Virtual Air Guitar Company, renowned for their unwavering support for the Kinect have finally released a game in the true spirit of their name – Air Guitar Warrior. It’s taken 11 years and 11 games across multiple platforms for the developer to get an air guitar game to market after their first project was cancelled many years ago. This is surely an exciting time for Virtual Air Guitar Company and air guitar enthusiasts the world over.
With an impressive feature list to set the tone of the game ranging from hand-painted art to a custom soundtrack that responds to how you’re playing the air guitar – I couldn’t wait to experience what the “part music game and part scrolling shooter” has to offer.
The story is as foretold in the official trailer, you’ll “Mount your steed and rock your way through ice and fire. Face your destiny and become the legendary air guitar warrior”. Your destiny will be fulfilled once you acquire the sword-guitar “The Legend” and face Zeus in the Temple of the Rock Gods.
The levels are presented as tracklists complete with running times, neatly packaged into albums that you have to complete to progress through the game. Upon completing a full tracklist by defeating the album boss, you’ll be able to pose and feature in the albums artwork.
For anyone who has never broke out ye old faithful air guitar to a rockin’ classic in the privacy of their own room, amongst friends or strangers after one pint too many, there’s a tutorial to ease you in gently.
The Journey Begins – 1:41 is the first level and tutorial from the in-game album, Road to Devastation – but before you start your quest, you’ll first have to select your preferred orientation of playing the air guitar, either right-handed or left-handed.
Just for clarification, a guitars orientation is usually determined by the user’s dominant hand, which is used for strumming. In truth though, we’re all individuals with our own preferences – just have a play around with your air guitar before settling and choose the orientation that feels the most comfortable for you.
It’s also worth noting that scroll direction and player placement will change depending on your choice. Selecting right-handed will place you to the right of the screen scrolling to left and vice versa. Left-handed gameplay is showcased in the official trailer.
During the tutorial you’ll be introduced to your first weaponised air guitar;
You’ll get to grips with 4 different play styles; slow rhythm, fast rhythm, fast lead and slow lead. The style is determined by where your hand is on the fret board and how fast you’re strumming. Each style fires a different type of projectile that reflects how you’re playing, slow rhythm will fire a slow, heavy, high-damaging projectile where as fast lead will fire faster, smaller, light-damaging projectiles. It’s an intuitive control scheme that feels natural. You won’t be able to spam your favourite style though as you have ammo pools that deplete and regenerate, encouraging you to switch between and use the most effective ammo type against a singular or densely packed group of enemies.
As mentioned earlier, the custom soundtrack comes into play as you change your air guitar playing style. Put together by Mika Tyyskä / Mr. Fastfinger and Samppa Siurala, they did a fantastic job of capturing the essence of classic rock and metal.
You'll get to take out a few enemies to get a feel of how it comes together. Now you’re ready set the world on fire and take on all and anything that would hinder your quest to become the Air Guitar Warrior legend.
For fans of classic rock and metal there’s plenty of tribute given to the great guitarists and bands of those genres. You can see influences in the artwork, enemy designs, album covers and fonts used. Even the loading screen will treat you to quotes from rock stars and accomplished musicians – if some of those names are unknown, I’d highly recommend checking them out!
I played through the normal difficulty with my kids and it was truly incredible. We all took turns, helped one another and became legends together! The only trouble we had was who and how we would feature in the album covers when we defeated a boss.
One of my favourite album snaps was when my youngest daughter defeated a boss. My other two kids jumped in for the photo and just as she wrestled them out of the Kinects view she jumped in for this memorable pose;
I think the replay value is quite solid. Upon completing the game you unlock unchain expert difficulty to push your air guitar skills to the max. Coupled with the responsive soundtrack mixing up the music I don’t think you’ll tire of hearing it as you would in other games. You can always revisit completed levels to try and get 100% completion on them by destroying every enemy or have fun retaking photos for the album covers.
Trials & Tribulation
A few questions came to mind while Air Guitar Warrior was being developed. I thought I’d go ahead and answer now I had the opportunity to get hands on and who knows – someone out there may be wondering the same things too.
My hair isn’t as long as it used to but how does the Kinect handle hair longer than most moms?
It handles and displays hair damn good as a rock themed game should. Just don’t let it hide your hands from the Kinect or it can get a little confuddled.
With hair this long, I could be a human Windmill! Will Kinect still recognise my air guitar playing as I whip it about the room?
Similarly, just as real life, covering your air guitar with your hair will most likely result in pain – maybe not physically but mentally as the Kinect struggles to convey your air guitar actions. This is also evident as the Kinect starts to drag some of the visible background in the image it projects of you into the game.
While this is an air guitar game, can I use props?
I tested 4 props to use instead of the air guitar bundled with the game;
LP430 – No that’s not a guitar model, it’s the catalogue code for length of pine stripwood. It felt pretty natural to rock out with the thing but the danger of splinters weighed heavily at the fore front of my mind. Usable, not recommended.
Guitar Hero Gibson Guitar – Using this just reminded me what I really hated about these kind of controllers. Click* Clack* Clickety* Clack* Clack* Clack* Clack*. No, no, no… Usable, not recommended.
A rolled up banner – That jumped under my arm after a gig in 2011, July 17th after seeing my personal favourite band of all time! Virtual high-five to the Judas Priest fans out there! Usable, not recommended.
Washburn Dime Slime – Authentic and un-stringed but using this led to an overbearing sense of woe. It felt like a slap in the face to both a beautifully crafted guitar and a well-developed air guitar game. Usable, not recommended.
So the answer it seems is yes but should you? It was fun to mess around with different props as a guitar but from my experience took some of the magic away from the game. In my opinion, Air Guitar Warrior should totally be played with an air guitar.
I love rock, guitar and even air guitar but maybe I’m having a lazy day – can I play sitting down?
No. I sat on the edge of my chair and completed a couple of the early levels without a hitch. Later this become a problem as the game interpreted me as leaning back constantly – you’ll understand why that’s bad when you play it – no spoilers here. Let’s face it, sat down is totally not the optimal position for rocking out in.
Air Guitar Warrior drives home the emphasis on rock attitude. It manages to encompass so many cultural “nods” that would have you head banging for days to acknowledge them all. The level of detail and care to create an experience that everyone can enjoy is astounding. Sex and drugs maybe omitted from the game but there’s metric tons of rock to be had – it’s simply awesome and a must buy for Kinect owners.
- Intuitive controls that only warrants the briefest of tutorials so you can get stuck straight into the rock.
- Jam packed with classic rock and metal tributes.
- An air guitar is included with every purchase or you can just use your own.
- Flowing Locks + Erratic Movements = Kinect Lunacy; or in layman's terms the Kinect has trouble tracking you with hair tornado flailing around.