Developer: Halfbrick
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Limber up those fingers and start humming vocal exercises, because developers Halfbrick and Six Foot Kid are ready to help indulge everyone’s inner rock and roll superstar. Their newest release, Band Stars, puts players in control of a budding ensemble on the verge of breaking it big. Can this new music management title strike a chord with its audience, or will it simply get lost in the roar of the crowd?

IMG_0242Step aside Game Dev Story fans, because there is a new management game in town. This time around, instead of trying to produce fictional games the product is melody. Each band consists of a collection of characters who have different skills that help contribute to the song sculpting experience. Tunes are produced in three stages: writing, recording, and mixing. One musician with high lyrical and creative abilities is assigned to writing a base track while the entire group performs it and a single member polishes the final mix. There is even an option to highlight solos in each performance, just to give the future smash hit a little bit more juice.

The end goal of any band is to have their jingle charting around the world. As each band’s attributes improve, better equipment is purchased and more genres and lyric styles are unlocked, the player is one step closer to potentially making that dream a reality.

IMG_0247But first the members of the band must have enough energy to perform and record – this is where the freemium model comes into play. There are drink cans that can be given to any bandmate in need of a boost, but unless they are unlocked through completing challenges they must be purchased using cold hard cash. The same goes for Inspirado tokens, which are used to pay for each solo during a recording session. Inspirado can be earned through practice sessions, but that also depletes energy, so it is a never-ending balancing act. Unfortunately, the in-game income from sales can’t be applied to purchasing these depleteable items. Players should be prepared to enjoy the, “hurry up and wait” gameplay while waiting for energy to replenish, unless they are willing to chip in a shekel or ten.

Applying a free-to-play model to the management game genre results in an experience that offers up diminishing returns on gameplay the more time that has been invested. Sadly, it looks like Band Stars falls victim to the same shortcoming. That said, there are still glimmers of greatness that make it worth dropping the beat a few times and giving the free download a spin.


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