The music genre has shot into the stratosphere this generation; franchises like Guitar Hero and Rock Band have swept the globe and generated millions of fans, many of whom hadn’t picked up a video game since Super Mario Bros. over 20 years ago. So of course, it would make perfect sense to see such a popular genre branching off and embracing other categories of music. Activision is working on DJ Hero , and 7 Studios and the lesser known Genius Products will soon provide us with Scratch: The Ultimate DJ . If you plan on picking this one up, you will be treated to a special custom peripheral, plus plenty of licensed tracks featuring such artists as Kanye West, Beastie Boys, and Mix Master Mike. Although the game’s foundation will be familiar to loyal followers of either of the previous rock music franchises, the key difference centers on player freedom and customization.
See, you basically just hit the right note as it scrolls by in Guitar Hero and Rock Band , and you will be doing that again in Scratch …but it doesn’t end there. As you likely know, DJ-ing is more about being a freestyle artist yourself, so the game encourages you to add your own flair and flavor to the included set of songs. The core aspect of the gameplay will be similar to other music games, and it actually reminds us a bit of Amplitude , where you switched between a variety of musical accompaniments, ranging from drums to guitar to vocals. In Scratch , the chart of musical notes that scrolls by will automatically switch between the different musical aspects – depending on which is most important at the time – and this is where you will hone your reflexes and skills. But where you hone your creative ability is…well, it’s kinda in the subtext. It’s all about dropping in your own inventions at just the right time, which instantly makes this game more intriguing.
As you go through the song, blank spaces will show up, and that’s your chance to shine. What you do is entirely up to you, and as one really can’t critique a personal musical creation, the game won’t punish you for any reason. According to a recent IGN eyes-on session, dropping in your own scratches fades, and other tricks of the trade will only allow you to score more bonus points, and it won’t break your running score multiplier. The game will give you tips on how to get better at devising new beats for the song, and if you can manage to fill up a special scratch meter, you can bust out into an awesome freestyle mode that will yield a very large point total. The closest we’ve come to this is freestyle power-ups in previous music titles (again, Amplitude comes to mind), where you can break off and do what you wish for a while, but this is an entirely new concept. No other game really focuses on player freedom and imagination, you know?
Our favorite feature in The Ultimate DJ is the ability to implement our very own sound samples. There are several “battle record” samples already included on the disc (cartoon noises, alien sounds, etc.), and you can pick five before attempting to play any given song. When the chance arises, you can use your set of chosen samples to spruce up the track; just think of the immense possibilities! When you’re tired with what the game offers, you can plug in the provided USB microphone and record your own samples – they can be about 5 seconds in length – and these will be added to your available inventory of unique sound effects. And of course, if you want that microphone to be more diverse, bring a friend over and ask him to add some additional panache to your scratching skills. It’s like Player 2 can jump in with his mic and either promote your Godlike ability or heckle your worthless butt…so maybe you should practice a bit before giving anyone such an opportunity. The bottom line is that while those who want to be rock stars already have their games, the hip-hop aficionados have been ignored.
Well, until now. Scratch: The Ultimate DJ should release some time during the second quarter this year, and although it may not be as popular as Guitar Hero or Rock Band , it has its own singular style that ought to appeal to a different group of music fans. Besides, if you’re a true-blue music lover and you have to have all the music games available, this is another to add to your list. It can be a pricey endeavor to be a strong follower of the music category these days, but such titles offer a very different experience in the realm of gaming. Can you really throw a party without a music/rhythm title sitting in your console these days? It’s the perfect ice-breaker!