Despite DJ Hero’s failure to move the club and music games’ recent topsy-turvy track record, new downloadable disc jockey simulator Skillz hopes to reestablish sonic relevancy by remixing synchronized button-mashing play for the iPad.
Ditching the huge, cripplingly expensive plastic turntable controllers which have hamstrung previous digital diversions’ attempts to make scratching along to electronic beats second-nature, and a breakout success, the game earns instant points for approachability. Putting twin turntables, buttons and crossfader right on the touchscreen-enabled tablet PC’s display, users are invited to tap, swipe or hold controls in time with colored squares, arrows and lines which stream to the beat.
Offering formulaic play that’s readily familiar to rhythm gaming fans, prodding or scratching in time with remixes and mash-ups of two dozen dance tracks by Kid Cudi, Diplo and Roots Manuva hardly moves the conceptual needle. But featured production values do prove a cut above most mobile games, with trippy, neon-tinged backdrops at every turn and surprisingly deep play disguised behind a façade of strobe-lit clubs filled with virtual capacity crowds. As the title further alludes, actual talent is required to get the most value out of the game as well, with the hyperactive-paced digital diversion best experienced after chugging a Red Bull energy drink.
Selling for $5.99 and sporting a soundtrack freshly-dipped in hip-hop, drum ‘n bass and funked-out beats, Skillz’ high challenge level and glowstick-waving aesthetic isn’t likely to usher in the electronic revolution that never was. Treating its subject matter with TLC and reverence though, the interactive amusement doesn’t feel like a chintzy throwaway either, offering an experience more akin to that found on handheld console systems than typical mobile outings. Solid treatment of the subject matter aside, it would be far-fetched to expect the application to suddenly reignite mainstream interest around rave culture in gaming circles. With additional downloadable songs and Android and PC versions anticipated this fall, however, it should keep more than a few blacklight-plastered butts wiggling through the holidays at minimum.