The set list redeems a fraction of this. 30 tracks are covered in five genres (bullet point opportunity: "150 songs!") - rock, hip-hop, country, marching and Latin. Hearing "Black Betty" or Soundgarden's Spoonman transition from a rap variant to fully-translated Spanish lyrics is a nice novelty and, together, Def Leppard, Korn, AFI, Tenacious D, Audioslave, TV on the Radio, the Black Eyed Peas, LL Cool J, Keane, Rick James and more are represented. None of the included tracks are originals, but the covers do a decent job of playing up a stereotyped style that suits each genre.
The same can't be said for the game's cartoon aesthetic. Battle is begging for better textures and a cleaner interface. Sonic skirmishes could've been shown in some unique ways on-screen: maybe squads of camo-clad groupies would storm the stage, or one side's instruments would be riddled in holes if they're not keeping up. (If we had our way, we'd meld a music game with Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime - life bars, clean sprite graphics, combos that load cannons to launch attacks overhead, and a sprinkling of light tactics to make points an afterthought. We'll keep dreaming.)
Instead, it's low-res flames floating back and forth as points tally up, bland backgrounds, and enough clashing colours to make you wonder if the art team interned at Lisa Frank. An exaggerated interface is one thing, but million-dollar-bill fretboards lined in gold chains? Not appealing. The bands themselves boast the likeability of a fast food toy line. A turntable with machinegun barrels for the hip-hop group? Appropriate. A makeshift cannon in the bass drum? Sure. Blunderbuss-banjos? Okay. But oddly, these accoutrements aren't accompanied by enough animations to act things out - bands seem content to idle during their war hymns, occasionally firing off whatever particle effect you've pre-loaded as a weapon.
The lack of on-screen hijinks is another missed opportunity to enkindle comical tone, but we'd care less if there was more content to keep us occupied. Three indistinct boss battles against a classically-trained maestro break up single-player, but a simple two-player versus mode isn't an attractive alternative to solo play. The odd omelette of dated art design drapes the bands in stale stereotypes, while static models and rocky animations resign the bands to being poor caricatures.
This isn't Guitar Hero, but our middling appraisal doesn't need another standard to judge Battle's shallow, safe and unsexy design. When it's all sung and done, the mediocrity stems from shallow motion controls. A wrist-flicking rhythm game already has something stacked against it in keeping players engaged, but a bare bones gesture set doesn't give the gameplay much spark.
5 / 10