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DJMax Technika Tune review: Let your fingers do the dancing


DJMax Technika Tune is in some ways mindbendingly new, but simultaneously comfortingly nostalgic. The look and feel of Pentavision's Vita music game recall my high school Dance Dance Revolution obsession pleasantly.

It's all there: the mishmash of weird, unfamiliar, yet catchy Asian dance music; the over-the-top explosion of colorful visuals going on at all times, from the menu screens to the videos playing behind the note prompts; the overenthusiastic announcer sounding surprised and delighted at your every menu choice.

I can't pretend I'm getting healthy by playing it, unfortunately.

Don't worry about never having played a DJMax game before; this one is different from the Beatmania-styled releases on the PSP, and they're all pretty easy to pick up anyway. In this case, you're tapping and dragging on the touchscreen in time with the music. In an unusual twist, the screen is divided into two horizontal segments, and the notes move in sequence between them. It's much easier to understand if you see it for yourself:

That's the easiest song, on normal difficulty.

Unlike many music games, each icon you tap actually plays the sound from the corresponding segment of the song. If you miss a little bit, it sounds a little weird, giving you immediate, concrete feedback. I appreciate this touch, even if it did require remastering all the songs, because it makes me feel like I'm actually doing something musical, instead of merely indulging in an idle pastime while watching a music video.

The notes you don't see me hitting require the player to tap the rear touchpad; these often take place at the same time as normal notes, on a different beat, and are the primary reason I picked the easiest song to demonstrate. If you don't happen to have a stand for your Vita, you can turn off the rear touchpad functionality and play those notes on the screen. Although ... you'd probably still need a stand for that.

The music ranges in style from the bubbly Kpop of Kara, to rap songs about Canada, to Japanese "reggaeton-like." It's all accompanied by custom video in the background, all of which looks just incredible on the Vita's giant, bright screen. I've never heard of any of it before, but I am in constant danger of humming along after playing the game. The soundtrack won't be as much of a draw for most players as something like the familiar Rock Band lineup, but music games with original songs are my favorite, and all of these might as well be original.

There's plenty to keep me playing these songs: there are multiple difficulty levels, beyond the individual starred difficulty assigned to each song. Playing them earns items that can affect the "fever" score modifier meter, HP, and other variables. There are also options that allow you to change the direction of movement on either half of the screen, make notes fade in or out as you cross them, or even remove the bar that sweeps across the screen, thus removing the visual indication of when to play notes.

I am not yet cool enough for any of these options, but I'm happy to keep learning these weird new songs, taking in a variety of insane, oversaturated graphics, and enjoying using the Vita's rear touchpad for once, until I am.

This review is based on a Vita download of DJMax Technika Tune, provided by Pentavision.

Joystiq's review scores are based on a scale of whether the game in question is worth your time -- a five-star being a definitive "yes," and a one-star being a definitive "no." Read here for more information on our ratings guidelines.

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