Reviewed: October 16, 2008
Type: Light and Fog Machine
In the world of gaming peripherals there are some items you canít live without and there are others that redefine the term luxury. PDP is getting ready to release the Rock Band Stage Kit which transcends the boundaries of luxury and takes firm root in gratuitous excess.
Donít get me wrong. This is perhaps one of the coolest ideas ever conceived and is certain to enhance the immersion of the ďrock star experienceĒ for anybody who gets a chance to use it, but Iím betting the first time mom finds the living room full of fog or the neighbors call the fire department when ďsmokeĒ starts pouring out the windows, junior will have to relocate his 50Ē plasma and his band to the garage if he wants to party like a rock star.
I can easily see the Stage Kit becoming a crowd-pleasing favorite at frat houses, large private parties, and at many of the bars and clubs where Rock Band has replaced Karaoke night. There is definitely a niche market for this device, but using it at home just doesnít seem that practical. After all, when you have four people crammed into an average size living room with a drum kit and a big screen TV the last thing you want is fog obscuring your view of the TV and flashing strobe lights distracting you from the note stream. Letís face it Ė fancy smoke and light shows are for the audience and not the performers.
Another strike against the Stage Kit is the relatively high price. I used to design and install lights and fog machines for various nightclubs around the Midwest, so believe me when I tell you that $100 is a fraction of what a club-caliber system would cost, but it is still above the average budget of the casual, or even the diehard rocker. Again, this is something a bar owner might purchase or a frat house might all chip in together to buy. I just donít feel this is a consumer-level product.
The light show does a surprisingly good job of interacting with your musical performance. Instead of using sound sensors (which would have made this unit compatible with Guitar Hero or any other music game) PDP worked with Harmonix to program special cues into Rock Band and Rock Band 2 that trigger the fog and lights very specifically. Not only does this allow for much more synchronized lighting effects, the Stage Kit can also match the colors of the on-screen venues.
The fog machine isnít exactly subtle in its operation, and you may have to turn your volume up a bit to drown out the noise this device makes when cranking out ample amounts of vapor to enhance the lights. The LED system works, but only in certain situations and environments. Obviously, youíll want to be playing in total darkness for optimum effect and hopefully in a room with white or beige walls to bounce back the colors. Any ambient light in the room or any dark surfaces will negate most of the lighting effects.
The Stage Kit is easy to setup. Just fill the fog machine with fluid, plug in the AC power, connect the LED to the fog machine and the Xbox 360, and turn it on. Itís a very functional and totally fun addition to any Rock Band experience. I just have my doubts about how many gamers will want to spend another $100 after laying out hundreds for the game and instruments. I also doubt many parents will want their kids fogging up the house every night.
Bottom line. This is a great system for organized and repeat performances at a static venue like a bar or a frat house where you can have an audience, but my band found the lights and fog too distracting for actual gameplay and the whole system was just too invasive for home use. Personally, I think there are far better uses for $100, even if you want to spend it on something for Rock Band.