Crispy Gamer

E3 2009: The Five: Scratch: The Ultimate DJ

The 10-Cent Tour: Despite the continuing legal battle, the turntable-based rhythm game Scratch: The Ultimate DJ was actually playable at a party adjacent to this year's E3, which is more than could be said for Activision's competing DJ Hero.

1. It's Beatmania. Seriously, if you've played any of Konami's Beatmania games, you know what to expect: notes falling from the top of the screen; you tapping buttons in time as they reach the bottom (and occasionally scratching a turntable in special sections). The concept's pretty simple, and the single row of five buttons means the challenge tops out well below that of the Beatmania games, but the well-timed note patterns and quality sound samples made good use of the thumping club music.

E3 2009: The Five: Scratch: The Ultimate DJ

2. The turntable controller is decent enough. The grey buttons are spongy and squishy, not like the hard plastic of a Guitar Hero controller, but they still respond well to light taps. The turntable itself spins with no resistance, like it's sitting on a flywheel, making for easy spinning and scratching.

3. Like real DJing, freestyling is a big part of the appeal. Rocking the buttons in-between notes plays extra samples with no effect on your score, letting you create your own beats within the music. You can also bust out some improv during the turntable sections, pulling off elaborately named scracthing moves that cascade across the bottom of the screen like it's a Tony Hawk game.

E3 2009: The Five: Scratch: The Ultimate DJ

4. It's still pretty rough around the edges. The version shown at E3 had some pretty nasty frame-rate issues, long loading times and frequent freeze-ups. That said, it was still perfectly playable and should be fine with a little more work.

5. A crowded club with booming, bass-heavy music and lots of drunk people milling about is not the best place to try out a rhythm game. Just saying.

The Crispy Forecast: Fair to pretty skeptical. If it comes out in a bug-free form at a decent price, it'll be a decent if pedestrian alternative to DJ Hero.

This preview is based on a hands-on demo next to E3 2009.