Sold as a sort of DJ-ing equivalent to the Guitar Hero franchise, DJ Star offers up the Guitar Hero concept for the Ibiza generation. You won’t find any guitars here: your instrument of choice is instead a set of decks, and your mission is to fill the dance-floor with as many dancers as possible.
Loading up DJ Star’s career mode you could easily be forgiven for thinking you were playing a cheap rip-off of the now standard music-genre career game. You start as you would expect at the bottom of the career ladder, playing a set to your friends. As you progress you unlock wardrobe items, new songs and perhaps most importantly, more features for your set of decks.
Career progression is fairly rapid, and certainly keeps the player’s interest. With every one of the fourteen levels, there are several unlockables. In the early levels of career mode the gradual enhancements you gain to your decks are an effective way of drip-feeding the new player into the game mechanics, making the game fairly accessible to newcomers. Though fourteen levels may well not seem like a lot, the length of each level varies from six minutes in the first level to over twenty minutes for the later levels that range in location from the likes of London and Paris to Ibiza and Detroit.
The various locations however are fairly superficial to the game experience, and are merely markers for your career progression as opposed to making any real and significant difference to your gaming experience. The main core of your progression comes in terms of the length and difficulty of career levels, and the amount of mini-games available to you to use to increase your mixing, fun and atmosphere meters.
The turntable, as you would no doubt expect, is a central part of the way the game functions. As you compete in a level of career or free-play mode, the turntable takes up the touch-screen half of your DS while the main screen shows the dance-floor, containing important information such as the amount of dancers on the dance-floor and your time left remaining.
It’s in the use of the touch-screen, and the game’s innovative approach to its subject that DJ Star really shines.
As your deck grows in functionality, you gain access to various disc effects, loop settings, and bass/treble controls – all of which are adjustable via the touch-screen. The most important weapon in your DJ-arsenal however is the activities menu which gives you access to mini-games which help you raise your mixing, fun and atmosphere meters and so build the success of your set and bring more dancers to the dance-floor.
The mini-games, though simple, are all fairly enjoyable, and all use the touch-screen in different ways. One mini game for example asks you to scratch a disk in time with a moving dot, while another asks you to write an autograph. There’s even a Guitar Hero-esque rhythm game where you need to tap one of four dancer buttons as they scroll onto the screen. One thing you can be sure of however: this game is certainly not the cheap Guitar-Hero-for-DJs rip-off alluded to earlier in this review. It’s actually a remarkably fun game.
Beyond the game’s core Career Mode, you will be unsurprised to learn that you can play through all your unlocked mini-games in Challenges! Mode. Beyond these fun little mini-games that grow in difficulty as you progress through the levels, there’s also an interesting Creation Mode that actually lets you create your own tracks.
For anyone who has ever used a simple music package on the PC, Creation Mode is fairly standard, and provides six samples for four different instruments and provides options such as speed, volume and song type. Interestingly, you can save up to four song compositions and even use them in career mode.
This is largely a positive review, and rightly so, but this is not to say that DJ Star is without its flaws and even the odd bug. One frustrating glitch in particular means that every so often the dance mini-game won’t actually scroll any dancers onto the screen and will force you to score 0% and so reduce your status bars. Frustratingly also, when playing to larger audiences especially, the catch, avoid and goodies mini-games can be made more difficult by the low lighting effects that make flying objects hard to see, and there is also a bug that at times hides targets behind dancers.
The other issue some players may have with the game is that most of the ‘featured tracks’ aren’t actually played by their original artists. Though the sound quality is good, and the production level quite high on the sound-front, the avid clubbing fan might be disappointed to find that the showcased tracks are performed by the John Stage Band and not the likes of Calvin Harris, Eric Prydz and Pharrell Williams.
To the casual gamer however, the lack of licensed original tracks won’t really make a huge amount of difference to the overall DJ Star experience. With all its varied and interesting challenges DJ Star easily does enough to make you forgive it of most of its drawbacks and odd little bugs. Without the bugs and the low lighting effects of the dance-floor, the game might well score another point or so higher. As it stands though, DJ Star is still a good game and has a mass appeal you really wouldn’t expect from a game aimed at the musical niche of the clubbing scene.
DJ Star is a very strange beast. To the casual observer, the game’s appeal might only seem to extend to those who like the music it features. There is however an awful lot more to DJ Star than just the music. In fact, you really don’t even need to like clubbing music in order to enjoy the game. With its interesting mini-games, its smart use of the touch-screen and even its clever little song creation function, DJ Star offers plenty to do and can at times be both remarkably fun, and even a little addictive.