For those of you unfamiliar with the long running series, Pentavision’s DJ Max Online made its debut on the PC before moving across to the PSP under the name DJ Max Portable. In 2008, the series expanded into arcades worldwide with DJ Max Technika, a monster of a machine using a 22 inch touchscreen in favour of traditional button inputs. With the advent of Sony’s PS Vita, Technika’s touch based rhythm gameplay has moved out of the arcade and back into gamers’ pockets everywhere in the form of DJ Max Technika Tune.
Making the most of the Vita’s five inch display, gameplay in Technika Tune is standard rhythm fare. Notes appear on the screen and it’s your job to tap them in time to the beat. However, rather than using the vertical highway design dating back to Beatmania in which you wait for the notes to fall, Technika Tune sees the screen split horizontally as you follow the notes left to right in the top lane and right to left in the bottom, all the while looking like you’re watching some demented game of Tennis. There are a variety of notes to keep you on your toes which make great use of the multi-touch mechanics.
The visual design of Technika Tune is sublime. With a colour palette straight out of a confectioner’s window, there really is no other game visually comparable to it. Even the menu screens are a joy to look at, the bright white backgrounds contrasting heavily against the pastels and primary colours on display. Each song in the game comes with an accompanying live action or animated video using a range of art styles, with those tracks from Korean group Kara using their official clips. Unfortunately, this can sometimes be a distraction, given that on more advanced songs there is a lot of action happening on the Vita’s screen.
The most important part of any rhythm game is, of course, its music selection. With Korean artist PSY’s Gangnam Style recently tearing up charts worldwide, the K-Pop sound should be familiar to all by now. Whilst this might not be to everybody’s taste, rest assured that the array of 67 tracks packed into Technika Tune cross a range of genres with something for all tastes on offer. Not all of these are available upon starting the game, but this does provide some incentive to work your way through the Star, Pop and Club modes, if only to unlock certain songs. The developer’s promise of DLC tracks only serves to complement what is already one heck of a selection. Each track can be played using the front touch screen and rear touch panel, although it is possible to turn off the rear panel, which is handy when holding the Vita becomes a challenge on harder modes with both in play. For those just starting out, never fear – only the front screen is used in Beginner Mode.
This brings up the sole complaint levelled at Technika Tune . While on the easier game levels it’s as simple as putting the Vita on a flat surface, attempting to play with both front and rear touch mechanics makes holding the system a nightmare. It’s no secret that as with many rhythm games, Technika Tune’s learning curve is more like a sheer cliff face. For many that fact alone will put them off, let alone compounding it with issues holding the system. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem that there is any real detriment to turning the rear touch panel off during gameplay if it becomes too much of a problem.
In keeping with iOS and Android gaming trends, Pentavision has seen fit to include Facebook integration directly into Technika Tune. While not absolutely necessary, it is a great addition if you’re looking to compete with other players’ high scores or simply show off your skills given the lack of a multiplayer mode in the title. Though being unable to directly compete against players worldwide is disappointing, it does leave the developers room for improvement if a sequel is made down the track.
You have to hand it to Pentavision, they know how to pump out the eye candy. It’s lucky for them that Technika Tune also plays just as sweet as it looks. Taking full advantage of Sony’s latest portable hardware, Technika Tune provides one of the most innovative rhythm experiences to come out in years as well as one of the best Vita exclusives to date.