|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Pentavision||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: PM Studios||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan.27, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
Games such as DJ Max: Fever present reviewers with a bit of a conundrum. It's a good game but it's a blatant rip-off of an existing game. However, it does have some charm and is enjoyable in its own right. I can't give it high marks for originality, and part of me wants to crucify it for being just another rhythm game, but it does get so many things right that it wouldn't be fair to dismiss this game just because of its copycat gameplay. With so many variations of specific niche genres these days, it's not much of an issue. DJ Max: Fever doesn't bring anything new to the table, but it does bring you the table to let you feast upon its delightful digital DJ decadence.
If you're a rhythm game fan, and by that I mean games such as Dance Dance Revolution, PaRappa the Rapper, and even Guitar Hero, then you're not going to care how derivative DJ Max: Fever is as long as it delivers the goods. And it does that. It features tons of songs, more than 50 in all, with accompanying videos. It follows the same gameplay formula where you hit a button in time to falling icons. It gets challenging very quickly. The difficulty increases significantly but it's cleverly ramped up in small increments, so that you're never overwhelmed, more like "teased" and "provoked." It seems that the goal is always within reach. One more try! - that's the kind of addicting gameplay that is the hallmark of a good game. There is also the added feature of tailoring the difficulty to your skill level by not only selecting Easy, Medium, or Insane (as I like to call it), but also by slowing the speed down in each difficulty mode.
I must admit that I was a little disappointed in the gameplay at first. I anticipated the game would focus more on actual DJ-related elements such as mixing beats, scratching, looping, and other such live-performance tricks. Instead I was staring at what I believed to be another run-of-the-mill rhythm game. Thankfully, the developers were aware that this kind of reaction would be common, and they unapologetically went about the business of making this a fun game with virtually flawless mechanics. It was hard not to be impressed after the first few songs. I was actually having a good time despite having played my share of rhythm-based games over the years.
Song selection is varied. There is everything from Japanese pop to full throttle rock. My favorite are the electronica tunes that pulse and undulate with hypnotic bass lines and dreamy string patches. I find that these songs are the most enjoyable to play along with, as they have a solid meter that doesn't waver in comparison to some of the rock and pop songs where you'll have to cover other instrumental fills that can break up the groove. Not to mention that unless you're familiar with a song, you're unlikely to know when such breaks, fills, or leads will occur. This amounts to some trial and error, but if you happen to like the song, it's no punishment to have to listen to it a few more times.
When you find a song that you like, an accompanying video will appear onscreen. Notes will begin to fall from the top of the screen and will intersect with a horizontal line close to the bottom. This interface resembles a cell phone screen - when the notes or icons hit that intersection, that's your cue to press a button. There are different buttons to press that will correspond with specific notes and icons. So, as long as you hit the correct button at the correct time, you will do well. But, you're definitely going to need a lot of practice to do well in this game. It's possible to play the game hitting any button, but you won't accrue as many points as you would by hitting the right button.
Amassing points is how you'll know if you're doing well in the game. Points are awarded for a run of successive beats, called combos. These combos then begin to fill up the Fever meter. When that becomes full, a bonus round of sorts is activated and all the scores are doubled. Conversely, the more mistakes you make, the more energy you will lose, and we all know that it takes energy to make music. When you've depleted your energy, the game is over. If that continues for you for more than five times on the same song, then the only business you have in the music business is buying CDs.