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DJ Hero 2 refines this hidden gem of a music game. If there is any justice in the world, its two player battles, mainstream club aesthetic and smile inducing cheeky mix-ups will find a wider audience this time round.
Ironically I don't play many games these days. Those I do spend time with have to have a great soundtrack. On this basis the original DJ Hero scored well. Not only did it have a strong track-list but it also mixed its music intelligently. Interesting mash-ups of popular songs showed a genuine engagement with the culture around Activision's rhythm action DJ game, rather than just a passing ascent.
While DJ Hero bizarrely stayed the pursuit of a relatively small niche of gamers, it was one of the best rhythm action experiences you could get on a console. It's much more than simply another videogame aping popular culture. The experience is both engaging and endearing. All it took was five minutes getting my head round the deck controller, and swallowing my embarrassment and I was hooked.
The controller itself looks like a record deck, but actually functions more like a collection of sliders and buttons - that the game uses to approximate real world mixing. Although the motions only bear a passing resemblance to those you would need to do this for real, the genius of the game is that this captures the feel of the DJ experience perfectly.
The experience retains its cheeky smile-inducing moments - when mismatched tracks are cleverly and seamlessly integrated into one glorious song.
Scratching, tapping, cross-fading and spin-backs are joined in DJ Hero 2 by freestyle scratching, and rhythmic sample tapping. Alongside this, if you are so disposed, you can pick up a microphone and sing along with the song-track and lyrics. Finally, you can now use two turntables simultaneously to battle a friend, 8 Mile style.
These additions combine with a more streamlined interface to create a slick experience. The single-player mode, that in the DJ Hero jumped around all over the place, now feels more focused. Throughout the game in fact more has been done to pull in the casual player. In particular DJ Hero 2 moves away from bootleg-style mixes to a more mainstream club vibe.
These changes are something of a risk for Activision, after the first game worked so well. Thankfully though this flattened the experience which still retains its cheeky smile-inducing moments - when mismatched tracks are cleverly and seamlessly integrated into one glorious song.
Although many people will be distracted by new editions of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, I'm more than happy to stick with DJ Hero. This second release builds on what was a strong first outing. The battling two player mode, more focused game play and new tracks included in the DJ Hero 2 bundle make it great value for money, even if you already own the first game.
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