onscreen sequence, and the horrible baddies explode.
Sadly, Rock of the Dead doesn’t do much with its premise. The music is public domain stuff along with some Rob Zombie classics that aren’t the best quality, the world doesn’t look good, and the repetitive nature of everything just saps the fun out of the title. Even the vocal work of Neil Patrick Harris can’t make overcome this game’s ho-hum visuals, sound and gameplay.
So, yeah, meteors crash rain down upon a trailer park and players set off at NPH’s stoner/rock dude who might have the occasional one-liner but usually is just a bunch of "Duuuuudes." From a first-person perspective that’s on rails, you move around levels and face off against the bad guys that appear before you — it’s basically Typing of the Dead with a guitar instead of a keyboard. Most of these guys lumber at you with the colored buttons above their heads and you have to tap them out. These aren’t in any kind of rhythm; you just need to get through the sequences as quickly as possible, but after years of strumming along to real songs, the "click-clack as fast as you can" gameplay can be a bit jarring.
Occasionally, you’ll come to a monster or mini-boss where you actually need to play along with a song that pops up. Here, the notes float by on a horizontal track, and you clack along like every other music game you’ve played. Thing is, the song being played just doesn’t sound great. That goes for all the tracks in the game. They don’t sound like they’re high-def or meant to be coming out of a HD console.
Levels go on like this. As you play, you earn shields and a special power that allows you to pulverize everything on the screen, but this is the main thrust. Our stoner dude is just making his way through the trailer park, on to the beach, to the radio station and so on. None of these environments look all that good and neither do the enemies you’re fighting. Rock of the Dead is a bland and blocky game visually.
Behold the power of rock.There is a multiplayer mode if you want to have someone else hop in and jam along with you, but I found it to be a bit cumbersome. When we were playing and the screen was filled with enemies, it was hard to tell which character button combo I had started and which my friend had started and what I should be focusing on and what the friend should focus on. It’s a bit of a mess.
Rock of the Dead isn’t bad; it’s just flat. The music isn’t good, the visuals aren’t good, and the gameplay isn’t all that interesting. I found myself feeling like I was completely done with the title by the time I was through the first level — there’s just nothing all that exciting about it. All of this is even sadder considering that this looks and feels like a downloadable title but is in fact a budget retail game (and that means it has a budget retail price).
The silver-lining to all of this is that Rock of the Dead provides you with something else to do with all those fake guitars you have sitting around. If staring at those things has been annoying you, the gameplay works here and gives you something to do. However, I think I’d rather hold onto my money and keep on staring at the instruments.