Reviewed: October 5, 2006
2006 will go down as the year of Guitar Hero. Oddly enough, the game released before Christmas last year but hasn’t come into its own until recently and now you can’t keep the game on the shelves. I suppose it shouldn’t come as any surprise – after all, what kid at one time or another hasn’t picked up a broom, mop, or something of similar shape and strummed a few notes of their favorite song on their makeshift air guitar.
RedOctane has turned that fascination into a multi-million dollar hit, and with a sequel arriving in just a few weeks there is no end in sight to guitar mania. But you can’t have an air guitar game without a cool guitar and while the Gibson Flying SG is pretty cool in a traditional sort of way, The Ant Commandos are betting that many rockers are going to want to jam in true heavy metal style with their latest guitar designs.
One such design is their new Shredder Guitar Controller that allows you to jam with one of the coolest guitar designs available based on the sleek designs of rockers like Jimi Hendrix, Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones.
The first new feature is the Recessed Start Button, which I suppose is a nice touch. It's supposed to keep you from accidentally hitting Start and pausing your game, but in the hundreds of songs I have played with my Gibson that has never been an issue - not once.
Another new feature is the ability to shake the guitar to activate Star Power. This was a questionable alternative in their other design – the Freedom V, but the Shredder doesn’t allow for tilt. You have to shake the guitar to be a “star”. This might work for some, but shaking the guitar enough to engage Star Power usually means I miss my next note because my fingers have slipped off the frets.
Speaking of those frets, the Shredder is a mere 25” long; that’s 2” shorter than the stock Gibson and 5” shorter than TAC’s Freedom V who both share identical fret positions. Not only do you end up holding the Shredder differently than any other guitar, the green fret is now where the orange fret would be on the larger guitars (measured from the strum bar). This could be awkward if you are already used to the old dimensions and configuration, but then again, the Shredder is the perfect controller for smaller kids with smaller arms. A whole new generation of rock star is born.
Unlike the Freedom V, the frets on the Shredder are highly responsive with an easy push and defined click and recoil. There is no mushy feel and no sticking as evident by my 97% score on Bark at the Moon on medium my first time playing the Shredder.
I tested the Shredder with numerous songs, but I naturally focused on the songs I can do really well. There are five songs in Guitar Hero that I can get 99-100% on each and every time I play them on the Medium skill level. I played those five songs, first with the Shredder and then the stock Gibson and the results were surprisingly similiar.
Once I got over the smaller shape and design of the Shredder, I really couldn’t tell the difference. If anything, the frets might be more responsive than the Gibson, although I’ve logged more than 100 hours on my Gibson so those buttons have to be wearing down at least a little.
The whammy bar was nice and springy offering great response and plenty of extra bonus points and Star Power during the long notes. And finally, the strum bar is a bit smaller - 2" compared to the 2.25" of the Gibson, which isn't that bad but the chrome finish made it a bit slippery after awhile.
The size and shape of the Shredder doesn’t allow for it to rest naturally in your lap if you play while sitting down and even standing up if feels like you are playing a ukulele. This means you will want to use the included strap but that is yet another problem. The strap they give you doesn’t have any reinforcements around the holes and the pegs where you attach it are located in positions where simply by wearing the strap as intended it will slip off the peg before the song is over. I was able to solve the problem by using the strap from my Gibson, which does have a reinforced notch design around the hole.
The Shredder looks pretty awesome with a glossy black body and silver neck. The chrome Start and Select buttons along with the strum bar give the guitar some extra shine and the wicked tip looks like some sort of ancient spear.
If you are looking for a second guitar so you can school your friends, or simply want a stylish replacement for your stock Gibson, the Shredder Guitar Controller is a pretty sweet alternative and it's $10 cheaper than the Gibson. And if you have younger aspiring guitar players in the house, the reduced size of the Shredder will certainly make life much easier for them.