Unplugged: Air Guitar Review – One Foot on Center Stage

Unplugged: Air Guitar Review

The idea of being a rock star is something that many dream of. Guitar Hero lets you live out your fantasy with its addictive gameplay and stellar song list. Unplugged: Air Guitar abandons the bulky peripherals and allows you to simply use your hands to shred on stage. Will this step into the virtual realm make you feel like Hendrix at Woodstock?

As a wannabe rock star, it only makes sense that the goofy, self-righteous guitarist, Satchel from Steel Panther, takes the lead as your guru in the game. His 80s glam rock persona works perfectly with the theme of the game and his simple tutorials help you to nail the basics. These gradually progress as you move from album to album and soon you’ll master an array of techniques that make you feel like a virtuoso. Satchel delivers a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek humor, which adds to the silliness of the premise. While this could have easily been annoying, its self-aware manner makes his scenes a joy.

Rock N’ Roll Dream

No matter who you are, at some point in your life, you’ve grabbed the pretend axe, cranked the imaginary amp to 11 and rocked out. Unplugged: Air Guitar takes that notion and gamifies it in a truly intoxicating manner. Once you position your instrument, everything feels natural. As you would when you listen to your favorite tracks, you strum away and use your other hand to move up and down the fretboard. 

The gameplay is a familiar experience and falls in line with popular rhythm games. You must match the location and button presses of oncoming symbols in order to hit the note. The inclusion of slides, vibrato and other techniques helps the game find its own identity in the mosh pit. Due to the number of aspects that are intuitively embedded in the design, Unplugged: Air Guitar manages to make you feel like a rock god. Nailing a full track is incredibly satisfying and the inclusion of leaderboards will keep you going back for more. 

As you riff away, cubes will appear in front of you. If you can collect this with your headstock, you can gain a boost which will increase your total score. As you will need to move to collect this, it can cause you to miss notes which adds an element of strategy to the game. You will need to determine whether to go for a quick smash-and-grab or wait for a gap in the music to collect the item. In addition to this, when you build your combo, electricity flows through you. In order to unleash the power of metal, you simply throw your horns in the air which grants a larger bonus.

And the Crowd Goes Wild

Once you finish the song and bask in the crowd’s appreciation, underpants and bras are thrown at the stage. If you collect these, you will earn more fans which in turn allows you to purchase new gear. While these are only cosmetic, there are several guitars for you to save up for and it gives further incentive to build your fanbase.

Hand tracking is key for a game like this and luckily, its implementation is brilliant. It captures a one-to-one feeling which helps you to lose yourself in the game. Every movement was precise and due to this, any mistakes feel like your own rather than an issue with technology which was a common concern with its Oculus counterpart.

Arguably the most important aspect is the tracklist, and while it’s a strong lineup, it ultimately needs more. Classics by The Offspring and Ozzy Osbourne feature and even songs by bands I was not familiar with are fun to play and offer variety, however, it is a little lackluster in comparison to its predecessors. Each song includes difficulty options that drastically alter the way you approach songs. While it’s a simple affair to strum along to ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ on easy, when you tackle it on hard, it’s a struggle as advanced techniques come into play.

At Madison Square Garden or Your Mom’s Basement?

You can select different stages to play on but they never really alter the solitary atmosphere that lingers in the game. While your main focus is playing the guitar, when you look up, it fails to capture that rock star feeling. Everything does have a nice level of polish but more variety and interaction with the audience would have added to the experience.

Unplugged: Air Guitar Review is a great concept that is both accessible and addictive. The precise hand tracking makes each song a thrill and manages to put you in the shoes of a rock star. While the song list could do with some bigger additions and the atmosphere lacks the crowd’s buzz, the game still pulls off a memorable performance that will keep you coming back for more.

***PSVR 2 code provided by the publisher for review***

The Good

  • Easy to Play, Hard to Master
  • Nice Progression
  • Satchel’s Tutorials

The Bad

  • Needs More Tracks
  • Lacks Atmosphere
  • Lack of Content