Music games are great for guitar heroes and rock bands, but not so hot for dancers.
Scratch that! And blend it, too. "DJ Hero" — developed by FreeStyleGames for Activision — will be music to the ears of dancers who’ve been craving something hip they can hop to. The T-rated game delivers more than 100 pop, hip-hop, soul, R&B and electronica tracks in 93 original mixes that gamers can re-create on a turntable-style controller.
The key to the game is the controller, which consists of a turnable that bears three colored buttons, a crossfade lever, an effects knob and a "euphoria" button. As in other rhythm games, music is represented by streams that flow from top to bottom of the screen. Your job is to press the buttons as specific icons hit the bottom, wiggle the turntable to simulate scratching or move the crossfader to simulate blending two tracks. At other times, you can use the effects knob to select a brief sample to drop into a song or hit the euphoria button to boost your score.
At first glance, game play looks pretty complicated. However, the tutorial should help all but the most fumble-fingered ease into the game. I had a half-dozen friends check it out, and even the "over-30 video game novice" picked it up quickly. And everyone enjoyed playing, although most said they didn’t enjoy it as much as "Guitar Hero."
The quality of any rhythm game can be gauged by its track list. The "DJ Hero" list is impressive, with songs by artists ranging from the Jackson 5 to the Black Eyed Peas and Marvin Gaye to 50 Cent. Mixes include work by DJ Shadow, DJ Z-Trip and Daft Punk.
Unfortunately, you have to grind through the game’s career mode to unlock each set list in succession. It’s a process that’s been dropped by most other rhythm games because most people want a wide selection of music from the start.
As you progress through the career mode, you can also unlock new characters, venues, outfits and gear.
"DJ Hero" costs $120 thanks to the special controller. However, if you like to move with the groove, this game’s for you.
Platforms: Xbox 360 (tested), PlayStation 3, Wii, PlayStation 2
On the Web: www.djhero.com