the rock band 3 keyboard

It’s worth mentioning that for my keyboard-playing in Rock Band 3, I’m using the official keyboard controller, and I’m really quite impressed by it — it’s solid, the keys feel great, and it has a standard MIDI output for use with a PC or other MIDI gear, so for the money (AU$135-ish locally, US$80 on Amazon), I think it’s a bargain. There’s a Rock Band 3 MIDI interface coming, which I could’ve used with one of the keyboards we already have in the house, but they’re a bit big for the lounge, especially with the drums set up. The official keyboard is tiny in comparison, and you can hold it like a keytar, which means you can play it standing up (and look totally bad-ass, 80s-style, while doing so).

The MIDI output works really well — if you’re in the market for a small, cheap MIDI controller, it’s definitely worth considering, and if you’re in the market for a cheap keytar, it’s a no-brainer. The touch strip on the neck, which can be used like a whammy bar in the game, acts as a mod wheel in MIDI mode, and the Xbox controller buttons are all repurposed to cover useful features, like octave up/down controls and program changes; Create Digital Music has a great article that covers all of the MIDI features.

The one thing it lacks compared to a modern MIDI controller is a USB port, but when you can get a basic, class-compliant USB-MIDI adapter online for less than $10, it’s not a deal-breaker. I hooked it up to my laptop using one of those adapters, and within seconds I was pumping basslines out of XSynth-DSSI, using the touch strip to control the filter cutoff while I played. Awesome!

november games

I’m aware that all of these games came out in October. I’m playing them now, though! I can’t be bothered with proper reviews, so here are a few quick notes on each:

Costume Quest — this is Double Fine’s latest, and it’s exactly as funny as you’d expect. It’s basically a cross between Zelda-style questing and adventuring and JRPG-style turn-based battles, and while there’s nothing much new to speak of in terms of gameplay, it’s all executed well. The art direection really steals the show, though — the Halloween setting is super-cute, and the use of costumes to gain abilities add an extra layers of charm. I do wish it was voice-acted (I assume that budget constraints prevented that), and I thought the combat dragged a little toward the end, but it’s still a great little game.

Super Meat Boy — I haven’t played a tonne of this yet, but it’s already thrown me over a barrel and beat me senseless, and yet I keep coming back for more. This is simple, old-school, tough-as-nails 2D platforming at its best. It demands precision, and often rote memorisation, but the levels are so short (tens of seconds, usually) that it doesn’t take long to learn them, the penalty for death is light (just restart the leve), and the controls are not just solid, but forgiving. Dying never feels cheap, and finishing a tough level always feels like an accomplishment.

Rock Band 3 — this really deserves its own post, but since I’m too lazy to give it one, here it is! On one level, Rock Band 3 is the Rock Band 2 you always wanted to play, with a far more flexible and intuitive UI that makes it much easier for each player to manage their instruments and preferences. On another level, it’s an entirely new experience, with the addition of a “Pro” mode for drums, guitars, and the game’s new addition: keyboards. I’ve been having a tonne of fun with the keyboard, but the cost of instruments for the other Pro modes may be a bridge too far. RB3 draws a line in the sand for older content, too — older tracks don’t have keyboard parts, or Pro Guitar parts.