Missing it's announced October 19th release date by a few days (it shipped the following week, hitting stores along with ROCK BAND 3), I was pretty excited when UPS showed up on my doorstep bearing the POWER GIG Guitar Kit, direct from the developers at Seven45 Studios. My initial reaction was that I was surprised by the fact that the included guitar is not full-sized. Somewhere along the line I'd missed that bit of information, either by overlooking it or by the marketing material calling it "The first and only game with a real guitar." It was my assumption that the "SixString" was indeed full sized. In actuality, it's about the same size as a standard gaming guitar, but with real guitar function built in.
THE HARDWARE: Power Gig "SixString" Guitar
Built in a fairly robust form, the guitar itself has a weight to it that makes it feel more "real" than your standard plastic Axe. As noted above, it's significantly smaller than a real guitar (see photo to the right comparing the SixString to a real Epiphone SG). Real guitar functionality is built into the controller: real metal frets, a single humbucking pickup, and a fixed tremelo. The "start" and "back" knobs serve dual function as volume and tone control when plugged into an amp.
As a "Real Guitar..."
I tried the SixString through a Peavey Half Stack to mixed results. It doesn't sound bad, but it's a little flat at times. It's fairly comfortable to play, though forget about pulling off those Zakk Wylde style harmonic squeals. Basic playing was decent, but the advanced riffing was iffy. After trying the SixString through a Line 6 Pocket Pod, I was able to get some decent tone out of it. With the right processing, you can make this little guy sound pretty good. And yes, the production version does stay in-tune.
As a Gaming Controller...
Using the SixString along with the included software, the controls are what you're used to in music gaming (a series of colored frets - noted here on the top of the fretboard rather than on the front) with the major difference being that you're plucking strings this time. There's a rubberized piece that pops up into place under the strings to mute them while in game mode. This is essential in order to use the guitar as a controller. For basic play, the controller is fairly responsive, although I did have some issues with the fretting in that if you're not pushing them "just right," the notes might not be picked up accurately.
THE SOFTWARE: POWER GIG: RISE OF THE SIXSTRING
The POWER GIG game is unimpressive. Rather than stick to the familiar interface that players of GUITAR HERO and ROCK BAND are used to, POWER GIG moves the action to the right side of the screen with the track of boldy-colored gems replaced with a string-based track and tiny, circular orbs to represent the plucking order. Playing chords is an interesting addition to the more extreme difficulty levels, but disorienting if you know how to play any of these songs in real life. As noted above, you have to fret these perfectly to get them to register correctly. Players like myself that have a tendency to palm mute quite a bit on a real guitar (I'm a rhythm guy) will have a problem right off the bat. It takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, you're good to go. A series of tutorials can help you learn the ins and outs of Power Gigging.
The visuals and story mode take music gaming back a few generations, which makes you wonder why Seven45 didn't partner with a more experienced game developer to assist in the software. Graphics are below average (as played on the XBOX 360), and the story mode is a knock-off of BRUTAL LEGEND and GUITAR HERO: WARRIORS OF ROCK, but not as good. Mystical land, battling the baddies for the saving of rock, etc. - you've heard this one before. It's mildly entertaining, though unfortunately essential for unlocking the rest of the songs in the game for quickplay. A party mode that makes all songs immediately available would've served this well.
DLC is said to be forthcoming, though I believe that the first batch slated for November 22nd has yet to arrive. Hopefully Seven45 stands behind the game to bring it some needed updates down the line See above note, appears to be cancelled.
It's also important to note that the charting of the songs is not authentic - so you cannot learn these songs from the game. Additionally, unlike the other games on the market - there is no Bass available to play in Power Gig.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
POWER GIG: RISE OF THE SIXSTRING appears to have been created with good intentions on the musical side of things (Seven45 Studios is an off-shoot of instrument maker First Act), but the software side of things could use work. For seasoned music gamers looking for a new challenge, POWER GIG is worth a try - but rent before you buy. For parents eyeing the game as a potential starter guitar for their budding young rockers, the lack of an included full-sized guitar (they are offering one through First Act for about $250, also appears cancelled.) diminishes some of the value in the $179 price point for the guitar kit. In comparison, guitar manufacturers such as Fender, Gibson, Dean, B.C. Rich, and even First Act offer "starter kits" that typically include a full-sized guitar, practice amp, and accessories for under $200. In addition, POWER GIG does not teach you to play.
POWER GIG as a whole will be an acquired taste that will easily fall into "love it or hate it" territory. Give it a try to see if you dig it before dropping down your hard-earned cash for this one.