Gamers get the chance to make the band

When I joined the band, I was but a humble bassist.

In minutes, I went from bassist to lead guitarist to drummer. A short-lived stint as the group’s vocalist followed before I returned to the familiar territory of the guitar. My journey toward rock greatness included arguments over song choice, dramatic hair styles and accusing glares at the drummer.

My pseudo-superstardom came thanks to “Rock Band” and an X-box 360. The game, which was released on Nov. 20 for the 360 and PS3, was designed by former “Guitar Hero” (GH) producer Harmonix. It won’t arrive for PS2 until Dec. 18.

Though Harmonix produced the game without its former “GH” partner Red Octane, the game is reminiscent of the “GH” series.

Players can choose one of four instruments: lead guitar, bass, vocals or drums. This allows anywhere from one to four players to participate on a given song. As an added bonus, the PS3 and 360’s online capabilities can be used to find bandmates on the Web.

Game play is similar to ‘GH,” though the screen is more chaotic. Bass and lead guitar are on the left or right side of the screen interchangeably. Meanwhile, the drummer’s notes come down the center of the screen while the vocals run along the top.

Surprisingly, this maze of notes quickly becomes navigable, especially if you’re familiar with “GH.” The only negative to this setup is that if you have a smaller television, it might be hard to read the words to the songs.

Players familiar with any of the “GH” games should be able to play bass or lead guitar immediately on the same difficulty they can play it on in “GH.” The only noticeable difference for guitar is that the notes are rectangles rather than circles. This makes it somewhat difficult to tell which notes are hammer-ons, but more experienced “Rock Band” players have said they’ve adjusted to the change.

Vocals, also, are playable immediately. You might want to keep it on medium or easy if you don’t know the song, but even on medium it’s undeniably fun to belt out “My Sharona.”

Drums, however, are an entirely different beast. Unless you are already a fairly experienced drummer, you will start on easy just to figure out what the hell is going on. Drumming requires players to navigate colored drum pads and a foot pedal, often simultaneously.

This can get a little daunting. The first song I played on drums made me want to throw out the sticks and run back to guitar. Making it through an entire song on medium as the drummer was the major accomplishment of my night.

While “Rock Band” is a completely different game from “GH,” especially when it comes to the guitars, the two games bear a lot of similarities and some important differences.

While experienced “GH” guitarists will be able to play lead guitar right away, the songs are not geared toward the guitarist like they are in “GH.” This isn’t a problem, unless you’re flying solo.

I can’t imagine playing “Rock Band” by myself for very long. Yes, the tour mode is extremely comprehensive; yes, the songs are good; yes, the game is amazing overall. But it’s not a loner’s endeavor.

Bottom line, “Rock Band” is an amazingly fun game. But if you’re more of a solo artist, stick to “GH.”