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Lego Rock Band: When franchises breed

Rock Band's cross-breeding with the Lego universe creates a highly marketable, predictable, and yet still fun game.

Warner Bros. Interactive

Do you feel like you need one more music game for the holidays? It's getting pretty strained, isn't it, between The Beatles: Rock Band, Guitar Hero 5, DJ Hero, Band Hero, and now this very family-friendly-oriented spin on Harmonix' franchise, Lego Rock Band. Taking two gaming hits--games based on Lego, and Rock Band--and combining them sounds like a slam dunk, but how does this all work out? We played it and have our thoughts.

Good news: you won't need new instruments. Lego Rock Band uses the same drum/mic/guitar compatibility system that's finally starting to become an industry norm. The other fun thing about Lego Rock Band is its weird, whimsical settings and sense of humor. All the Lego games, from Indiana Jones to Star Wars, have shared a Charlie Chaplin-ish winking humor with frequently cute/bizarre overtones, and the rock "battles" aboard pirate ships and other settings makes for music videos worth watching in the background. Other than that, it's standard Rock Band stuff. The game is developed by TT Games, the group responsible for all the other Lego titles, so it feels consistently similar to what you might be expecting, except with a Rock Band engine attached.

Bad news: 45 included tracks span pop and mainstream, and the game will also access the online catalog of Rock Band DLC tracks--but only ones that are considered family-friendly. That means some songs won't make the import cut. The censorship is annoying, but the Lego versions of rock stars almost make it worth it. We also expected more Lego customization, considering the license--build your own guitar and drum kit, and perhaps even build arenas. That's not here, and the only "building" we saw was the unlocking of new venues and content via the collection of "studs," the same Lego currency that's used in other Lego games. We wish there was a way to selectively mod and build, instead--especially if that could have meant user-created instruments and other content. On the other hand, the odd collection of characters and costumes often amused us, and some Lego-ized rock cameos including David Bowie and Queen are nice touches. Sadly, there's no online mode for game play, but regardless of if that was a decision to protect children, it feels like another letdown.

We wanted more Lego in our Rock Band, but we mostly just got another dose of Rock Band. It's a fun pick for children, just don't expect a whole lot of depth to the package.

Lego Rock Band is out in stores now for the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii, in addition to the Nintendo DS (although that version's significantly different from the 360 version we played, and resembles Rock Band for the PSP). For the next-generation home consoles, it costs $49.99. For the DS, it's $29.99.