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I'll be honest with you: I'm probably the only tech blogger in the world who hasn't played Guitar Hero or Rock Band yet.  Yeah, that's because I'm a big loser, and also because I don't own a gaming console and when I do play I get oddly fascinated by weird games like Katamari Damacy and Wii Rock, Paper, Scissors and never make it to the more popular titles.  The one chance I had to play Rock Band came at CES a few months back when some company or another had a console set up at their booth.  But I got bored of waiting in line and then spied an electronic drum kit over at Roland's booth.  So I went and rocked out on that, instead.

All that's to say that I can't really compare Hands-On Mobile's Guitar Hero Mobile to the real thing.  But I can tell you that the mobile version is pretty awesome.  Really, all you do is press buttons on the keypad to match up with the movement of colored dots on the screen.  And yet it's somehow really fun, compelling, and addictive.  I think it's because the dots are moving down a fretboard that attracts a lot of multi-colored lightning, and they're synched up with the guitar parts to actual rock songs, many of which I actually know and like.  So it's kind of like having something to do while listening to music on your phone.  And that something is rhythmic button mashing, which is pretty fun.

From what I've read and heard from friends who'd know, Guitar Hero Mobile is pretty faithful to the console version.  There are characters and venues and a career mode, and all kinds of songs you can download to your phone as you unlock new levels. 

I tested the game out on an LG Venus running on Verizon Wireless, and the graphics, sound, and gameplay were all excellent.  Apparently Hands-On Games worked closely with Activision (publishers of the console versions) to stay true to the original, and they did a good job.  Higher-end handsets like Venus feature 3D graphics and fluid animations.

My only complaint about the game had to do with pressing the star (*) key to activate "Star Power."  It's probably my fault that it took me awhile to understand what Star Power was all about, but even then invoking my Power seemed to accidentally pause the game all too often.  Likely that has more to do with Venus' keypad than the game itself, but it was still a bit confusing.  Still, the game was really fun and way, way, way better than the one knockoff I demo'd - Gameloft's Guitar Legend.  The difference between the two games is literally like the difference between rock 'n' roll and muzak.

Guitar Hero III Mobile is currently available only on Verizon Wireless, AT&T, ntelos and Cellular South, though the game will likely soon be available on more handsets and carriers.  And a little birdie tells me that there may just be a big party at CTIA in Vegas to launch a BlackBerry version.  We'll be there.


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