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November 2020

Battle of the bands: music and video games

A look through the annals of rock history to pick out seven very different games and to choose a winner.
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Published: 8:00 am, September 02, 2019
Battle of the bands: music and video games

You’d be right to think that, now streaming’s effectively killed off CD sales for many artists, it’s touring and selling merchandise that are big earners for them. But merch has always been a big deal for bands, whether it’s been tour t-shirts, glossy souvenir programmes or just badges.

But one area that’s also been a very powerful way for bands to raise some extra revenue and reach out to their audience has been through video games. Some have had an obvious link, like the Guitar Hero series of games featuring the sort of heavy rock that Metallica and Van Halen are famous for. Others have a more narrative themes using the bands’ members as characters who have to complete a set of challenges.

So, here’s a look through the annals (yes, annals - Ed) of rock history to pick out seven very different games and to choose a winner of this particular battle of the bands.

Motörhead Through the Ages

Although not a full game in its own right, this formed part of Victor Vran: Overkill Edition. Lemmy (RIP, etc) was personally involved in its development and you can see his influence throughout the game – he even makes a cameo appearance as a drinker in the game’s “Pub At The End of Time”.

The game itself involves fighting terrifying foes who include the Führer and the Queen of the Damned. Obviously. For true fans of the band, the really great thing about the game is that it also includes top Motörhead tracks including ‘Bomber’, ‘Killed By Death’ and, naturally, ‘Ace of Spades’. Incidentally, fans of free to play slots can also get their Motörhead fix with a superb slot game that also features the band and many of their most famous riffs.

The Beatles: Rock Band

The game from arguably the biggest band of all time is exactly what you’d expect. Namely a near faultless execution that features songs from the Fab Four’s short but densely packed history that took them from The Cavern Club in the early 60s to the release of their final Album, ‘Let It Be’, in 1970.

It’s a multiplayer game that follows the traditional Rock Band format in which players try to replicate the band’s performance as closely as possible to win points. What makes the game so great is that it was developed with the full co-operation of Apple (no, not that Apple - the one set up by The Beatles. Look it up - Ed) as well as the surviving members of the band. It was also produced by Giles Martin, son of the legendary Beatles producer George Martin.

Frankie Goes to Hollywood

We’re sticking with Liverpool bands for our next game, and it’s a real little oddity from way back in 1989 when the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum were the height of gaming sophistication. Building on their controversial profile, Frankie Goes To Hollywood collaborated in producing this game in which the central character had to make their way through Liverpool to reach The Pleasuredome.

Within the game there was also a murder mystery to be solved using clues about what sort of person the murderer was, which the player worked out through a process of elimination. Although it all sounds like a game full of random elements it got some rave reviews on release, including a score of 97% in Zzap64 magazine.

Spice Girls: Spice World

Back in the late 1990s there was barely a teenage girl in the country who didn’t wish they were in The Spice Girls. Luckily, this game gave them the chance to live out their fantasy to be their favourite member of the group; Ginger, Sporty, Baby, Posh or Scary. The set up was that the girls were preparing for a TV appearance and the game involved choosing which song to sing, choreographing the dance moves and recording the show.

Throughout, advice is given by the so-called “Disco King”, until the finished performance is played back to the player, followed by a real-life interview with the group recorded in the South of France.

Queen: The eYe

Anyone who’s seen the Queen jukebox musical We Will Rock You will recognise many elements of this video game from 1998. The game play takes place in the distant future when the world is controlled by an entity called The eYe which has banned all kinds of creative expression. The central character is Dubroc who, in the course of working as an agent for The eYe, has discovered Queen’s musical work from the past.

Threatened with death for revealing it, it’s Dubroc’s job to try and destroy The eYe before it destroys him. Although the five CD set that the game came on included many of Queen’s best-known songs it was let down by poor gameplay and only ever achieved moderate sales.

Wu Tang Clan: Shaolin Style

It’s a natural match between Wu Tang Clan and a martial arts video game – and that’s exactly what we get with this 3D four player fighter from 1999. The objective is to discover the secrets of the Wu Tang Clan and therefore - naturally - gain the power to take over the world. Along the way there are predictable mass battles, fairly graphic torture scenes and many explosions. There are also a number of challenges called The 36 Chambers that need to be overcome – a reference to the band’s ‘Enter The Wu Tang’ album. The game was one of the earliest of its kind and generally received 4-star reviews on release.

Kiss: Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child

Kiss must also get an honourable mention for their dedication to merch – after all they even brought us the Kiss Kasket for the, erm, deceased. However, they didn’t win over many fans with this game based on Todd McFarlane’s comics featuring the band. It’s a first-person shooter involving a Kiss tribute band who suddenly acquire superhuman powers. You don’t really need to know any more about it than that!

And the winner is . . .

All things considered, there really only be one winner, and that’s The Beatles: Rock Band. Everything about it is classy, which you certainly can’t say for most of the other six here!

Give all this a try

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