Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Torah Hero - Be A Bar/Bat Mitzvah Badass!

Hey kids, ever wanted a cool way to practice your Bar/Bat Mitzvah prayers and Torah portions? Then Torah Hero might be just what you need. Here's how I'd design the game as a parody of the Guitar Hero and Rock Band videogame franchises. Neither the people nor companies nor places mentioned have endorsed or agreed to the game...yet. And as you know, now that it's posted here, I own the copyright to the idea...suckas!

For the uninitiated, Torah Hero allows you to sing songs and play plastic instruments to make music. Singing is done like karaoke with words scrolling across the TV. "Music" is made by hitting a colored button on the guitar and "strumming" when a shape of the same color moves down the screen and across a marked line. When you hit the correct button (or drumpad) you'll make a note. The more accurate you are, the better your music will sound, resulting in a higher score and more money.

Be a Mensch and pickup a copy at your local Temple...it's tax deductible and pays me for designing this logo.

Playing alone or in a group, use the instruments to get through prayers, songs, Torah portions, and minigames. When bandmates fail out of a song, they're revived by Jewish penicillin (matzah ball soup). For more points, activate L'Chaim power with a double drum cymbal hit, guitar master button, or by turning the wiimote and nunchuk like you were scrolling through a Torah.

Difficulty Levels

Game difficulty is determined by the ratio of English-Hebrew content and game speed. This means a player may choose a Conservative level of English-Hebrew content and play it at an Orthodox game speed. Game speeds increase from Reform up to Chasidic.
  • Reform - English/Hebrew equal split
  • Conservative - A little more Hebrew
  • Orthodox - Almost all Hebrew
  • Chasidic - All Hebrew as possible

Just think of how proud you'd be of your son when he not only chants prayers and sings songs perfectly, but also plays guitar.

As you progress through the game, you'll play at many great Jewish locations in the U.S. and Israel, including:
  • Generic Temple Name - Temple Shalom Beth Shalom Har Sinai Shalom Beit Israel
  • JCC Purim Carnival


You can play the game with up to two plastic guitars (that sound like acoustic and electric when possible), a microphone, set of drums, and a special shofar attachment.

The drumkit doubles as a set of bongos!

Downloadable Content

You may download yamulkes, mezzuzahs, menorahs, talises, and weekly Torah portions not included in the original game.

Create you and your bandmates using one of these baseline characters:

Your character abilities improve as you progress through the game. Many clothing and decorative options are available.


Torah Hero allows you to create your own shul! You'll begin with a small shul for which you must hire an inexperienced, fresh out of school Rabbi and Cantor; you're too small to attract talented service leaders let alone afford them. The better you perform songs the more money you'll earn in the form of donations to the temple.

As you play more songs, you'll attract more congregants allowing you to upgrade and expand the building with a nursery and Hebrew school classrooms. This also means hiring an education director and letting a president of the Temple board take over operational duties if you didn't use them to create your character earlier.

Of course running a Temple isn't for everyone. Among the issues that you'll face include:
  • Someone mixed-up the grape juice for Manischewitz for Shabbat services so now lots of middle schoolers are drunk.

  • A cardiologist who's pushy, wealthy, and an important donor wants his son's Bar Mitzvah date changed just three weeks before the agreed original date.

  • The sisterhood's membership levels are low.

  • Nobody's buying the junk in the Temple gift shop (not that anyone does).

  • As the shul expands you run low on Gates of Repentance copies.
  • Nobody's following carpool pickup rules.
  • The Lowensteins brought their triplet toddlers to the adult Rosh Hashannah service again.
  • The entire nursery school is infected with the swine flu.
  • Someone leaked a copy of the Rabbi's high holiday sermon to the elderly congregants and they're already complaining.
  • The accounting office misplaced a family scholarship endowment fund.

  • Rampant high holiday ticket forgery, StubHub posting, and eBay scalping.

