Band Stars review
Band Stars is a new game developed by Six Foot Kid and published by Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride creators Halfbrick. The new game is available now via the Chrome Web Store and with added social features on Google+.
Band Stars casts players in the role of a band manager. Beginning by hiring four musicians, the player must record songs, collect royalities and rise up the charts on a quest for stardom. Over time, players will hire new musicians and purchase new equipment to make their productions more and more elaborate.
Gameplay in Band Stars is similar to Kairosoft’s popular mobile title Game Dev Story. Players first choose a music genre and lyrical style, with bonuses given if the two are thematically appropriate for one another. They must then select one of their musicians to write the song and wait for a short period as the writer earns “points” in several different categories for their latest creation. Once the writing phase is complete, the player must assign band members to appropriate instruments for the song’s recording session, during which all participants earn further points for the song. While performing, the player may spend earned “Inspirado” points on solos, which enable individual characters to provide bigger boosts to various point categories. Finally, the “polish” phase sees players assigning a single musician to production duty to earn the last few points, and upon completion the song’s initial chart position is calculated. The song then continues to sell copies for a short period, after which players get a cash bonus and ongoing royalties (both of which must be collected manually by mousing over “treasure chest” items, encouraging players to check in on the game regularly) and proceed to do the whole thing again.
It’s a relatively simple formula with a little light management added by the inclusion of an “energy” system for the band members — though this isn’t a traditional social game “you may click this many times without paying” mechanic. Rather, each band member gets more tired as they do more jobs — if one member writes the song, performs on it and produces it, for example, they will get more tired than someone who just shows up to play keyboards. In order to restore the characters’ energy, they must be dragged and dropped into various items of “resting” furniture such as a bed and a hot tub. Their energy then slowly restores over time, or players may purchase energy drinks using real money to immediately refresh their musicians.
Progression comes as the player builds up a fanbase for their band. Initially, players may improve their band’s performance by purchasing new instruments and upgrades; over time, it becomes possible to sign with different record labels, which provides bonuses to songs when they are released. Completing various quests also unlocks new song genres and lyric styles — this is the one deviation from the Game Dev Story formula, which left things completely freeform to the player and unlocked new content through rather arbitrary criteria.
Band Stars is pretty good overall. It has an endearing visual style and plenty of character to it, and it doesn’t fall back on established social game formulae, preferring instead to take its cues from a well-known (though relatively niche) mobile title. An in-game leaderboard function encourages competitive play with players from around the world and it’s possible for players to “follow” friends’ bands and see what they are up to. The in-game profanity filter (which comes into play when naming a band or track) is a little too enthusiastic, however, believing the word “smoky” to be deserving of censorship, and it would be nice to hear more variations on the music the player’s band plays while they are performing. These small flaws aside, Band Stars is well worth checking out — though it remains to be seen whether it will be able to build up a big enough audience to be profitable on Google+. Halfbrick is a mobile specialist, however, so it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see iOS and Android versions of this game at some point in the future — it would certainly work well on mobile.
A good social adaptation of the “Game Dev Story” fomula.