There are two big surprises Rock Star delivers. One; it's taken so long for someone to do this sort of game. Two; it's actually quite funny.
Set in the crazy madcap spotlight world of Rock enn Rawl, Rock Star gives you the chance to become an international music management mogul. You start, as all the best managers do, without a clue about the industry. All you have on your side is an over-enthusiastic cliche sidekick Clive. And £50,000 to get you started.
First things first. What are you going to call the band, and who do you want in it? Clive always offers a name like the Tragic Doombandits which is hopelessly naff. Picking the members of the group is more tricky altogether. Flicking through a portfolio of stars, all with daft names, you must select your lovely line-up. Who will work best together? Who has big star potential? Who is a five minute wonder?
Once your line up is established it's time to rake in some filthy lucre. There's no point making the guys practice. Remember Sigue Sigue Sputnik? Top 10 hits and none of them could play a note. So once you've got together some instruments (brand new, second hand or stolen) it's time to hit the road. (Obviously you can choose to do things in a different order, and since my management skills are about as finely honed as Newsfields (yak yak) you'll want to try something else. Still, I found "gigging" damned lucrative.
Clive will give you the low down on how much venues cost to hire. Pubs are cheap, but you can't seat as many people. Stadiums are huge, but cost loads to hire. Will your newcomers be able to pull the big crowds? You can also play any number of dates (well, up to a week). If your musicians are hopelessly unpopular, word will get round quick and you'll end up playing to empty venues.
Should your ensemble be successful enough, you'll be approached by a slimy individual offering a recording deal. If the cash is okay, you can get yourself into a studio and record an album. You also get to name each track in turn, which can later be released as singles. Obviously, studio time costs lots of cash, and the more sophisticated studio you want, the more it costs.
Once you've got an LP together, you're going to have to publicise it by releasing a single - along with a video - which in turn needs to be publicised by... a publicity stunt! Mock headlines from a daily rag pop up. Some of the stunts are successful, others not. Since this part of the operation is left entirely in the hands of Clive, there's a good chance that your stars' antics will be completely unnoticed, thus wasting more cash and time.
The music which is used throughout is great. In the Practice sessions, you can even hear the band getting better the longer they try. Different combos of musos play different styles too. Not bad for a game on the machine notorious for being virtually dumb.
The graphics are perfectly fine. There are funny and recognisable caricatures of various current popsters and the atmosphere is captured well in Clive's dialogue. It has to be said though, that Rock Star is really a figure juggling, decision making game with no arcade elements at all. Still, it's a welcome change from being a space mercenary. Altogether now... I should be so lucky. Lucky, lucky. lucky.
Reviewer: Jim Douglas
Entertaining sideswipe at pop biz. Laff a minute, but no "action" element.