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DJ Hero 2

Mixing it up?

Rule Two of Rhythm-Action Multiplayer: it has to be fun across all difficulties, otherwise players at either end of the Expert/Easy scale have nobody to play with and have to sit facing the wall in the corner of the room while everybody else has fun. DJ Battle's construction caters well for this. Each player gets their time in the limelight with a song's key hooks. Because you're trading phrases, you can play on Medium against an Expert player and still win even though they've quadrupled your score; picking higher difficulty levels basically acts as a self-handicap by giving you much trickier scratching patterns to negotiate.

(Rule Three, by the way, is that wacky power-ups are cautiously welcomed, so long as they don't remove any trace element of skill from the game. It's a tricky balance. Wacky power-ups featured neither in DJ Battle nor in the more conventional Star Battle head-to-head mode, but there's no guaranteeing that some won't crop up in as-yet unannounced multiplayer attractions.)

The musical interplay, both in the mixes and between you and your opponent in DJ Battle, really is invigorating. The DJ Hero decks' Euphoria button, effects dial and sample buttons make you feel like you have far more control over the music than you actually do. It's all an illusion, as there's still no actual creation involved in the game, but there are a lot more opportunities for freestyling than there were.

As well as the red freestyle effects button from the first game (also known as the YEEEEEAAHH BOIIIII button), DJ Hero 2 incorporates freestyle scratching and crossfading. A glowing outline shows when you can just hold the green button down and scratch away, letting the game turn your movements into cool noises, and when you can flick the crossfader back and forth.

Sadly, all I managed to do was make the mix sound terrible. It turns out I'm better at following button prompts and flashing lights. It's all part of Freestyle Games' response to feedback from fans desperate to mix their own music with the DJ Hero decks, which remains a sad impossibility thanks to the almighty tangle of licensing restrictions tying up the game's music.

A couple of superficial improvements also make themselves known, most notably the menus. There's none of the rave-inspired graffiti gaudiness of the original; they're clean-cut and easier to understand and navigate, set against a stylish but slightly boring white backdrop that may or may not be a placeholder. At least you no longer have to spin the deck around and around for about 10 seconds through 30 different setlists to reach Quickplay. There are many new playable famous DJs, too, including the unmistakeable Deadmau5 (with a selection of different head masks, hopefully), David Guetta and DJ Qbert.

Freestyle Games' passion doesn't appear to have diminished over the past year. DJ Hero 2 showcases the same fastidious attention to detail as before when it comes to the look and the music, with even more creative mixes comprised of tracks by over a hundred artists. Nobody could possibly complain about such a fully-featured sequel. But in order to enjoy the most significant improvements you'll need two sets of decks - which, even when they're on display for £40 in the Plastic Graveyard, is still quite a big ask.

DJ Hero 2 is due out for PS3, Wii and Xbox 360 this autumn. The Party Pack will cost $149 for the game and two turntables.

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About the Author

Keza MacDonald avatar

Keza MacDonald

Contributor

Keza is the Guardian's video games editor. Previously she has been the UK editor for Kotaku and IGN, and a Eurogamer contributor.

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