It's impossible to resist the excitement over The Beatles: Rock Band. It's the one game that seems to reduce all of us games journalists to the level of screaming teenage girls, and with less than one week to go before this hotly anticipated game hits retail shelves it's easy to get caught up in the hype. Will it be the greatest music game of all time (as the New York Times would like you to believe)? Will it get all of our parents to finally stop bugging us to stop playing fake plastic instruments? Will the game end with Yoko Ono splitting up the band?
The Beatles: Rock Band was the game that nobody thought would happen. When you list all of the bands you want to include in your music game, The Beatles are at the top of that list. We're talking about a band who has shunned technology, preferring mono recordings
I would pay Harmonix extra if they could put the Beatles in KISS make-up!
and refusing to load their music on iTunes. They are a sacred institution that have influenced practically every band of the last 40 years. They helped invent guitar pedals and recording effects. The Beatles did it before anybody else and they did it better than anybody else.
It looks like the impossible happened. Here we are mere hours away from this game's release and it looks like miracles do happen. But it was a long and winding road to get to The Beatles: Rock Band. Before Harmonix managed to snag the licensing agreements, several other companies tried their hand at Beatles games. In this very special episode of the Guerilla Scrapbook, Defunct Games will look at three examples of failed Beatles experiments. Put down that silver hammer, Maxwell, and join us on a magical mystery tour of rejected Beatles games!
Imagine John Lennonz
[ Publisher: UbiSoft | System: Nintendo DS ]
Loosely based on the 1988 Andrew Solt documentary, Imagine John Lennonz combines the last days of this popular musician with the girl-centric gameplay of UbiSoft's Imagine series. You play John as he copes with the stress of marriage, the burdens of fame and the frustration of political activism, all while teaching young girls important values and life lessons. Mini-games include raising two talentless children, putting up with Yoko's "music" career and apologizing to every single person in the world for that nude album
cover. Young girls will be inspired as John sings some of his favorite hits, like "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" and "Happiness is a Warm Gun." With a killer sound track and a twist ending you won't see coming, Imagine John Lennonz is the must-buy game for any young girl in your life.
What the Critics Said:
"After UbiSoft's past offerings (Imagine Babyz, Imagine Dream Weddings, Imagine Rock Star, etc.), I was skeptical about this John Lennon-based mini-game collection. But thanks to the surprising amount of archival footage and a few exciting mini-games, I was quickly won over by this loving homage to my favorite member of the Fab 4. The game isn't without a few problems though, especially in the final act. After spending much of your time preparing organic foods and writing protest music, I found the dark ending to be especially depressing. Like BioShock before it, Imagine John Lennonz could have used a rewrite to the ending. Outside of that, UbiSoft gives us a reason to give Imagine Fashion Designer a second look."
Not long after buying the rights to George Dunning's Yellow Submarine, Irem decided to release a ... 2D tactical shooter? Taking a page out of Square Enix's playbook, Yellow Submarine Tactics combines all of the animated characters from the 1968 movie and pits them against the galaxies deadliest aliens. The combination is a delightful mix of whimsical characters, heart-pounding action and great Beatles music. You play the game much like you would any other tactical RPG (Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, etc.); you move one character at a time and use your submarine's many weapons to take back space
for the good guys. On top of featuring dozens of levels of tactical action, you can also upgrade and customize your Yellow Submarine. Think it will look good with more firepower? Then buy the plasma shots, it's what John would have wanted. Don't be a real nowhere man by not experiencing Yellow Submarine Tactics!
What the Critics Said:
"Cheap, cheap, cheap! While I commend Irem for attempting to merge The Beatles and R-Type, they were nowhere near as successful as Square's combination of Final Fantasy and Mickey Mouse. What we get here feels like an inauthentic cash-in. It's almost as if they only made this game because they secured the rights. Seeing realistic violence happen to the Blue Meanie feels about as real as watching our beloved submarine battle space aliens. What was Irem thinking? Worse yet, the company was unable to get the remaining Beatles involved with the project. Both Paul and Ringo show up at the beginning for a brief ad-lib, but they come off looking dazed and confused. They rattle on about androids or robots or something, it's very confusing. And so are the rules, upgrading your submarine involves way too much trial and error. The Beatles deserve better."
The Beatles Racing
[ Publisher: Nintendo | System: Wii ]
The Beatles Racing answers the age old question: Which Beatle would win if they were forced to ride go karts around a small tire-filled track? Throw in Yoko Ono, Bert Kaempfert, George Martin and an unlockable Pete Best and you have a real race to the finish line. This is The Beatles Racing, the action-packed kart racer from the company that brought you Stunt Race FX and Excite Truck. You start the
game racing the circuits in Liverpool, trying to make a name for yourself and make it to America. Before long you are racing in Shea Stadium and even going on prime time television to show everybody your driving prowess. Confuse your opponents by saying that you're bigger than Jesus and then start a rumor that your teammate is dead, it's anything goes in the competitive kart racing scene. Do a good job and you'll influence and entire generation of racers, or fail out and let Michael Jackson buy your catalog. The choice is yours in The Beatles Racing!
What the Critics Said:
"Known for making triple-A kart racing games, Nintendo really let me down with this mangled mess of a game. The Beatles Racing combines sluggish motion controls with terrible level designs to create their worst racing game since Diddy Kong Racing. But the real problem with this game are the weapons, each of which is based on a Beatles song. As cheesy as it is, I'm fine with smacking somebody upside the head with a silver hammer, but planting a strawberry field that doesn't go away just seems ridiculous. And do we really need to throw octopi at our enemies? And don't even get me started on the lame Norwegian Wood power-up. However, the biggest insult is the game's insistence on using a strange orchestral version of "Drive My Car" as the game's one and only background song. Who thought that was a good idea? In the end watching the Beatles race go karts is about as exciting as playing Wii Music."