Bizarre is an exciting word when used to describe a video game. While it doesn't guarantee a quality game, you know you're in for something a little different. Gitaroo Man is the every day tale of a young boy called U-1 and his talking dog Puma. U-1 discovers that he is more than meets the eye, and is in fact a super hero. Not the usual kind of super hero though, as he's the successor to Gitaroo Man, an intergalactic musical super hero. Did I say it was bizarre?
When U-1 gets a gitaroo (a magical guitar) in his hands, he transforms into his super hero form (as does his dog), and you're able to battle aliens who are attempting to take all the gitaroos and take over planet Gitaroo. The storyline is completely mad, and cutscenes do little to make it any clearer, but it's always fun.
The main game is split into twelve battle stages, which pit you against a bad guy of some description. In order to fight you need to become skilled at the two distinct gameplay types. The first places a line on the screen which you need to follow by moving the analogue nub. It's not as simple as it sounds though, as you'll also have to tap and hold the circle button as riff bars appear on the line. Trying to combine your taps and holds with careful control of the analogue nub can get very tricky, and certain songs throw in some nasty changes of angle that require a deft touch.
The second gameplay type is a more traditional timing-based game, where you have to press the four main face buttons in time with the on-screen display. A slight problem, and something that has come about as a result of the PSP's widescreen display, is how icons appear on the screen. The icons that appear from the top and bottom of the screen travel a shorter distance (as there's simply less screen to cover), and can appear after icons coming from the side, yet need hitting before them. It's a little confusing, and makes the more active sections even trickier.
'It's all simple stuff, but it gets incredibly tricky to keep up with the insane speed of the on-screen commands...'
These fights usually follow a pretty rigid structure, and test your skills at the two main gameplay mechanics. While not always the same in every fight, most of the battles feature a charge, battle and final section, and each is more or less what the name suggests. In charge sections you build up your health meter by performing well, battle sections let you deplete your opponent's health, and final sections need to be won in order to end the battle.
It's all simple stuff, but it gets incredibly tricky to keep up with the insane speed of the on-screen commands and the often wavy lines that you need to follow with the analogue nub. You can set the game to an easier difficulty level, but it's best when played at the default level, as it really tests your skill and prevents you from hammering through the game too quickly. There aren't many levels on offer, and although replaying them is great fun, once each has been completed the appeal isn't the same.
What's more, this is essentially the same as the old PlayStation 2 game, but this time you'll need to find a person with another copy of the game in order to play with or against a friend. The PSP's lovely screen does wonders for the brilliantly colourful visuals, but load times do blight an otherwise impressive package, with load times of 15-30 seconds between sections being a little hard to take.
Being a musical rhythm-based game, you'd expect the tunes to be great, and they are... mostly. There's the odd annoying track that will send your friends and family over the edge, but on the whole it's good addictive stuff. After a few hours trying to crack the harder levels you'll find yourself humming the tunes rather nervously to yourself - an act that is certain to get you sectioned, but a sure sign that the music selection is top notch.
Gitaroo Man Lives is hugely addictive, it works really well on the PSP (apart from the lengthy load times), and is great fun. There's not a whole lot to it though, so if you're expecting hours upon hours of gameplay, you're likely to be disappointed. Perfecting each song will take time, and it's hard to not love the music, but the 12 levels still feel rather meagre. It's also a port of the PlayStation 2 original, so while still great, it isn't going to offer much for existing owners.
VideoGamer.com Score7 Score out of 10
- Innovative gameplay
- Great music
- Not a long-lasting experience
- Multiplayer games aren't likely