  • You continue losing to the rival Temple across town in the Maccabi games.

Design and construct your shul like Phelps Construction Group did for Beth Am Shalom.

Jewish Guilt Loading Screens
Because there's a delay while the game loads each song, you'll pass the time reading the many passive-aggressive themes of Jewish guilt. You may have done nothing wrong, but your mother thinks you did, including:
  • Why haven't you called your mother today?

  • Would it kill you to visit your aunt Ruthie? She's only 10 minutes away.

  • Your grandmother made matzah pancakes, can you at least try eating a few to make her happy?

  • If you keep eating like that you'll never find yourself a nice Jewish boy.

  • Read the Modern Jewish Girl's Guide to Guilt.
  • Now that you're 18 years old, when are you finding a nice Jewish girl, getting engaged, getting married, and having my grandchildren?
  • You should come to the brotherhood meeting, it's full of guys like your old man.

  • Come over for dinner tonight; we have extra brisket and we never see you anymore.
  • You ARE going to Shabbat services even though you're no longer living with us, right?
  • I'm sure you have some time to at least volunteer at Shabbat and hand out challah. Don't make me look bad in front of the Rabbi and ruin the family name. We've only been going for generations.

  • Why don't I see you wearing that argyle sweater I got you for Channukah?

  • Being a rocket scientist is good an all, but I'd be prouder if you had become a doctor, lawyer, or Rabbi. To be honest, I'd only be proud of you if you had become a Rabbi.
  • Don't worry about me, I'm just your mother.
  • Remember that girl you had a crush on in nursery school? Well I ran into her mother at the store and she says hello. You know she's married now, you missed out.
  • Did you make me those grandkids yet?

Tiers of songs are played in the order they appear on the calendar. As available, you may choose different melodies and Ashkenazi or Sephardic pronunciations. The following are the default song and prayer versions. Do pity me by checking all song links because I spent many, many unhealthy hours finding just the right ones. Think of this as your one stop site for basic Jewish songs on YouTube.

Tier 1 - Shabbat

Location - Temple Shalom Beth Shalom Har Sinai Shalom Beit Israel
Song 1 - Wine Blessing (and in sign language)
Song 2 - Bread Blessing
Song 3 - Candle Blessing
Song 4 - Dovid Melech (with hand gestures from "Grease" as I learned in Hebrew school)
Song 5 - Shema
Song 6 - Shecheyanu
Song 7 - Adon Olam
Song 8 - Lecha Dodi (or an acapella version from Brandeis
Encore - Shabbat Shalom
Extras - Song background includes 12 and 13-year-old kids not paying attention at the back of the sanctuary; party scenes include the electric slide, Coke and Pepsi races, and Hart to Hart performing.

This rock version of Adon Olam is great!

Tier 2 - Debbie Friedman (unlockable character)
Location - Temple Sinai of Bergen County
Song 1 - Mi Shebeirach
Song 2 - Miriam's Song
Song 3 - Aleph-Bet song
Song 4 - Not by Might, Not by Power
Encore - Lechi Lach (quicker acapella version)
Extras - Unlock kugel to improve guitar skills
Unlockable minigame - using the wiimote and nunchuk, flip and cross strands of dough to make challah

Tier 3 - Rosh Hashannah
Location - Washington Hebrew Congregation
Song 1 - Mi Chamocha (or this band version)
Song 2 - Ein Keloheinu
Song 3 - Sim Shalom
Song 4 - Shofar prayers (tekiah, teruah, shevarim-teruah, and shevarim) using the shofar attachment
Encore - Tekiah Gedolah (play the shofar attachment as long as possible)
Extras - Unlock apples and honey to improve singing

Tier 4 - Yom Kippur
Location - Temple Oheb Shalom
Song 1 - Hinei Ma Tov or the techno version
Song 2 - Shalom Rav
Song 3 - Gevurot
Song 4 - Kol Nidre is only listened to and not played (Yo-Yo Ma and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra)
Encore - Kedushah
Unlockable minigame - Drive to beat the Kol Nidre doors before they close
Extras - Unlock alternate talises

The race to get to the Temple before doors close for Kol Nidre will be based on OutRun's game engine.

