This isn't the first family-friendly reskin of a popular rhythm-action game we've seen this month. Band Hero gave Guitar Hero 5 a glittery pink-and-purple makeover and a soundtrack of cheerily meaningless pop in a rather-too-calculated approach to broadening the plastic-instrument market to women and families. The new look was cynical, yes, but what really let it down was a tracklist that was in no way suited to Guitar Hero's gameplay or instruments. Nobody wants to play along to the keyboard in a Spice Girls track on a plastic guitar.
LEGO Rock Band doesn't make the same mistakes. It's just as derivative as Band Hero, but many times as likeable, and the music and gameplay are still perfectly compatible. The style, as with all the LEGO games thus far, is adorable - so adorable that it makes you wish you could import all your Rock Band 2 tracks and adopt it as the default option. Who wants grainy camera effects and earnest-looking frontmen with pink-and-black emovers when you can have LEGO Bryan May?
Importantly, though, it isn't just a reskin. Besides the presentation, things have been tweaked a little to make classic Rock Band gameplay friendlier to under-socialised narcissists with non-existent attention spans (i.e. children). It's impossible to fail a song - you just get fewer LEGO studs as a reward for completing it. Even if you do fail out and lose studs, you can play a 'recovery phrase' and get them all back again. Rock Band has had a no-fail option for a while, of course, but now you don't need to bother nipping into a menu to activate it.
There's a new Super Easy difficulty setting, too, in which you just have to strum, hit a drum pad or scream "GHOSTBUSTERS GHOSTBUSTERS AAAAH GHOSTBUSTERS" into a microphone for three minutes without worrying about actual notes or pitch. There's also an automatic setting for the drum's bass pedal to help out tiny musicians who are too short to hit anything but the pads. Lastly, you can play shortened versions of songs in Free Play instead of the full four-minute Experience, but unfortunately the editing is horrible. Songs just suddenly cut out before a chorus or solo instead of being properly cropped.
The tour is different as well. It's been renamed Story mode and is now punctuated by whimsical LEGO cut-scenes and special gigs called Rock Challenges, which have you fighting octopuses or banishing ghosts or tearing a house down with the power of rock. The cut-scenes would be worth a playthrough all on their own were it not for the enormous repetition. You must play the same songs over and over and over again in different venues until you'll be ready to tear Good Charlotte's spiky heads off with your bare hands, if you weren't already.
Rock Band has always had this problem, forcing you to play in your safe zone for ages rather than letting you try new songs at will, but LEGO Rock Band's relatively meagre 45-strong tracklist exacerbates the problem. The small selection of songs means that the repetition is just as bad towards the end of the tour as it is at the beginning.