I was excited to see that the Rock Band Stage Kit, after being announced so many months ago, was finally in stock at a local EBGames. I picked one up over the weekend.
I was on the fence about getting this until early previews indicated that the stage kit is synchronized to whatever song you’re playing in Rock Band. It isn’t just randomly producing smoke, strobe light, and animated LED lens effects — it’s doing it in sync with the music! That moves it from “novelty” to “must have” status in my book.
PDP collaborated with Harmonix to program in-game cues into Rock Band and Rock Band 2. Beyond the obvious benefits of utilizing programmed cues rather than shoddy sound sensors, the Rock Band Stage Kit is not only able to react to tracks in perfect time, it is also capable of replicating lighting colors of the in-game venues. While not exactly quiet or subtle, the fog machine fills any given room with sizable clouds during slower sequences of music. For impressive flashes of texturized light, the strobe lamp is located just below the spout of the fog machine.
Remember, the kit has:
- Smoke / fog machine
- Strobe light
- Animated LED effects w/ fresnel projection lens
- Controller “pod” for vocalist
All for 99 bucks! Not a bad deal, I think.
There are also several good YouTube videos up of the kit in action so you can see what kind of effects we’re talking about. This one is the best, though.
Offspring – Come Out and Play (watch to around 1:15 at least!)
AFI – Girl’s Not Grey
The IGN review has a decent video with some closeups of the various pieces of kit doing their thing.
And of course the official commercial featuring Bang Camaro. This song “Pleasure” is the one that plays during the awesome RB1 credit sequence, so it will always have a special place in my heart. The RB2 credit sequence was sort of a disappointment in comparison.
After playing with the Stage Kit for a few days, my verdict is — big thumbs up. I do have a few comments, however.
- The kit produces a lot of fog. I mean a lot. We play in a 9 x 15 room and we usually turn the smoke part of the kit off after the 2nd or 3rd time it runs. That’s plenty to fill the room, and it lasts for a solid 20 minutes at least. There is a seperate switch to turn off smoke production, fortunately. Also, some stage kit owners on the forums recommended diluting the fog liquid with distilled water, or getting special “fast dissipating” fog liquids to use in the machine.
- The fog is harmless. I found the included smoke / fog liquid mostly scentless, and it has dissipated several times without any residue or lingering smells. However, my wife found the actual fog “smell” unpleasant. I disagree, but your mileage (and nose) may vary! Some people really get turned off by it.
- The actual spraying of the fog is a little noisy but nothing objectionable over the music. If the fogger is a concern, just switch it off via the independent switch on the back. With smoke / fog production turned off, the kit still produces cool strobe and LED effects. You can also turn the fogger on and off during gameplay no problem — we do this all the time.
- The kit only works with Rock Band 2 as far as I can tell. I didn’t try it in Rock Band 1, but it does absolutely nothing in Guitar Hero: World Tour. There is no “automatic” mode for this kit, if it is not hooked up to Rock Band 2, you get no light and no fog of any kind whatsoever. That’s sort of a bummer, actually.
- The LED and strobe effects really do sync up with the music to an amazing degree. The strobe in particular is quite dramatic, because it’s used with such restraint. It only kicks in for very specific sections of songs, and not for very long. Bear in mind that the LED effects are not super bright so you will need a reasonably dark room to get good results. It works great in our rock room, but we keep it dark anyway because it’s a projector setup.
- Beware: this kit uses one controller slot, which is sort of a mixed blessing. If you have a full 4 player band the vocalist must use the LED lighting pod as their controller. This can be awkward because the best positioning of the LED pod for dramatic lighting isn’t necessarily a convenient position for the vocalist to use it as a controller! Also, the cord connecting the fogger unit to the LED control pod is extremely short, maybe 3 feet max. I wish they included a longer cord here for more flexibility.
Overall, I’m much more pleased with the Rock Band Stage Kit than I thought I would be. It’s an excellent Rock Band accessory — the fact that it (apparently) reads the song charts and reacts appropriately adds a lot to the whole fake plastic rock experience. Just be aware of the vocalist controller issue, and the fog density.