The year is 2005 and I’m sitting in a darkened basement with my friends, huddled around the television with a PlayStation 2 hooked up to it. A bad cover of Black Sabbath’s Iron Man is playing in concert with the deafeningly loud clacking of plastic guitars with 5 differently colored buttons on them. We’re playing the newly released Guitar Hero, and for the moment things are good. That was a joy that so many people got to experience during the plastic instrument trend that loomed long over the entire gaming industry for so many years but would eventually fade, and those instruments would be tucked away, sold off, or thrown in the garbage. But for those of us who managed to find our old plastic guitars, there’s a reason to dust them off and rekindle that old flame, and that reason is Clone Hero.
Clone Hero is a free game that will rip that clacking sound right out of your memories and into 2021, allowing you to bring in charted songs from across all entries of Guitar Hero and Rock Band (although that’s almost certainly not legal), as well as a myriad of community created and mapped out songs for you to get carpal tunnel while playing. Clone Hero has been a wonderful way for me to rekindle my love of the rhythm game genre without a ton of work or effort. It’s basically dominated my week in terms of what I’m playing, doing or even thinking about.
I wrote about how desperately I wanted to revisit these games last year, but couldn’t because trying to buy a plastic instrument at the time (and currently as well) would involve a several hundred dollar investment which no one should be able to justify. But I recently did some spring cleaning and dug up my old Guitar Hero III wireless Les Paul guitar which still worked much to my surprise. After wiping away the decade old layer of dust on it and popping in some new batteries this thing was good to go, and my dream of playing a plastic guitar once again was closer to becoming a reality than ever before. If the actual guitars in my apartment could talk, I’m sure they’d be mighty pissed off about the fact that I’ve opted to play with a plastic facsimile of an instrument over the real thing, but they can’t so it’s all good.
For anyone who has the itch and a plastic guitar on hand, I can’t recommend Clone Hero enough. It’s still in some beta form, so there are some rough edges, but none of them were enough to dissuade me from spending every free moment I had on playing it. What’s really nice is how customizable everything in Clone Hero seems to be. From the backgrounds to the highways, from note effects to accessibility modifiers, you can tune Clone Hero to be whatever you want. For instance, by default the game is set to “No Fail” mode, which as you might imagine prevents you from ever failing a song. That’s good because like an idiot, I decided that because I used to be able to play a lot of songs on expert level over a decade ago, I could probably still do it now without any practice or warm up. Boy my wrist was not a fan of that decision, but I’m in charge of this flesh-vessel I call a body, not my wrist, so expert it is.
But that stance breaks real bad when you start to peruse community made content, because those people are pretty much only making songs that are playable on expert level, and also they hate you. The Clone Hero community doesn’t seem particularly tuned towards people who aren’t willing to permanently damage the ligaments in their wrists and maybe want to play on medium or even easy. No, instead almost all of the songs I saw were designed and charted in an effort to physically hurt you. Most of the custom content I played was filled with walls of notes that I’m going to deem impossible for any normal human, so that’s something to watch out for.
Community driven malice aside, I’m really enjoying my time with Clone Hero and can’t recommend it enough to anyone who wants to hear those clickity-clacks once more. It’s a low-effort way to experience the plastic instrument craze that dominated the gaming industry for nearly a decade, granted you have the hardware to actually make use of it. If you don’t, you could do the dumb thing and buy a plastic guitar for the price of a real one, or in reality you could probably just find one in the deepest darkest corners of your closet like I did. Either way, Clone Hero will do you up right.