The whole Guitar Hero phenomenon has attracted a lot of non traditional gamers to the hobby. The addition of a guitar peripheral to the PlayStation 2 was a stroke of genius and the follow on hit to the original Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero 2 only served to prove that the concept was a roaring success. Hot on its heels, Activision has now released Guitar Hero Encore - Rocks the 80s.

The overall game formula has remained the same as Guitar Hero 2 and requires that you have the appropriate guitar controller. Players can select differing popular tracks from an initial starting selection. Using the guitar controller that plugs into the standard controller slot, you can strum away to your chosen ballad. The controller has a strum lever in place of the normal strings and the frets have been replaced with coloured buttons. There is a whammy bar as well and apart from these compromises the controller looks and plays like a standard electric guitar.

The game itself has the player strumming along to a on screen vertical scrolling depiction of the fret with coloured buttons corresponding to those on the controller. A vertical bar on screen signifies that the note should be held. The upshot is that if you hit the buttons in time with the screen you can pound out a rendition of a popular rock hit. The better you are (the fewer missed notes or mistimed notes you hit) allows you to purchase better onscreen equipment for your band in career mode.

Songs included in this release include:

    * Caught in a Mosh (Anthrax)
    * Electric Eye (Judas Priest)
    * Police Truck (Dead Kennedys)
    * (I Think I’m) Turning Japanese (Vapors)
    * Because, it’s Midnite (Limozeen)
    * No One Like You (Scorpions)
    * Ballroom Blitz (Krokus)
    * What I Like About You (The Romantics)
    * I Wanna Rock (Twisted Sister)
    * Round and Round (Ratt)
    * Holy Diver (Dio)
    * Radar Love (White Lion)
    * Bathroom Wall (Faster Pussycat)
    * Nothing But a Good Time (Poison)
    * Shaken (Eddie Money)
    * Caught in a Mosh (Anthrax)

It’s quite an interesting mix of some of the greats and not so greats of the 1980s and certainly there was considerable debate on what should and should not have made the cut in the eventual song selection.

The list of songs, too, is somewhat shorter than we would like to have seen. There are no unlockable bonus songs that in earlier releases delivered interesting new or more obscure bands but this is perhaps understandable given this can be considered an historical selection. What is delivered, though, is a good and varied tour de force through the 80s rock scene.

There are no new innovations from the previous title and really this release should be viewed as no more than an additional song set. The graphics remain the same, as do the game options and multiplayer options (two guitar controllers are a must have as the game is lifted to a whole new dimension when you battle it pout with one of your mates).

It's worth noting that the Guitar Hero phenomenon has had a spinoff. There is a resurgence of interest in the guitar and we know of quite a few people who, because of this series, have gone on further to get formal guitar playing lessons. We are not sure if this was for a career as a rock star or just to win at the game. Overall this is a great expansion to the game, but if it was a strategy game it would be viewed as an additional set of game campaign maps and no more. If you have the original then this addition will not disappoint.