Just when you think the music game genre has seen enough, along comes DJ Hero, a game that hopes to bring to you a new style of the genre previously populated by rock-based games. Although it follows some of the basic principles of rhythm games, DJ Hero feels like a brand new experience, with some of the best music in any music game to date. It may be over the heads of a lot of gamers due to it not being as accessible or easy to understand as something like Guitar Hero, but DJ Hero is an experience well worth trying out for yourself.
The game has a distinct look to it with odd character designs and plenty of celebrity DJ cameos. Although you will mostly be too focused on the note track to notice, the backgrounds and camera movements in the background during gameplay are dynamic and very well done. In terms of presentation, the menus themselves are very hard to navigate. Instead of listing all of the different set lists that you play through into one category in the main menu, they are all listed separately. It makes navigating through them all a tedious process and it can be hard to find the exact one you are looking for.
The presentation, overall, is excellent. And it is all blended together by the amazing soundtrack, which combines many different genres, artists, and eras together to make probably the best soundtrack in a music game to date. Some of these mixes may not be for everyone, but there is no denying that they fit the game perfectly and they all present a very fun (and also challenging) experience when combined with the actual gameplay. One small problem I had with the music is a lot of the songs are repeated in different mixes. Although the mixes themselves are completely different, it’s a bit of a letdown when you have three different mixes repeating the same song.
The gameplay may seem complicated at first, but given a quick run through the well designed tutorial, you will quickly begin to understand the basics. The controller consists of the record part, which has three colored buttons you can press or scratch depending on the icons on the screen. There is also the crossfader, which is a small knob on the side of the turntable that can be moved left or right to move to a different track. The combination of button tapping, scratching the platter, and using the crossfader can become quite complex in later mixes and on the higher difficulties. But considering how addictive the game is, you will find yourself coming back for more and slowly improving your skills..
You also have a “euphoria” meter, which is like star power in Guitar Hero, which doubles the amount of points you earn for each note successfully hit. You also have a rewind ability, which is triggered by spinning the platter around quickly. This allows you to replay a part of the song you just played, but with a score multiplier. All of these different elements may seem overwhelming, but given just a few minutes with the game, it will not be hard to grasp just how everything works.
The multiplayer options are not incredible, but they work. The main multiplayer mode, which is a basic head to head battle to see who can get the highest score, is fun. Of course, you probably need to play this online to get the most enjoyment out of it, unless you have a friend who has a second DJ controller. The second mode is one that will probably attract more attention, and that is the DJ and guitar mode. Basically, one player uses the DJ controller like he normally would, and another plays with any guitar controller along with any of the ten songs available. This is actually a very fun mode, and I hope to see it fleshed out more in future installments.
The controller itself is well designed and very lightweight. You can use it either on your lap or on a flat surface in front of you, whichever becomes more comfortable. And the table can be easily used for those who are right or left handed. The buttons work well, the platter feels sturdy, and the crossfader (while it takes a little adjusting too) works well enough even during the hardest mixes. It stands on its own next to the many Guitar Hero guitars as one of the best controllers for any music game.
DJ Hero is a fresh spin on the music genre, with an innovative new controller that does not feel cheap, and a ton of original song mixes that will have you coming back for more. While it is not the a game that will change the genre forever like Guitar Hero did back in 2005, it certainly brings enough new things to the table to excite music game fans and new comers to the genre alike.
ESRB: Rated T for teen; rated for suggestive themes and music lyrics
Pros: Excellently designed controller; fantastic variety of music; enough content and songs to keep you busy; addictive gameplay formula that keeps you coming back for more; the guitar mode adds a bit of a twist on the standard gameplay
Cons: Some songs are repeated in different mixes; menus are hard to navigate