CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (
) -- The recession has given the unemployed several options: Weather the storm in graduate school, nurse lattes and lord over outlet space while tweaking resumes at the local coffee shop, get better acquainted with tax dollars by spending more time with the public transportation system, the parks system and the unemployment office.
In my case, an employment intermission allowed for glee-club renditions of "Day Tripper" and guttural, wallpaper-peeling attempts at "Helter Skelter" while testing "The Beatles: Rock Band" at
subsidiary Harmonix's offices in Cambridge, Mass. Laid off from not one, but two, faltering publications last year, my wounds were salved with free pizza, bottomless Dr Pepper and an early peek at changes John, Ringo and Yoko personally approved between my testing sessions.
'The Beatles: Rock Band' is nearly flawless and more challenging to play than one would think, given the band's delicate harmonies.
Helped into the pro-bono gig by a friend at Harmonix, I wasn't so taken with the game at first. Ex-drama students and music-school dropouts will love the harmony feature that allows up to three people to sing separate parts at once, but it's difficult for warbling plebeians who will inevitably step on everyone else's lines. The harmonies on "Hello Goodbye" alone make ragas and Prokofiev sound like "Mary Had a Little Lamb" (not McCartney's
That said, the rest of the game is nearly flawless. From the clips of actual Beatles studio banter that play as the songs load to the way John Lennon's hair blows as the band plays atop Apple Studios during one of the game's background themes (which also include the Cavern Club in Liverpool, The Ed Sullivan Theater and the late Shea Stadium, complete with a cop tackling a frenzied fan), the minutiae make the biggest impact. The package would have been worth it just for the 45 songs (plus the downloadable "All You Need Is Love") themselves. A middle-aged couple who was in the testing session with me was so taken with "Here Comes the Sun" and "Back in the USSR" that they opted to play all 45 songs in a row without a break -- and kept playing until the Harmonix staff suggested they leave.
This, naturally, has Harmonix and Rock Band supporters crowing a bit. Granted,
and its rival Guitar Hero franchise have produced nearly six games in the time it's taken Harmonix to produce this one (call the Metallica, Van Halen, Smash Hits, Band Hero and DJ Hero releases expansion packs, if you like, but it's shelf space that Harmonix doesn't have), but you get the feeling that the Rock Band folks don't see that as a
. The image of nu-metal John Lennon playing a bogus Guitar Hero version of "Revolution No. 9" is inspired, but such taunts unnecessarily feed a feud between fanboys of two equally and critically beloved games. It's like watching one of your favorite couples fight -- awkward for everyone involved.
Harmonix should just relish a job well done. The laid-off masses, meanwhile, now have a brighter option for riding out the recession: "Here Comes the Sun."
Follow TheStreet.com on
and become a fan on
Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet.com. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, The Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.