DJ Star: review

 

Before you get too excited, this game doesn’t feature Jimmy Saville, Terry Wogan, or Chris Moyles. You don’t even get Noel Edmonds. No, this game is concerned with the nightclub DJ, who provides sweaty young people with ‘banging choons’ to dance to. Can Game Life really make you feel like a DJ via the humble DS?

The very first thing you want to do before playing this game is to stick a pair of earphones in. The DS is a wonderful piece of kit; but when it comes to playing music games, the speakers are a bit rubbish. You don’t get CD quality sound in this game no matter what audio output you use, but it’s still decent. And the music kicks off as soon as the game starts, a random choice from the game’s licensed selection playing over the intro credits.

Next you get to the title screen, which really must get a mention. The top screen has a silhouette of a dancing lady behind the menu selections, which you choose between by moving then releasing the stylus on the turntable on the touchscreen. You ‘play’ your menu selection. It’s a nice little touch, and promises great things for the game proper. You will, however, possibly have already noticed that the song playing in the background is a cover. Most of the game’s forty tracks are covers by ‘John Stage Band’. No, us neither; but they’re mostly decent covers, of tracks by artists including Kelis, Calvin Harris, and Bloc Party.

The main focus of the game is the Career mode. This mode aims to give you the holistic DJ experience via a story, where you start off playing your mate’s house with a secondhand set of decks and a few records, and end up playing huge venues around the world with all sorts of effects and choons at your disposal. The first part of being a DJ the game tackles, and the part that’s going to get people interested in the first place, is playing and mixing records.

Of course, some will buy this game just for the sexy ladies...

When playing a virtual gig, the touchscreen is your set of decks. You unlock songs and effects as you progress but eventually you’ll have forty tracks to choose from, you’ll be able to play around with the bass and treble, and you’ll be able to use loops, samples, and effects. You’ll be tapping here and there to select and play with your new toys, and you’ll even use your DS stylus to ‘scratch’ the discs (wikywikywiggidy). Before you get stuck in however, you need to actually get the music started.

Tapping the relevant icon brings up a list of unlocked tracks. Choose which you want, then drag the disc over to one of the turntables. Start playing one song and then, hitting the earphone icon so the audience only hears the first song, select and start playing a second. Adjust the beats per minute (bpm) of one or both songs until they’re in sync, then unleash your mix on the crowd.

It sounds like a great DJ simulation, doesn’t it? But unfortunately, the game trips itself up by trying too hard. You are also given various other tasks to perform mid – gig as you progress through Career such as signing autographs, singing, and throwing gifts into the crowd. These manifest themselves, with the mournful inevitability of death, in the form of mini – games.

Thus, you’ll often find that there isn’t enough ‘atmosphere’ or ‘fun’, for example, in your gig. So just like a real DJ, you play a mini – game to get things going again. Tapping colours in a certain order perhaps, or dragging the stylus across the touchscreen to operate a virtual catapult. Er, just like a real DJ? Success in each gig depends on getting a minimum number of people dancing for a minimum amount of time you see, which simply won’t happen if the mini – game powered meters slip down too far. As a result, these brief but intrusive (and recurring) activities are just as important to success as your mixing; seemingly more so, much of the time. Even mixing becomes something of a mini – game itself, as you are rewarded for doing as you’re told when you’re told to do it, and penalised for hesitating (or not doing it at all).

Look out, Franky! An info box stuck to a severed torso is about to fall on your head!!

Free Mode abandons the mini games completely, and neither rewards nor punishes anything you do. You can just play around with everything you’ve unlocked, and feel all pleased with yourself when you come up with a particularly impressive mix (and that does happen). Or just listen to the songs one by one. You’re ‘free’ to do as you wish. Oh, we get it now!! ‘Challenges’ allows you to practice the mini – games through stages of progressive difficulty, though we can’t imagine many people would want to.

Creation mode is completely separate from the others, and as you may have guessed, allows you to make your own music from scratch (though sadly, you can’t add vocals). With patience and determination, you can actually use the 200 samples to make some tunes to be proud of. Best of all, you can annoy family and friends by hooking your DS up to a set of speakers, and playing the funky theme tune you’ve composed for them whenever they enter the room. We’d almost recommend buying the game just for that.

If Game Life had abandoned Career and Challenges and instead expanded and improved the Free and Creation modes, this could have been something rather special. As it is, early and pre – teen fans of club music might get a kick out of it; but the rest of us will be better off waiting to see if DJ Hero does a better job.

 

6/10

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

2 comments

  1. Pidgeridoo /

    Guitar Hero For Chavs??

  2. I love my ‘banging choons’ =]

    Sold!

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