You spin me right round, baby, right round.

The “Guitar Hero” concept expands yet again beyond the standard rock-musicians format – guitar, bass, drums, microphone – to include the wizards of wax, the deejays of spin. Now that “DJ Hero” is here, you’ll wonder what took so long to get to this point, and question which direction this infinitely entertaining franchise can go next.

Developed by FreeStyleGames and published by Activision, “DJ Hero” encourages players to mash tracks up like a mad scientist, an audio chemist. Remixes are pre-planned, though you’ll find the blends are inspired and incredibly catchy. Want to merge Paula Abdul with Vanilla Ice? Done. Wondering how Cameo’s “Word Up” synchs to Bel Biv Davoe’s “Poison”? Give the record a spin. I’ve come to realize The Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back” goes well with any other song, particularly Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life.”

In place of a plastic guitar, “DJ Hero” works with a wireless turntable that has three buttons on the record player and three controls that are worked with your left hand: the crossfade bar, the effects dial and the Euphoria button. The turntable feels comfortable on your lap. The fingerprint grooves on the record and the three colored buttons can chafe your skin after hours of play, however. And though it’s time consuming, you’ll want to complete the tutorials. “DJ Hero” isn’t as simplistic as its guitar counterparts. You’ll want to know how to properly scratch a record, how to trigger the Euphoria option and when to Rewind a track. Jumping right to the Medium level isn’t exactly an option. It’s a big step up from Easy (which is too easy), and Expert is a long way off for newcomers.

I’ve started calling my “DJ Hero” the Keymaster, however, because every time I play it, I manage to unlock fresh content. The songlist grows exponentially because the creators wisely mash together songs you’ve already unlocked but present them in new ways. New characters become available on a regular basis, as do new venues. Grandmaster Flash, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Jay-Z have contributed remixes to the game. As with the “Guitar Hero” incarnations, you have the ability to follow a pre-programmed set list, create your own quickplay set list, or jump online and compete with others. Unique to “DJ Hero,” however, is the option to play with the turntable and guitar at the same time on mashups that are heavy on guitar (no Linkin Park and Jay-Z … at least not yet anyway).

With more than 100 songs available in the initial game and, for certain, more downloadable content on the horizon, “DJ Hero” is a spectacular new addition to the “Guitar Hero” world, a creative new way to advance the concept and – most important – a ton of fun. The remixes are fantastic (I want them in my iPod), and the graphics are decent. I honestly wonder where the “Hero” games can go next. “Piano Hero?” “Saxophone Hero?” “Symphony Hero?” The sky seems to be the limit.


EM Review by
Sean O’Connell
Originally Posted 11.8.09