Seen up close and personal, I was surprised at how fun DJ Hero appears to be.
The idea of taking Konami's Beatmania, a game that I couldn't quite get when I played and didn't really want to, and turning it into something that not only hardcore gamers might enjoy, but anyone, seemed like an overwhelming task. But the inclusion of a sizable, completely original setlist and a complete retooling of the controls gives DJ Hero a fighting chance.
To play the game, you tap the three buttons located on the turntable in time with their corresponding icons as they roll past on a stretched out virtual record on the TV. Occasionally you also have to scratch while holding a button down, jerking the rubber turntable in either direction and at any speed.
While you're doing all of this with one hand, you use the other to fade between tracks on cue and drop in sound effects. The fader has three positions, left, right and center. When the tracks on the virtual turntable move to the right or left you have to follow with the fader. The effects knob essentially works like the whammy bar in Guitar Hero, allowing you to distort the music as it plays at certain times.
Finally, there's a Euphoria button that blinks once you've racked up enough points. The button essentially works like Star Power.
All of this sounds incredibly confusing, but seen in person it doesn't seem so hard to master. No more hard to master, at least, than was Guitar Hero when it first hit the scene.
The game can be played standing up or sitting down, though it looked like it would be easier to play on your feet. That means buying some sort of table that puts the controller at the right height, one of DJ Hero's few obvious drawbacks.
While I'm fairly certain the game is going to be fun to play, the bigger question for a title like this is will it be fun to watch people play. And I'm still not convinced, though there are a few things that will definitely help it.
Because the game has all original music, music you can't find anywhere else, just having it playing on it's own is entertaining. I'm told that you can at any time walk up to the turntable and take over the music, not having to stop it or launch a game. That's another huge plus.
Finally, the inclusion of tracks that let you use the turntable with a guitar, essentially playing both DJ Hero and Guitar Hero at the same time, is a huge win for the title.
Initially, the game will only ship with a handful of titles that will let you do both, but the developers say they will keep an eye on its popularity and release new tracks to support it if people seem to want that.