When I first saw "Power Gig: Rise of the Six String" a few months back, it managed to set itself apart from the crowded rhythm genre market with a unique guitar controller. Using strings instead of buttons, the guitar controller actually felt like a real guitar and, with the press of a button, could be instantly converted into a real electric guitar. Seven45 Studios, the makers of "Power Gig," mentioned that their forthcoming drum peripheral would be just as unique, but I was skeptical until I saw their drums at a recent press event. They weren't lying.
The drums in "Power Gig" (seen in the above picture) rest flat on the ground (or, optionally, slightly elevated). When playing drums in the game, you're not actually hitting them, though. Using special drum sticks with light sensors, you're actually air drumming above the four pads which, in theory, are picking up on the drumstick sensors and telling the game that you hit the right pad at the right time.
When I first saw the drums, I was admittedly sort of shocked. "Power Gig" had their drummer on-stage behind a large, opaque screen, so you could only see the drum sticks in his hands on the upswing. When they pulled away the screen to reveal that he wasn't actually hitting anything, I'll admit I was very surprised. And then I played it.
Laser-activated drums have upsides, there's no question about it. When your neighbors complain about the noise you're making with "Rock Band" or "Guitar Hero," it's probably due to the constant tapping of the drum, which cuts through walls like water. The drums in "Power Gig" make no noise at all (save for the actual noise coming out of the game). They're also a lot smaller and more portable than other drum controllers, as they don't require legs to stand on.
So there are benefits. Unfortunately, there are negatives as well. There's the sensitivity and accuracy, which needs a lot of work, but is potentially fixable with additional development time. In the demo I was only hitting about 50 percent of the notes I wanted to hit, and my timing was definitely not the issue. There's a learning curve associated with the laser drums, for sure, but even when I was looking down at the drums and the drumstick was hovering directly over the correct pad, the result was inconsistent. As I said, there's work to be done, but it's potentially fixable.
The other issue is more deeply rooted in the device itself. When drummers practice playing, there's a reason they use practice pads and not just the air. Part of playing the drums is the tactile sensation of actually hitting something. Many drummers use the "bounce back" of a drumstick to propel them into the next note and to keep time. Doing this on the "Power Gig" drum set is impossible, as there's no "bounce back" created by air. This means all the up and down momentum is created solely by arm power and, after a single song, my arm was exhausted.
As it turns out, there's a reason all the other rhythm games have actual drums instead of laser drums. Laser drums aren't very much fun to play. It's a shame, as the guys at "Power Gig" are definitely putting effort into differentiating themselves from the pack, but on the drum front, that innovation is detrimental.
On the bright side, the guitar aspects of the game are imminently more playable and the harder difficulty levels do actually help to teach players how to play a real guitar by using real power chords. The "Power Gig" guys also managed to attach a few exclusive artists to their game: Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews Band and Kid Rock, all of whom have heretofore abstained from having their music in rhythm games.