Continued from page 1

In its latest edition, creating avatars is a much more detailed event (more gear, tattoos, clothing and even a band logo art program), the action more user-friendly (a drum tutorial helps budding percussionists), and the World Tour is as extensive.

An online effort seamlessly integrates group members (in the same room and on Xbox Live) along with offering a Battle of the Bands for groups to compete for highest point totals.

Another new feature, the “No Fail” mode, gives the most rhythmically challenged and uncoordinated members of the group a chance to partake in the fun. The musical fumbler can make unlimited mistakes with no fear of being humiliated by the virtual crowd.

The driving force to any music game is the songs, and Rock Band 2 overwhelms. More than 80 basic tracks are included on the disc, and another 20 will be available as free downloads later this year. Additionally, players can upload most of the 50-plus tracks from last year’s Rock Band disc for $4.99.

The core selection of artists remains impressive with hits from Smashing Pumpkins, Blondie, Bob Dylan, the Who, AC/DC, the Talking Heads, Jethro Tull, Dinosaur Jr., Billy Idol, Linkin Park and Squeeze.

Nothing warmed this old drummer’s heart more than watching my offspring sing Cheap Trick’s “Hello There” while simultaneously matching percussive licks. This type of bonding really makes the game special as parents and teens can introduce one another to a fantastic set of music covering decades of the rock genre.

Rock Band 2 is compatible with last year’s bundle of peripheral instruments, but serious players will invest in the refreshed lineup, in particular, a wireless drum set with more responsive pads and a metal-plated kick pedal ($89.99). Even cooler, the downsized wireless Stratocaster ($69.99) features a faux-woodgrain finish and starburst faceplate, a five-tone-setting toggle switch and much better strum bar sensitivity.

The best bet might be to wait for the full bundle release (game, drums, guitar and mic) to be available in late October ($189.99). Unfortunately for MTV Games, it’s just in time to compete with Activision’s Guitar Hero: World Tour, a new group jam session game.

• Joseph Szadkowski’s ROMper Room is a place for children and their parents to escape the world of ultraviolent video games and use that gaming system or computer to actually learn something while having fun. Send e-mail to jszadkowski@ washingtontimes.com.