DJ Hero

Spin, spin sugar

Activision has served up some rhythm action for the urban kids, so they don't have to pretend to like Metallica or Blur to join in on the beat-matching antics of the insanely popular Hero games.

If you ever wore your baseball cap sideways, thought Kriss Kross was cool or copied those 'westside' gang signs in photographs, you're going to think DJ Hero is wicked. It's a visceral, hands-on, music-making experience that will have you turning the speakers up and bopping your noggin. In the lower difficulty settings that is. Then you'll get confident and take it up a notch. And then it'll melt your brain.

This video is no longer available

Watch tons of other game videos in HD over on our video channel!

Let's explain how you play it first. The beefy turntable controller has one free-spinning record deck with three coloured buttons on it, a cross fader, a little turning effects dial knob (equaliser) and a button to activate Euphoria - the DJH equivalent of Star Power in Guitar Hero.

On screen, circles travel down the three colour-coded tracks and you tap the corresponding button when it reaches the bottom. When a long coloured panel comes down you hold that coloured button and 'scratch' the record deck back and forth. In easier modes you can scratch at will, harder modes give you arrows to scratch in a particular direction.

When the left track on screen bends off to the left, you move the cross fader left. Vice versa with the right track. And it's satisfying because, just as a cross fader functions in real life, you can hear it cutting between the two tunes.

Those are the basic and compulsory functions but there are some non-compulsory actions too. Freestyle panels that come down the central red track let you freely tap away at the red button to trigger a sound effect of your choice. "YE-YE-YEAH BOOIII", and the like.

When you see a bridge icon appear over a track you can turn the equaliser knob to reduce either the bass or treble of that track. Build up a big enough combo and you earn the ability to rewind a part of the track too, activated by spinning the record deck backwards.

You get points for these two functions, but you don't have to do them. In fact you can't fail a song in DJH - the song doesn't end but the better you do the more stars you earn at the end, which unlocks more set lists.

That's the extent of what you do in DJH and it's fantastic fun. But those who can mix in real life will be interested to know that the "mixing" of two tracks in the game is an illusion - it's simply a pre-recorded mix that only exists as a single music track in the game. Because of that DJH gives you little to no mixing freedom.

You can't choose the two tracks you want to mix together, those are all pre-set. So if you'd rather mix 50 Cent with Jay-Z instead of David Bowie, tough luck. Also, moving the cross fader left or right outside of the game's prompts won't cut to that music track (because it's not really there, get it?). The music just fizzes out.

This video is no longer available

Watch tons of other game videos in HD over on our video channel!

There's no freestyle mixing mode, which is a shame considering DJ-ing is all about the freedom to manipulate music. The potential for a mode that lets you scratch and cross fade away to your heart's content would have been huge.

But that's the problem with DJ Hero - its shallow feature set. Yes, it's fun to play and will make you feel cooler than you probably really are. That's the aim of every really good music game. But its feature set fairs poorly in comparison to the recent Guitar Hero and Rock Band games which have, over the years, grown into behemoth packages of musical creation.

  1 2