It’s hard to look cool when you’re playing most music video games. You may think you look cool with your dinky plastic guitar or humorously scale-sized drum set, but in reality you look like… well, a person playing a plastic instrument. At the Penny Arcade Expo, a winning team assembles on-stage to play through a Rock Band song for a huge, screaming audience. It’s an enjoyable bit of theatre, but if you’ve ever seen a picture of yourself playing Rock Band at a party (and I bet that you have), you know just how profoundly dorky it looks.
Even DJ Hero, with its real-ish-looking turntables and comparatively laid-back approach, never looked all that cool. That’s set to change with Q-games’ latest creation, Pixeljunk 4AM.
Pixeljunk 4AM is a different sort of music game. It’s a DJ-ing game that uses the PlayStation Move, allowing players to control and cue loops, filters, and effects all by waving about the glowing PlayStation Move controller.
One of the neatest (and newest-feeling) features is the way 4AM incorporates social play. As you play, you’ll broadcast your music out to the entire PlayStation Network, where anyone with a PlayStation 3 can tune in, even if they don’t have the game. As Stephen Totilo already pointed out, it’s a neat idea — you get motivated to do better because you’ve got an audience. I’ve no idea how it will actually work, or how many people will really watch the game, but at the very least it’s a cool concept.
It’s also worth celebrating that this is a music game that you can look cool while playing. The game features the music of Japanese DJ Baiyon, who uses the game sometimes while performing at clubs. Baiyon DJ’d at a GDC party I attended, and the music was great. He didn’t actually play 4AM at that party, but a second shindig in the Haight allegedly featured him using the game on-stage, waving about the Move controller in the dark.
I played Pixeljunk 4AM last week, and I really enjoyed the feel of the game. You can get a sense of how it works by watching the video above. It’s easy to switch between the four possible instruments and “pull in” new layers by grabbing them at the edges of the screen and bringing them to the centre of the screen.
Given how little you’re actually seeing of what’s going on (the game plays nothing but a visualiser to give you a sense of the music), it’s cool how intuitive it all feels. And as neat-looking as it all is in the game, it’s equally cool-looking to watch someone play it. The Move’s colourful ice-cream-cone head changes colours as you grab different instruments, a zooming blur of colour that would look entirely at home looking out over a dancefloor at 4 in the morning.
Of course, it’ll be possible for some people to look like goobers while playing this game. But it’s nice to see a music game that allows players not only to make cool music, but to look pretty groovy while doing it.