If musicians really can save the world — Bob Geldof and Bono would both like you to believe they can — then it's a shame they couldn't do it in a game more interesting than Devil Band - Rock the Underworld.
CIRCLE's latest essentially takes Plants vs. Zombies, robs it of its charm and adds in a lot more tapping. You control a metal band that has to stave off an invasion of evil monsters for some reason, using your instruments and army of fans to save the day.
Like PvZ, it's all played out on a grid, with your band on the left and enemies coming from the right. You can 'plant' fans in the grid which all have special skills: the first type generates "frenzy aura", aka sunlight, which is used to place more powerful fans, such as ones that throw rocks or molotov cocktails at the oncoming hordes. You can level your groupies up after completing each stage and spend skill points giving your band members more health and higher attack ratings, but it feels less like a compelling reason to keep playing and more a way to keep parity as the enemies get tougher.
Ironically for a game about musicians, Devil Band's downfall is that it requires no skill and builds precious little rhythm. Unlike PvZ's expertly gauged peaks and troughs, here stages are a relentless onslaught of beasts that give you scant time to place defences, so you spend most of your time trying to fend them off with your band's attacks. This wouldn't be a problem if attacking was actually fun, but while each member has different attacks all you do to activate them is tap an enemy. Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap. It's as repetitive and pointless as it sounds, and you need to do it in every stage. If it were a case that only poor planning or management made tapping necessary we could probably forgive its appearance, but no matter which stage you pick or how you play, you'll be prodding the touch screen like there's no tomorrow.
Another issue is the need to scroll the touch screen to see the whole playing field. Your musical attacks only have a certain range, marked by a red line, but often all you do is scroll to the perimeter and incessantly tap enemies as they cross into your territory. There's no planning, no strategy; all enemy types pose the same damage and can be defeated in the same way. By tapping.
It's also a repulsively ugly game. While this is no doubt due to its underground rock stylings, its ghastly sprites and muddy palette make it a real eyesore. The MIDI-quality music is equally offensive, particularly as when your band members attack they each play their instruments but never actually play in time. As if the noise from your constant screen-tapping weren't bad enough, the arrhythmic accompaniments could send you over the edge.
Devil Band - Rock the Underworld is a poor man's Plants vs. Zombies. It's cheaper to buy but equally cheap on the ideas front, with nothing new to contribute to the formula and a worse way of doing what makes PvZ worth playing. Tactically bankrupt and equally light on entertainment, it's definitely one to avoid.