The House of the Dead franchise is familiar to many gamers, though a lot of folks might not remember the quirky game Typing of the Dead set in the same world. If you do remember it, you have a pretty good idea of what Rock of the Dead is like already - though Rock of the Dead is not a license HoTD game.
In Rock of the Dead you'll wield a guitar or drums on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 (Wii version is guitar only) to unleash riffs on the unsuspecting undead. These key combinations are only a few button presses long and the game will auto target the enemy to the riff you are playing. These riffs aren't time though, instead you only need to hit the correct combination of keys.
The game takes place across 28 levels with 8 sections each starting in a trailer park and ending in outer space. These levels are filled with mini boss battles and major boss battles - both require a different kind of play. Instead of just a short 4 or 5 note riff, you'll play a small solo - but in a timed method that's similar to Guitar Hero. The music in Rock of the Dead features Rob Zombie as well as metal and rock versions of several classical songs.
The game also features the voices of Felicia Day and Neil Patrick Harris throughout, so there's plenty of quality talent behind the media of the game.
Co-Op play is supported in both drop-in/drop-out fashion as well as mixed difficulty. This makes the game much more easily accessible to players. Epicenter Games, the developer, really wanted to focus on just making the game pure fun.
I played the game with one of the team members as my co-op partner and opted for a normal difficulty. It's been a good 6 months since I played a music game, so my plastic guitar skills were a bit rusty. After fumbling over the key patterns a bit I started to get into my groove. The hardest part people are going to find in Rock of the Dead is learning which pattern to look at and play. With so many popping up on the screen in can seem a bit overwhelming - but just like a good light gun shooter - you only need to aim (focus) on one guy at a time.
Luckily if you get stuck or overwhelmed there's a few ways to save yourself. You can unleash a lightning attack by tilting the guitar - though you'll need to earn it like star power for playing well. You can also use the whammy bar for a shield if need be, again, something earned. In co-op play you can also assist your partner and help them with their riff - or if you prefer a competitive look at it - steal their riff.
All in all Rock of the Dead is shaping up to be a worthy addition to a very small, but cheesy, genre of gaming. It's nice to have another use for all those plastic instruments you have sitting around. The game will be out later this year on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 - and we can't wait to shred more faces off zombies.