I recently went to a Guns and Roses concert. Axl Rose, the only original member, proved a bit soft around the edges and failed to hit the high notes like he used to—during a few songs, I thought of the 1984 mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap. I also realized heavy metal, glam rock, and hard-pop from the late 70s and early 80s prove resilient. That reminded me of some particular video games that featured bands from that era.
In the early 1980s, Electronic Arts (EA) designed a pinball game with the working title “Headbanger Ball.” Due to a licensing issue with MTV, EA was unable to use the title and instead decided to focus the game on hair band Mötley Crüe. Many rockers considered Mötley Crüe the 80s glam poster boys. Their sets featured revolving drum platforms and excessive pyrotechnics. Fans rocked to guitar riffs from Mick Mars, a man who was invited to join the band after other members saw his classified ad placement that read “Loud Rude Aggressive Guitarist Available.” Crüe Ball provided a player with nine-levels of mediocre pinball and even less appealing variations of Mötley Crüe’s hits “Dr. Feelgood,” “Live Wire,” and “Home Sweet Home.” In a bonus level, a player launched to space and played in a version of Pong against hostile skeletons.
Hard-pop band Journey rocked the 70s and 80s music scene. Bally Midway thought to merge the band with another popular scene—the arcade. In 1983, Midway released Journey-Escape, an arcade game that featured the faces of Journey members superimposed onto pixilated bodies. The game required a player to travel to different planets to locate and to retrieve each band member’s missing instrument. When a player successfully collected the instruments, the band performed a concert. During each concert, a fan stole the instruments and the player started the challenge over again. If this sounds tedious, it is not nearly as mind numbing as the game’s soundtrack—the arcade cabinet contained a tape that played a looped version of Journey’s “Separate Ways.”
3. Revolution X
Midway took another shot at merging video games with rock and roll when they released the arcade rail shooter Revolution X in 1994. The game begins with a screen shot of a stage featuring an Aeromith logo and a drum kit. As “the last surviving free youth,” the player needed to save members of Aerosmith from the New Order Nation and their commander Head Mistress Helga who had declared war on youth culture and rock and roll (Footloose, anyone?). The game graphics proved as over-stimulating as a Guns and Roses stage. Unfortunately, the soundtrack, which included Aerosmith songs “Sweet Emotion,” “Toys in the Attic,” and “Walk This Way,” among others, did not block out the voice samples of Steven Tyler’s random yelps.
If you want to experience more of the rock star life, play Kiss Pinball, check out Brütal Legend, or shred the guitar of a Guitar Hero arcade (you can finish a complete song no matter how many notes you miss). For those not interested in gaudy power ballads, check out Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, Make My Video: Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, or Kanye Quest 3030.