Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cry if I want to - DJ Hero Party Mix Pack Review

Tis another day, and suddenly, out of nowhere, DJ Hero Content! While I was completely sated with the Domination Mix Pack and the great Preview for DJ Hero 2, the Party Mix Pack is a complete surprise, and it can't come soon enough, as I don't think I can really wait until October to keep the party going anyhow. After seeing the tracklist in the description on Xbox Live, I worried a bit. With beat juggles (arrangements) of The Pussycat Dolls "Buttons", Rihanna's S.O.S., and a mashup of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" with Duran Duran's "Girls on Film" (wha?), it signaled a more MTV pop direction that left me not knowing what to expect. While the first two I could tolerate, given that I didn't exactly hate their original versions, it was the mashup at the end that really had me going. Those two songs? Really? How could that possibly work?

I hit the download button with a hint of unease, but remained faithful. You know, I never would've thought "Feel Good Inc." would mix with "Heard It Through the Grapevine" so well until this game, and surely, the same applied here, as the high quality of their mixes thus far left little room for doubt.

Was I right?

DJ Hero "Party Mix Pack" (Downloadable Content)
For: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii (Songs sold as individual tracks)
Publisher: Activision/Freestyle Games
Price: 640 Microsoft Points, $7.99 PSN, 300 Wii points (per track)
Release: 7/4/2010

To put it lightly: No, I wasn't right with my assumption at all. But it isn't all bad news. While the Party Mix Pack features an daring track selection and a decent challenge, its lazily put together arranges and questionable third act, not to mention its oddly placed difficulty spikes ensure that seasoned veterans have little to return to, and the casual fan has yet another pack of songs to add to the collection, but it will stay in rotation for only so long before interest is lost.

But, to my verdict, yes?

Once again, songs are rated on a 1 to 5 scale, with an overall grade given at the end.

Pussycat Dolls - Buttons (Beat Juggle)

I was half awake and nearly had a perfect sightread on my first try.

Despite that ringing in my mind as a bad omen rather than a testament to skill, there wasn't a complete trainwreck left in my wake, but not anything too special here either. It's a slow, wispy track that mimics the same energy and tempo as the original, (why not make it energetic and interesting?) but sounds so close to it that you'll wonder why they've bothered to call it a beat juggle at all until the final moments, where a clever use of samples and scratches do a bit to liven things up at the end. It isn't enough to save the song from it's squarely middle of the road challenge, but it's a decently fun run that could've stood to be more interesting to play overall. Bit of a missed opportunity. (Rating: 3/5)

Rihanna - S.O.S. (Beat Juggle)

The same can also be said about this arrangement of Rihanna's song S.O.S. Carrying a higher and a more playful steady tempo than the song before it, its strange inclusion is only exacerbated by how boring it was to play. While I could stomach Buttons due to it's fun lyrics, heavy middle eastern-esque twang, and entertaining, yet unremarkable chart, I couldn't wait for this mix to end, and even started dropping notes and neglecting rewinds towards the climax because I didn't want to extend the song any longer than it should've been. Again, it was a bit skimpy on challenge, and I probably would've gotten another impromptu perfect if I hadn't gotten so bored 3 quarters in. Maybe a true Rihanna fan would enjoy it more than I, but that seems to me like it'd need to survive on made up excuses, rather than it truly being a good track to play and listen to on its own merits. (Rating: 2/5)

Duran Duran/Lady Gaga - Poker Face vs. Girls on Film

Well, this is strange. Watching the video, you can get a glimpse of what I mean. This way, you won't find it strange when I wonder aloud as to what the hell they were thinking with this one. While I enjoy "Poker Face" (the Cartman version sits proudly as a part of my Rock Band 2 tracklist), and "Girls on Film" on their own (Yes, Duran Duran has played MORE than "Hungry Like the Wolf"), whoever thought they would work as a mashup needs their ears, and brain checked. Very little of Poker Face is present besides the lyrics, and using GaGa's vocals with Duran Duran's synth results in a strangely awkward sound that requires a tempo increase on the former's part, turning the song even more poppish than it was before while managing to make it sound rushed and NOW!-ish at the same time. While the song has admittedly grown on me in subsequent playthroughs, I think it's more because of the song's unique blend of tapping and crossfading, rather than it's strength as a pretty good, but below standard mashup. I was disappointed, but still return for a challenge here and there. (Rating: 3/5)

So there you have it. While I was expecting something with a little more heart, and definitely little more challenging (especially after the amazing Domination pack), I didn't get that at all, and ended up feeling a bit shortchanged. The worst part was, the mixes themselves weren't terrible, per-se, but instead so middle of the road that in a game that insofar has had EXCELLENT downloadable content, it ended up feeling mediocre by comparison. It isn't even their fault for setting the bar so high in the first place, but rather their fault for not matching it with this uninspired effort, because for the first time wince release there's finally a pack that I didn't enjoy much at all. My advice for experts is to not expect too much from an unimaginative set, and midrange players, appreciate the oddly paced challenge, but don't expect to play it more than once or twice at best. Bummer.

Rating: 6.5

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