“The Beatles: Rock Band” is ridiculously fun. It’s not “fun enough,” or “very fun”; it is an electromagnet of joy. When Yale Beatles expert Danielle Wiggins ’12 (Beatlemaniac, three-time Fest for Beatles Fans Trivia Champion, and two-time Name That Tune Champ) and I began playing in my friend’s common room, we were alone. By the time an hour had passed, the room was packed, with several people at once crowded around the single microphone singing unintentional four-part harmony. Whatever lucky soul whose turn it was on the guitar jumped off various articles of furniture (the Beatles conquer IKEA!) in spontaneous outbursts of gladness. A normally reserved suitemate, confronting the scene before him, responded by shouting “Do we really have Beatles Rock Band?!?” before grabbing the microphone and belting the hell out of “Can’t Buy Me Love.” And when your loyal reviewer took a quick trip to the Publick Cup for a much-needed coffee break, he was followed back by hundreds of screaming teenage girls, tearing at his shirt and sobbing. That last part isn’t true, but the reality is almost as good.
The game is extremely similar to other titles in the “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero” franchises, although elevated above them by the simple fact of its Beatletasticness©. While past games have been a mix of songs that are awesome and songs that suck, the 45-cut track list for “The Beatles: Rock Band” consists entirely of songs that are awesome. These are tracks you’ve loved since you were 5, and songs that you would have loved since you were 5 if your parents owned the first two Beatles records. Wiggins expressed (via e-mail) deep gladness that more casual fans “will be introduced to the history of the Beatles and some amazing tracks like ‘Do You Want to Know a Secret?’ ” which I can verify firsthand is an amazing track to be introduced to. She also was impressed that as the game tracks the band’s career, it “tells the entire story of the Beatles from the Cavern Club to the Final Rooftop Concert … [and] really helps you realize just how much the Beatles evolved between 1962-1970.” Playing through famous moments like the Beatles’ 1964 appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” or their mythic concert at Shea Stadium, suggests a coherence and narrative arc to the band’s broad catalogue, while the background visuals to tracks recorded after the Beatles quit touring suggest extremely large, brightly colored animals, flashing lights and the spirit of the 1960s.
“The Beatles: Rock Band” is such a powerful experience because the Beatles’ songs have been there throughout our lives. If you have happy memories of singing “Yellow Submarine” in a big circle in third grade, or being dragged by your parents to your local revival-house cinema to see “Hard Day’s Night” and suddenly realizing that it’s a great movie, or being sad and putting on “Yesterday” and then still being sad but also happy at the same time, you’ll love this game. If you don’t like the Beatles, you will hate it, because it’s all about the Beatles. For everyone else, according to Wiggins, there’s something to love no matter how deep your level of attachment to the band: “The die-hard Beatles fans, like myself, will love this game because of the amazing details and accuracy to the Beatles’ story. Casual Beatles fans will love it for the familiar, fun songs.” What better way to spend hundreds of hours that would otherwise be whiled away sitting alone in the library than grabbing five friends and pretending to be The Greatest Band of All Time?