Battle of the Bands, like the earliest music games, doesn't rely on a gimmick controller, except, of course, for the one that comes standard with the Wii system. Its true gimmick, and the feature that defines the game, is its music. Planet Moon and THQ can proudly claim some of the most interesting and entertaining music in the genre. The gameplay diverges from the usual rhythm game fare as well.
Battle of the Bands is, as the title would suggest, a game about musical combat. One on one, eleven bands representing five musical genres -- rock, hip-hop, Latin, marching band (!), and country -- fight in a hybrid concert/war with missile-firing instruments. As the fight goes back and forth, the music being played (one of thirty popular songs) switches from one band's style to the other. It's an excellent concept for a music game, for a number of reasons. First, it emphasizes multiplayer combat. Rock Band handles multiplayer by putting each player in charge of an instrument. Battle of the Bands pits players against each other for control of the song. I haven't seen such an emphasis on attacks and defense in a music game since Bust a Groove -- and I like it.
Second, the genre-mashing neatly handles an issue that has been a black eye for many music games: lack of master tracks. Rather than merely a soundalike of "Insane in the Brain," you get one relatively close cover and four way off-the wall versions. As a novelty, it's hilarious, but as music, it's awesome. With the possible exception of a couple of the "Insane" remixes (which are played ad nauseam in the menus and title screen), I would gleefully listen to any of Battle's remakes outside of the game. The country version of the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" is unexpectedly catchy and natural-sounding, and Def Leppard's "Photograph" seems to have been written (unknowingly, no doubt) specifically for a hip-hop/R&B diva. I vastly prefer the cover to the original. You'll want to spend hours playing the game just to hear every song in every style, including the full Spanish lyrics in the Latin versions.
The contrast between musical styles carries over even into the design of the gameplay. Battle of the Bands is a versus-only music game; even in single-player mode, there is an AI opponent and a second note chart. Players compete both to successfully hit more notes than the opponent and to score more points by launching attacks. Success during the song translates to a switch in the song's style to that of the dominant band. Occasionally, a "face-off" will start, in which players alternate attacking (by completing notes with attack icons) and blocking (by pressing B right before the attack connects).
While the ease of play and (ironically) the lack of a specialized controller reduce the barrier of entry (or did in my household, anyway -- others in the room were more willing to fire up the game and play with me because I didn't have to go get a guitar controller), they also reduce the fun. Even rhythm game neophytes will tire of the too-easy gameplay, and at no point was I happy to be playing with the Wiimote when buttons would have worked just as well or better. In the end, it's a matter of playing until you've heard all the songs. If THQ released a soundtrack collection, the game would be obsolete.
Final score: 6/10