Tuesday, 17 January 2012

This week: Stylophone Hero, Playstation 2

Stylophone Hero is the third game in a series of musical video games released in 2005
After the roaring success of the original game (Kazoo Hero) and the eagerly awaited sequel (Theremin Hero), developers Blue Bog Roll decided to push the musical potential to its extremes.

The original concept, Kazoo Hero was released on the Playstion 1 (1998) to incredible fan fare. In the game players used the wired kazoo to play along to popular kazoo hits. Within this the player could "jam along" to such hits as Frank Zappers "Hungry Freaks, Daddy", Jimi Hendrix's "Cross Town Traffic", and The Beatles "Lovely Rita" from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".

An interesting aside to this was that the screen showed nothing but the album cover and no actual lead into how the tune should be played on screen or using the instrument. Despite this draw back and an unseen audience booing the poor performance, it was not uncommon for players to play into the early hours of the morning, due to the simple "pick up and play" concept.

With the success of the first game came a much anticipated sequel Theremin Hero, (1999). The bar had been set quite high by Blue Bog Roll developers, so a new idea was born. This centred around the Theremin. Players  used the Theremin by waving there hand close to the instrument to create "sound waves". Although many found the concept unashamedly "hat stand", it still sold 13 million units. Players could "wave along" to such hits as The Beach Boys "Good Vibrations", Led Zepplin's "whole Lotta Love" and "No Quarter". The game also had "unlockable" cinema score content for 50's B-Movies.

The final part in the "Hero" game trilogy was Stylophone Hero (2005) on the Playstation 2. Many believed that developers had rung the concept dry as rival development studios had created  hits like Empty Washing Up Bottle: Full of Dry Rice and the heavily lauded, 20 Great Triangle Percussion Hits. But Blue Bog Roll had one more ace up it's sleeve. This was Stylophone Hero. A game that consisted of a small electronic box like keyboard, with metal strip that had segmented notes. The instrument was played using a stylus connected to the device to produce sounds akin to somebody asphyxiating a goose eating a bumble bee.

The public surprisingly lapped it up, with sales in access of 22 million units by the end of 2005 making it the "must have" Christmas toy. The game came bundled with hits like David Bowie's "Space Oddity" and "Slip Away", Kraftwerk's "Pocket Calculator". Other groups that featured keyboards heavily but not necessarily the Sylophone, jumped on board to boost flagging careers. These included The Pet Shop Boys "West End Girls" and Erasure with their hit "Sometimes"

Such was the popularity of Stylophone Hero that "Hero Bands" were formed containing the previous two instrumental games. Groups such as "Blow-Wave-Bleep" and "Rolf's 8 Ball" with their incredibly catchy hit "The boy who cried Rolf!" drew critical yet short term fame.

In the end of 2006, the Hero games era had passed. Blue Bog Roll had ran out of paper and with nothing but a cardboard tube to its name, went into receivership and folded. New ideas and consoles came and swallowed up the format and today the Hero games are remembered with great nostalgia.


  1. Perhaps the most ambitious and commercially successful release from Blue Bog Roll. The graphics were stolen from Google Images and took five minutes to program, but the game sold bucket loads and, for a brief few months, Stylophone Hero ruled the world.

    There were whole websites dedicated to advanced stylophone techniques, and a DVD release featuring archive footage of Rolf Harris which was the big Christmas seller of 2005.

    But nobody cares or even remembers these days. Glad someone took the time to dig out their Blue Bog Roll games for one last play and share their experience with us.

    1. Great times friend, glad somebody else remembered the craze. *Thinks about "Maze Craze" on the 2600 for a second. Flip my pan cakes, that was a great game! Did you ever play it? I mean that was some simple graphics, great gaming!

  2. Maze Craze looks like 'fun', a bit like Space Invaders at Hampton Court. Pity my intro to maze games was Sultan's Maze, which put me off for life x 2. :/