Activision's Newest Console Game...
In the wake of Guitar Hero's success, we thought the public was more than ready for additional popular American musical genres in a simulated-performance format, but people don't seem to be responding to marches as well as we had hoped," said Activision spokeswoman Melissa Hendleman, whose company spent an estimated twenty-five million dollars developing the game for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii consoles.
Sousaphone Hero offers many public-domain marches, including 1893's "The Liberty Bell," 1896's "Stars and Stripes Forever," and 1897's "Entry of the Gladiators."
The sousaphone-shaped controller coils around the body, and players wear white spat-like foot coverings fitted with sensors that monitor synchronized marching steps. As with the fret buttons on Guitar Hero's guitar peripheral, the sousaphone controller's three valves are color-coded to match on-screen notes the player must hit.
"In the career mode, you can rise from playing in park gazebos for church picnics to performing in the halftime show of the Harvard-Yale game," Hendleman said. "If you score enough points, you can unlock the ultimate level: playing in the John Philip Sousa–led Army Band at Grover Cleveland's inauguration."
"And if you like multiplayer gaming, you're in luck," Hendleman continued. "In Sousaphone Hero's cooperative marching-band mode, as many as one hundred thirty-five of your friends can play simultaneously."
Hendleman also emphasized the "fun" rewards players receive as they become more proficient. If they hit enough correct notes in a row, the on-screen crowd yells "huzzah" and "bully," and the sousaphone controller's spit valve will "drain." Flubbing notes, however, makes the controller "fill" with spit, preventing further play and causing the crowd to throw rotten eggs at the hapless on-screen sousaphonist. If characters earn enough bonus points in career mode, they can spend their Liberty-head nickels on a red, green, or blue "sock" for their sousaphone's bell, or an invigorating chunk of peanut brittle.
Response to Sousaphone Hero has been tepid at best:
"The controller feels like it's a hundred pounds even though its only plastic," wrote a moderator on one Sousaphone Hero message threads. "I think I screwed up my shoulder pretty bad."
"I played the career mode for three hours and kept feeling like I was playing the same annoying circus tune over and over," adVantaGe_steVe of Columbus, OH wrote. "On one song, you're forced to play the same two notes back and forth for 96 measures."
Others have complained that the third valve is used only at the expert level, that even proficient players only score a maximum of 60 points per song, and that the "oompah" meter stays the same shade of gray even if every note is hit. Some also reported that, if not cleaned regularly, the plastic mouthpiece gets crusty.
Professional sousaphone player Eric Winkler of New Orleans called the game "laughably amateurish" and "nothing like" the actual sousaphone-playing experience. "The fingering's completely different, for starters," he said.
Due to the poor response to Sousaphone Hero, Activision has halted development of other spin-off games Glockenspiel Hero, Cymbal Star, and Violin Villian.