If there was one studio and game series that is synonymous with the PSN Store it would have to be Q-Games and PixelJunk. Starting with PixelJunk Racers, the studio didn’t reach critical acclaim until their PixelJunk Monsters. Since then, they have been producing some really great and some of the most abstract, yet beautiful games with easy to learn gameplay. The latest entry to the PixelJunk family is the music game called PixelJunk 4am.
To call 4am a game in the traditional sense is a bit of a stretch when you look at it. At its core, it’s a music creator/simulator in the vein of MTV Music Generator or Rockstar’s Beaterator, with the most obvious difference being that is uses the Move. With such a drastic shift in genre, will PixelJunk fans accept to 4am?
Move Duality - Most Move games that I’ve played have required either a single Move controller or one Move with one Navigation controller. 4am is the first game that I’ve played that lets you use two Move controllers. Having to use two Move controllers not only lessened the arm fatigue that I would experience using a single Move, but as I started getting used to how to mix the song, it started to look more like a light show. I’m sure that in the hands of someone more experienced, they can come up with a routine. Couple the Move orbs changing colors as you mix the song and the visuals on screen, there is potential for 4am to be much more than just a game.
Samples From Personal Library - With most music creation games, you are only limited with the sample tracks that are provided on the disc. With 4am, PixelJunk allows players not only to mix original songs that were made for the game, but if they have their music library on the PS3, they can be able to use those songs in the game as well.
Live Worldwide Performances - While 4am does not have a multiplayer co-op mode (unless you count having a buddy use the other Move controller) it does have a form of player interaction called the Live Viewer. The Live Viewer lets players search for other players tracks and view them live. You read that right, players can hold live performances of their mixes and other players can come in and watch them perform. In fact, you can listen in on any performance in the world. Viewers can vote for their favorite performers and each time you load up 4am, that performer will be on the front list with either their latest mix or online performing live.
Creative Potential - Now what do I mean by creative potential? Take a look at games like DDR, Parapara Paradise, and the early Guitar Hero games. As those games grew in popularity within their communities, players started to take them beyond their original purposes by hacking them and creating their own routines, adding their favorite songs, creating original tabs, and so on. They become much more than games: they became performance spectacles that showed off the players love for the game as well as their own creativity. 4am has that same potential. If properly supported by the community, 4am could possibly pave the way for a new generation of ‘visual DJs.
Move Controls a Bit Touchy - Mixing a song is pretty simple in 4am, but having the Move register the actions you want to do is a bit touchy. Each section of the song is mapped to each axis point, up, down, left, right, left-up, right-up, down-left and down-right. If I try to move to the right, any slight move in the wrong direction will inadvertently mess up the track and I’ll have to start over. Add in another Move controller to the mix and it doubles the potential problems when trying to mix the track.
Move Still Hasn’t Caught On - In addition to the touchy controls, the Move has yet to gain much traction since its release in 2010. Many people still see motion controls as a gimmick that will never catch on, no matter how innovative its use is. It’s a shame really, because 4am is a really innovative ‘game’ that encourages musical creativity. If 4am would have launched earlier in the Move’s life it could have been its ‘must have’ game like Dance Central or Wii Sports.
4am is a strange piece of software. I say software instead of game because there isn’t much here in terms of actual gameplay, be it traditional or abstract. If anything, I’d call 4am a musical creation app. Whatever it gets called, 4am is something that players should experience. There is so much potential here for one’s creativity to flow, both in terms of music creation and performance. The touchy controls can be a bit of a problem, though, especially with two Move controllers working at the same time. The big miss is that motion controls still haven’t caught on which hurts the game’s potential audience. Still, this shouldn’t discourage those Move owners that are looking for something they can move to and simulate their creative juices.
*This review was based on the PS3 version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*