Platform: Nintendo Wii
As I sit here and start to write this review it has become clear to me that Activision has bombarded the gaming public with a large number of interactive music games. Heck, some could even say they have released so many music games that they are keeping the interest in music alive. There have been many Guitar Hero games released over the past five years or so, but finally something new has come along and it is aptly titled DJ Hero. Along with a new name comes a new style of gameplay, and a new controller as well. I had the chance to review the Wii version. So, does this new type of music game pass the grade? You’ll have to read on to find out.
DJ Hero manages to put on a good visual show. Of course many people want to know if this is just a differently skinned Guitar Hero-like game, well I can honestly say that it is not. It definitely manages to portray the world of DJ’ing quite well. There are a wide variety of venues available raging from dance clubs, subways, a mansion, and even the famous Times Square in New York. You will notice that the game has some great views of the DJ action, from your turntable hard at work to the crowd getting pumped up as they dance to your beats. That being said, you won’t have a lot of time to enjoy these aspects of the visuals as you will more focused on your task at hand, watching the visual cues in your effort to successfully complete a song.
What I found somewhat strange in this game, especially given it falls under the ‘Hero’ franchise, is that you cannot create your own custom DJ. You can create your own rocker in Guitar Hero, so why no custom creator here? That being said, you can choose from an initial selection of in-game DJ’s. The stock characters you start off with are Jugglernort, DJ Kid Itch, Cleetus Cuts, and Candy Nova. There are thirteen more DJ’s that can be unlocked during play as you earn stars based on how well you perform. Most of the unlockable DJ’s are artists that include the late DJ AM, DJ Shadow, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Daft Punk, DJ Z-Trip and Grandmaster Flash. They all look pretty good to and if you are a die hard mix-music fan you should recognize most of the virtual likenesses right away.
There is a bit of character customization where you pick different outfits, headphones, turntables (decks), and how your turntable looks (deck skins). These customizations apply to most of the characters, but when it comes to the celebrity DJ’s you can only change headphones, decks and deck skins. There are a few more restrictions on a couple of other celebrity DJ’s, DJ Shadow and Daft Punk, as they have even tighter restrictions to what you can change in terms character customization.
DJ Hero really does seem to shine in the audio area. The 100 plus songs that are included on the disc, as well as the resulting 93 mixes, are pretty cool. Now I have outgrown my club days, but even I found that I was somewhat intrigued by the variety of songs in this game. The song selection spans the decades and includes such artists like the Beasties Boys, Jay Z, Daft Punk, Benny Bennassi, Foo Fighters, Queen, Black Eyed Peas, 2Pac, Eminem, David Bowie, and Weezer to name a few. I was surprised with the number of different artists that had contributed to the game’s setlist. Not only was I impressed with the artists names attached to the game, but I was also impressed with the mixes that were made using the songs from the included artists. A few of those mixes are as follows:
• Queen - “Another One Bites The Dust” vs. Daft Punk - “Da Funk”
• Bell Biv DeVoe - “Poison” vs. Beastie Boys - “Intergalactic” (Produced and mixed by DJ AM)
• Black Eyed Peas - “Boom Boom Pow” vs. Benny Benassi - “Satisfaction”
• Marvin Gaye - “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” vs. David Bowie -“Let’s Dance”
• Eminem - “My Name Is” vs. Beck - “Loser”
• Beastie Boys - “Here’s A Little Somethin’ For Ya” vs. DJ Shadow - “The Number Song (2009 Version)” (Produced and mixed by DJ Shadow)
• Jackson 5 - “I Want You Back” vs. Gang Starr - “Just To Get A Rep” (Produced and mixed by DJ Yoda)
This is only a very small sampling of the mixes found in DJ Hero and you’ll be hard pressed not to find anything you won’t like. As for the sound quality, it manages to sound pretty good coming from whatever speaker’s you play your games through. My Wii is hooked up directly to my LCD TV and I didn’t have any complaints with the how things sounded, so I could only imagine how good this setlist would sound from a stereo or home theatre setup.
If you have ever had the desire to be a DJ then this game will have you living out this long lost dream. To tell you the truth I don’t even know what club DJ’s do when spinning the tunes and getting the crowd all worked up into a dancing frenzy. What I do know though is that DJ Hero provides the tools and music for you to take a stab at what it is like to be the mixmaster of your own house.
DJ Hero’s most notable addition to the interactive music genre is the new turntable controller. Half of the new controller is a turntable with three face buttons while the other half is a mixer that includes an effects dial, cross fader and Euphoria button. The latter is the button that controls DJ Hero’s version of star power. Interestingly enough, should you be left handed you can separate the halves and flip them around to accommodate this fact.
DJ Hero follows the same style of all the past and present Hero games. For the uneducated, is all about watching on screen cues, in this case the falling coloured discs, that are timed to the music you are listening to. You must match your actions to these cues. In DJ Hero’s case the gameplay requires you to tap the controller’s coloured buttons in time with the music. Every so often you are required to ‘scratch’ as you hold down the required button and move the turntable back and forth depending on what direction the screen tells you to do so. Adding a bit more complexity is the turntables cross fader, which you will have to move left or right in time with the on-screen audio stream. Finally, you earn Euphoria (star power) as Perfect Regions, which are glowing notes, scroll by. Should you hit every one of these notes in this region then you earn your Euphoria which you can eventually activate it will double your score multiplier as well as put the cross fader into an auto-mode. Finally, you also have the ability to use the effects dial to add some effects during the Effects Zone of the song. This again doubles your multiplier while also allowing you to put a bit of your own personal touch to the song.
So all of this sounds pretty complicated on paper, and in someway it is, but with all games practice makes perfect. DJ Hero offers up a fairly helpful tutorial to get you into the swing of things, especially for the harder difficulties. Anything up to the medium difficulty or so should be relatively easy to get through, but around medium and there after, it can get pretty tough to get things right should you have not practiced via the lower skill settings. This leads me to my first gripe, there is no practice mode in DJ hero, or none that I could find (hey, stranger things have happened). This is something that the Guitar Hero franchise has always provided and it is strange that I couldn’t find anything of the sort here. Given that this is a new style of interactive music gaming you would think a practice mode would have been a given.
As I played through some of the 100 or so songs, and 93 mixes, something became very evident to me, there was no story mode. You will find that you only need to work through the various tiers of songs offered in the game that eventually allow you to unlock new songs, new mixes and even new characters and costumes. There no story to be told here. Sure, some of you out there are probably saying “why have a story in a DJ music game?” Well, it would have spiced up things a bit. As fellow reviewer John E noted, why not tell a story of an individual who want to become a professional DJ. You could take the role of one such individual and work your way from house parties all the way up the big time spinning some tunes at an exclusive club in one of the locations found in the game. Without any story it really is all about the music, and in DJ Hero the music is definitely the star here, along with the new turntable controller of course.
As would be expected with an interactive music game, DJ Hero does offer some multiplayer madness. You can hook up two turntables together, or if you want you can add a guitar from one of the band based games and play a few tracks that allow you to tap away at the guitar’s coloured buttons. Interestingly enough, the dual turntable set-up has both players controlling the same parts of the song as they play cooperatively. Some may complain about this, but in my humble opinion the ability to play with more then one player in this original and new style of game is welcomed. I have to be honest though and let you know my multiplayer experience was limited to none given that we did not have any other copies of the Wii version of this game kicking around, so I cannot personally comment on what the whole experience is like.
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