In the groove with Activision's latest instrument simulator
DJ Hero is a game that really needs to be played to be truly appreciated. On paper it seems to be yet another ill-conceived concept bundled with a money-spinning peripheral to give it a novelty value – the kind of thing you fiddle with at Christmas and chuck into the spare room for the rest of the year. But when you actually place your fingers on the turntable and scratch out your first mix, you’ll lose all those nagging doubts or cynical thoughts, and – toilet breaks notwithstanding – you won’t stop until you’re wrestling with the wrist-snapping final tunes of the game.
The secret to DJ Hero’s success is in the presentation. There’s nothing fancy or pretentious about the game, even the controller is alarmingly minimalist with its lack of branding or unnecessary knobs and buttons. Everything about it oozes effortless cool, as the quality of the mixes and the way the game opens itself up to you does all the talking.
You start things off by familiarising yourself with the slightly alien peripheral. Grandmaster Flash walks you through the tutorial, and at first there’s a nagging fear in the back of your mind that it’s all going to be a bit naff. Flash does like the sound of his own voice, but his tutorial text is solid enough to give you a basic grounding of how the game works. It is, unsurprisingly, a bit like Guitar Hero.
Coloured blobs travel down the on-screen highway at you, and when they reach the bottom, you need to press the corresponding button to play them. So far, so familiar. The green line on the highway represents one track, and the blue a second, with effects assigned to the red line. Your job is to hit all the notes to mix these two tracks together. When long sections with arrows inside them appear, you need to hold down the button on the turntable and scratch them out. On medium difficulty you’re called on to use the crossfader to fade tracks in and out of the mix.
If that still doesn't make any sense, maybe this abridged video of the basic in-game tutorial will help:
That's the basic stuff, which is great to get warmed up. But real DJ heroes will be wanting to kick things up with the advanced techniques: