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And for Those Playing Along . . .

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Beatles haven't exactly led the charge into the digital era -- the Fab Four's music still isn't available on iTunes, for example. But the history-making band gets the deluxe treatment in a new video game set for release on Wednesday.

While other bands, such as Metallica and Aerosmith, have already made their Xbox debuts in similar games, the loving care and attention paid to John, Paul, Ringo and George in this title makes The Beatles: Rock Band seem like a different creature altogether.

Yoko Ono and Sir Paul himself reportedly prodded the game's creators into making even the smaller details feel right, down to how much the band members' hair blew in the wind during one famous performance. As far as a video game featuring digital representations of famous rock stars can feel "authentic," this one pulls it off.

Surely most people think they are familiar with the Beatles' music, but when's the last time you actively gave them a listen? (Please, ye boomers, no e-mails . . . .) For a few million video game-playing Gen Xers and Yers who may never have sat down and listened to a Beatles album from start to finish, this game and its wonderful music will be a major revelation.

For the uninitiated, the point of the game is to play along and in time with the band (using the instrument-shaped controllers) and do well enough to continue on to the next song or gig. If you've played one of these games before, you'll be able to work through this title's main course in the same amount of time it takes to listen to the 45 Beatles tunes included on the game disc. Players start out at Liverpool's Cavern Club and end at the band's farewell gig, on a London rooftop. The game's tracks span the band's career, from "Twist and Shout" to "Get Back."

This fall, three entire Beatles albums -- "Abbey Road," "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "Rubber Soul" -- are getting the Rock Band treatment and are set for downloadable add-on release for owners of this video game. And given the spike in sales that many bands have seen as a result of appearances in Rock Band or Guitar Hero, it's surely no coincidence that a new set of remastered Beatles albums is set to go on sale the same day as this game's release.

Like most new video games, The Beatles: Rock Band (available for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii) is priced at $60. The primo $250 version comes with game controllers remade as Beatles-themed instruments. There's Paul's violin-shaped bass guitar and a mini-drum kit with a pearl finish meant to look like what Ringo might have played. The game's creators have even managed to fit a microphone stand into the box for this release.

Given the source material, this is pretty family-friendly stuff -- but the game is rated "T," or "teen," for "mild lyrics" and "tobacco reference."

By the way, Apple is set to make an announcement on Wednesday. Some rumors have it that the iPod's maker might have something Beatles-related to say. Maybe the band's music will end up on iTunes after all.

-- Mike Musgrove

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