Back when Rock Band and Guitar Hero were thriving, they would always offer some bonus tracks for the holidays. They would have a Christmas carol or two, maybe even a band like Weezer rockin’ Christmas covers. Now the original Christmas rock game comes to iOS for your tapping, rocking pleasure.
Santa Rockstar stars Santa Claus himself as a head banging metal god. The game play is just like Guitar Hero or TapTap. Notes stream down the screen and you have to tap the right color when they hit the bottom, or hold chords together. You can build up some Rock Power by hitting white notes and then unleash Rock Power by shaking your device or tapping outside the note grid. If you’ve played any music game before, it should be a no brainer, and if this is somehow your first music game, it’s actually a good set of basic training wheels.
With only four notes, Santa Rockstar is a pretty simple game and it doesn’t get too crazy with chords or tricky fingerings. The iOS version is a port of a computer game that used keystrokes, so they probably couldn’t use slides or whammies. That’s not to say Santa Rockstar is totally easy. On the hardest difficulty, you could easily fail out of a song by missing too many notes, but that’s more difficult because of smaller screen sizes than for any wacky pattern of notes it throws at you. Medium and Easy levels are in fact a breeze, though perfectly enjoyable to tap along to.
The note patterns for each song aren’t totally accurate to the songs playing. You get the basic short, long, short long of a Joy to the World or Jingle Bells, but you don’t get the sense that you’re really creating the notes on real guitar strings. The best tracks on Guitar Hero and Rock Band simulated the real melodies with note progressions and chords. On Santa Rockstar, it’s enough to give you something to tap for every note in the song. Hard mode comes closest to simulating the real notes, but with only four columns, the notes will backtrack on themselves even if the song keeps rising on the scales. Or, sometimes it changes the notes just for the hell of it, when a song like Jingle Bells is repeating the same note.
The songs are heavy metal versions of the classics, and they sound awesome. I mean, it’s a fully mixed and recorded track set, and let’s assume you like metal renditions of holiday classics or you wouldn’t have downloaded this in the first place. I would frankly play a music game to Gregorian Chant, that's how desperate I am for new music. So I would have taken traditional Christmas music too but these rock versions are great. It’s got Carol of the Bells, March of the Nutcracker, Silent Night and more. It all adds up to 21 songs which is not a bad package for a dollar, and you’ll probably want to go back and get five stars on each song.
The graphics are cool with an animated Santa rocking out behind you or flying the reindeer sleigh. Honestly, with music games you don’t really look at the graphics because you’re too busy trying to see what notes are coming next. There are some cool pictures in-between levels though too.
You won’t be playing this come January but for a buck, it’s good December fun. Get some new holiday music, get a break from all the saccharine traditional holiday music blaring on every store’s speaker this month, and distract yourself from some dysfunctional family dinners for a bit.