Tier 5 - Sukkot and Simchat Torah
Location - Valley Beth Shalom
Song 1 - Torah blessing before and after reading
Song 2 - Torah Tziva
Song 3 - Haftorah blessing before and after reading
Song 4 - V'ha'er Ein'einu
Encore - Current Torah portion
Extras - Unlock a Sukkah as playable venue
Unlockable minigame - "Don't Drop the Torah" has players pressing buttons to balance the Torah as congregants get pushy trying to touch their prayer books to the Torah (the Torah is never shown hitting the ground, but a dropped Torah means replaying Tier 5).

Tier 6 - Birthright Israel
Location - Western wall of 2nd Temple
Song 1 - Yerushalayim Shel Zahav
Song 2 - V'Shamru
Song 3 - Birthright Israel Program Song
Song 4 - Zoom Gali Gali
Song 5 - Am Yisrael Chai
Encore - Havenu Shalom Aleichem (Beach Boys style)
Extras - Unlock mezzuzahs from a Jerusalem marketplace to give to your mother or hang in your create-a-Shul's many doorposts

The Wiggles + Havenu Shalom Aleichem = Awesome

Tier 7 - Channukah
Location - Carnegie Deli
Song 1 - Channukah Candle Prayers
Song 2 - I Have a Little Dreidel
Song 3 - The Latke Song (Debbie in a return performance)
Song 4 - Light One Candle
Song 5 - Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages) (also available in Marching Band style)
Song 6 - Sivivon, Sov, Sov, Sov
Encore - Channukah, Oh Channukah with sign language (also available in Beach Boys style)
Extras - Unlock alternate menorahs

Tier 8 - Tu B'Shevat and Purim

Location - JCC purim carnival
Song 1 - Mein Hut Der Hat Drie Ekken (My Hat, It Has Three Corners)
Song 2 - Etz Chaim (It's The Tree of Life)
Song 3 - Chag Purim (or the more popular party version)
Song 4 - Once There was a Wicked Man (lyrics found here)
Encore - JCC carnival minigames: basketball free throws and bean bag target toss for the same lame prizes offered every year at every JCC Purim carnival
Extras - Activate star power by shaking the wiimote like a grogger; get trees planted in your name in Israel after finishing Tier 8
Unlockable minigame - Press button combinations to part the Red Sea

Tier 9 - Passover
Location - Shaarey Tikvah
Song 1 - Dayeinu (use wiimotes during song to dab drops on plates for the 10 plagues)
Song 2 - Mah Nishtanah
Song 3 - Let My People Go
Song 4 - Chad Gadya (Two Zuzim/An Only Kid) said as fast as possible
Encore - Oseh Shalom (also available in Beach Boys style)
Extras - Unlock brisket to improve drumming ability

Earn extra points chanting the four questions in Yiddish.

Tier 10 - Jewish Singers and Broadway
Location - Temple Emanu-El
Song 1 - Avinu Malkeinu by Barbara Streisand (non-celebrity version with lyrics)
Song 2 - If I Were a Rich man
Song 3 - Hava Nagila by the Eagles (guitar only)
Song 4 - Hatikvah (Israel National Anthem by Streisand)
Song 5 - Channukah Song by Adam Sandler (part 1)
Encore - Hava Nagila (Neil Diamond)
Extras - Artists are unlockable
Song Heard During Credits - Hatikva and Yerushalayim Shel Zahav combination on Piano

Champion's Award - You've Earned a Dual Degree as Rabbi and Cantor
Character presented with certificate at Hebrew Union College (Reform), Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles/Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York (Conservative), or Yeshiva University (Orthodox).

Get your copy of Torah Hero today!