Shortly after DJ Hero’s release, a couple of craiglist ads popped up from gamers claiming they’ll plug in and play the game at your party for $75 — all you have to provide is the TV and the speakers. Not that this “service” is worth your hard-earned cash — you can buy the game yourself for $120! — but think about what these ads mean. You didn’t see fake bands advertising
their services when Rock Band
came out, because when you’re working that plastic guitar, you still feel as if you were playing a game. You’re only pretending
to be a rock star — your shredding skills aren’t real. DJ Hero
will make you feel so much like a DJ that you might even delude yourself into thinking your knack for plastic-scratchin’ is worth other people’s money.
The visuals of scrolling, glowing notes and the Euphoria button — think Star Power, but for DJs — will be familiar to any Guitar Hero or Rock Band proficionado, but this time, the controller is back where it’s most comfortable: resting in your lap. The turntable gives you the power to scratch, spin, and rewind; the three multi-colored buttons on the surface of the pretend record affect the two different songs you’re mixing and the effects channel in between. The cross-fader’s slide feels a bit delicate, but overall, the plastic peripheral seems surprisingly sturdy. Pressing buttons on a record’s surface bears no resemblance to DJing in real life, of course, but moving the record back and forth to generate those classic record scratch sounds feels true to form.
Even if you discover that you suck at scratching, there’s still plenty here to enjoy. The soundtrack straight-up rocks: every single mix is a mash-up, and the combos include Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” versus Daft Punk’s “Da Funk,” the Trammp’s “Disco Inferno” thrown together with Rihanna’s “Disturbia,” and even Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” mixed with David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” The artists on the roster include Eminem, Tears for Fears, the Jackson 5, Rick James, DJ Shadow — the list goes on. Some of the pairings blend better than others, but all of them are great fun to play. Getting distracted by trying to dance and DJ at once definitely caused my scores to slip.
There’s a shortage of creativity, however. There are samples to choose from and an effects dial to play with; both allow you to alter the mixes according to your whim, but neither appears to affect your score. So you’re essentially playing along with remixes that were made by somebody else; you don’t get to cross-fade between songs or rewind the track back whenever you want. After you’ve mastered the techniques, you’ll find yourself longing for a Freestyle mode where you could make your own mixes out of the songs.
DJ Hero also has a couple gameplay-related issues. For one, changing the settings to scratch on either the right or the left side doesn’t seem to stick, so if you don’t prefer the default setting of right, you’ll have to change it every time. This may be related to your inability to create a profile within the game — which also means you can’t create your own custom-appearance DJ the way you can create your own rocker in Rock Band. Instead, you have to play as one of the celebrity DJs on the roster. Once you unlock them all, there are plenty of good choices, from the late DJ AM (a little creepy) to the diode-decked Daft Punk duo. What’s weird is the low number of ladies. I guess there are barely any famous female DJs. Maybe I should put up a craiglist ad.