next weekend...;

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Simple. Buy Quest For Fame, an interactive CD-Rom computer software system which you can plug into your PC. Complete with an oversized "Virtual Pick", Quest for Fame turns your PC into an air guitar adventure odyssey in which you get to jam with garage bands, at blues clubs, in weedy lounge bars, and finally, if you're really good, in front of thousands of screaming fans with Aerosmith at a rock stadium. The Virtual Pick is ingenius. When twanged against tennis rackets, frying pans, belt buckles or whatever comes to hand, it simulates the sound of mean guitar riffs and screaming rock solos, sure to delight and excite even the most closet air guitarist.

what happens?

The game assumes your are a complete novice at the air guitar and to get a feel for it, you start off jamming to various tunes in your bedroom. As you get better, the posters on the walls come to life and your neighbuur, a real-life video image of a cheesy all-American rock dude, overhears you, steps into the picture and says: "Hey man, come and join my garage band ." (Yes, really). In the garage, a babe is on the mike and a couple of grungey looking characters are rehearsing for a gig. You get to jam along, and if they think you're good enough, you get to play a gig with them at a dodgy blues club called The Roadkill Grill.

If you haven't collapsed with embarrassment, disbelief, laughter or air guitar bliss, there's more. You get to go on an interactive music game show called Nail That Riff, or on stage at Snooky's Juke Joint, an exclusive after- hours blues club. Dependent on your performances, there are also detours and setbacks. If you're crap you could end up playing at Yak Hall, a venue hosting a convention for Yak-hatted middle aged couples. Or there's The Fabulous Polyester Lounge run by a seedy compere. If you're bad, the couples at the tables start to keel over. If you're good, you're spotted by Aerosmith, taken to a state-of-the-art recording studio to lay down a track and invited to join them at the Humungodome, a sell-out stadium event. If you're really, really, good, at the end of the game you even get to score with the babe.

how stupid do you feel?

Very, but the humiliation is worth it, and besides, you won't be alone while playing it. Throughout the entire game Tom Hamilton, Joey Kramer and other members of Aerosmith keep cropping up to give you tips and advice. And a variety of other boneheaded animated characters, such as menacing bouncers, doormen and venue hosts show up - all part of the "interactive adventure".

hits you can play along to

The only catch. Aerosmith so far, are the only band to have agreed any song rights, though apparently other bands are also keen to lend their hits to the company. Still, the Aerosmith tracks used are air guitar classics and include "Dude Looks Like A Lady", "Love in an Elevator", "Rat The Rich", "Living on the Edge", "Walk on Water" and "Shut up and Dance". There are also three blues grooves, several other original tracks and a variety of "challenging riffs". Types of guitar to test your skills include basic, acoustic, lead and "stunt" guitar".

any real guitar knowledge needed?

None. Quest for Fame can be played by anyone, even and especially the musically illiterate. Each song has a kind of Ovalteeny bouncing ball type graphic (except it looks a bit like a heart monitor). Jagged lines on the monitor act like rhythm bars and indicate exactly when to strum. It's idiot proof (technically). What really happens is that the Virtual Pick game controller translates air guitar strumming into musical notes and realistic sound effects. It then picks up the resistence and, through internal switching technology, translates the signal into guitar sounds that are played back by the computer.

how much is it?

pounds 49.99 from Virgin Megastores, HMV, PC World, Escom and Game Stores.

other air guitar freaks:

Pat Cash; Zig and Zag; Bill and Ted from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure; Wayne and Garth from Wayne's World; Beavis and Butthead; white, male, teenage, heavy metal fans.

air guitar festivals:

The finals of Sweden's National Air Guitar Festival are held in Stockholm in December. Thousands of people show up to watch the country's finalists flash their style. But don't scoff, this is for the air guitaring elite only. The festival, which was started 14 years ago is now well established and attracts some of Europe's finest air axeman.