I’ll take a moment from downer stuff to review the ION Rock Band 2 drum rocker kit, which I finally got around to putting together yesterday and myself and Rochto gave it a three hour break in session.
Short review: Playing the Ion Drum Rocker kit will make you never want to play any other instrument in Rock Band. It’s that much fun.
I didn’t think a controller could really fundamentally alter a music game. Even going from the Guitar Hero guitar to Rock Band guitar was an improvement, but I wouldn’t say it was a radical one and even came with some downsides. The Ion Drum Rocker fixes every single flaw with existing drum kits, and totally alters the experience of drum playing. And since it’s compatible w/ RB1, RB2, and GH:WT it may be the last drum kit you will ever need in this generation.
First of all though, the thing is super pricey, $344 after shipping. When it arrives it’s a huge monstrosity of a box, bigger than the entire Rock Band 1 bundle box. The unboxing experience is actually excellent as all sub parts of the kit are individually boxed inside. Waste of cardboard? Yes. Easier to unpack and setup? Yes. The kit comes with all the tools you need to assemble, which is really just one small socket wrench. Everything else is done with adjustable thumbscrew clamps. The kit is essentially seven “pipe fitting” framework pieces: two floor, two vertical, one high center, and two “arms”. There are the four drum pads, 2 cymbal arms, 2 cymbals, a center “brain/control pad”, the big metal bass foot pedal (it’s like twice the size of the RB one) seven cords, and thicker than RB1 drumsticks.
Set aside an hour to build the kit. It’s not that it’s complex, in fact it’s very simple. But it’s large and heavy and the wealth of ways you can space, tilt, and lay out the pads requires some patience to get it right. Oh and the cord experience isn’t bad at all if you do what I did and forego the twist ties and just wrap the cord around the support bars over and over again. It makes the kit end up looking a bit “Borg-like” but was much faster to get done and still looks nice. And as a bonus you can be really flexible with how you mount the Brain. You can mount it way high or way low to make sure you can’t possibly hit it while drumming. I went with mounting it low. It’s perfectly usable and physically impossible to strike while drumming.
Once completed, the kit is roughly twice the size of the RB1 kit. Pictures don’t reflect how big the thing really is. The pads are roughly 10inch diameter and the cymbals are 12 inch. It’s also far heavier and sturdier than the other kit. Be warned, this isn’t a “portable” kit nor does it stow away at all like the rb1 kit. You can disassemble the leg pipes and remove the cymbals and store it that way, just be aware that setting it back up will take 10 minutes.
Here are pics for size reference:
The kit, with a controller as reference. They are much larger than pics show.
I wear a size 12.5 shoe. Here’s the bass pedal next to my foot:
Here’s the kit, post calibration, sized with a RB1 kit (we put colored felt on our pads to reduce noise:
Perspective here is still a bit skewed but you can see its a big kit.
Lastly, me doing "Give it Away Now":
After setting everything up, place your drum chair/throne in place and practice hitting the pads from your normal position before you actually plug it in. This is because I set my pads up the way I thought they looked good and how I was “supposed” to. This resulted in me realizing I had set it up all wrong for actual playing, I kept hitting the pad rims instead of the pad. I tilted the pads much lower towards me and spaced everything out. I had my wife do the same routine and we made minor adjustments such that we got it to where we both didn’t need to change anything other than chair height to play effectively. This is key, because positioning things takes some effort, it’s not as simple as the RB1 kit of just raising or lowering the height of the kit. If you take the time initially to “calibrate” the kit to your posture, etc, you will find your first song you play is going to be one hell of an eye opener for you. If you wait, you’ll hit the pad rims etc making the first song more of a “oops gotta reposition” experience. The bass pedal is heavy and sturdy and has carpet spikes! Yay no more moving bass pedal!
I plugged them in and proceeded to drum RB2 Hungry Like the Wolf on medium.
First of all the thing is much much quieter. Second of all, like my experience with the Guitar Hero World Tour kit, cymbals make all the difference in the drumming experience. Lastly because the pads are so large and you completely control your angle and access to them, I five starred medium Hungry Like The Wolf @ 98% accuracy on a sight read. I’d never drummed that song in Rock Band 2 before, and I *barely* passed the medium drum tour in Rock Band. I’m a horrible drummer, but this kit completely changed my skill level. Big pads, access to cymbals, it’s like a night and day experience. I actually bought the kit because while I do bass and guitar and drums and vocals, my wife only likes to drum so this was kind of a surprise present for her. Once she got behind them, it was plain she loved them. And too, once she got used to right hand flick to the cymbal instead of altering an arm pattern to hit a green pad she found she was nailing songs she found too hard before.
At the price I cannot recommend that the average person who likes RB as a party game get this.
But if you, say, have both RB1 and RB2 and a lot of DLC, and enjoy drumming, this may be the first time you spend more than the price of a console on a game peripheral and actually get your money’s worth of enjoyment out of it.
I love it. I give it 48 stars.