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Game Review: Pixeljunk 4AM (PS3)

Yes that is a screenshot! Pixeljunk – home to some of  PS3’s more acquired tastes and gems of gaming have returned with a second collaboration with Baiyon (Pixeljunk Eden) for what is not so much a game but an interactive music loop suite.

Using the PlayStation Move controller you are presented with arty wave painting each one with a collection of samples. Each symbol on the controller responds to a certain sound – bass, beats, synth and percussion. Each of those have four loops to mix together and you cleverly drag them from the corners of the screen and drop them into your mix. The move button can be held to twist the pitch and frequencies and by swishing the move controller you can really get some wacky sounds. In addition there are one-off sounds you can try to record over these endless riff bars and although the sound palette is relatively small, there’s still plenty to get creative.

Getting creative is what it’s all about as if you’re online, your music will be broadcast out for people to listen to and wave their controller to cheer you on. As a musician already, there is something quite marvellous about having this feature and having already hit a few hundred people at one time being in my audience, there’s nothing quite like it. The move implementation also makes the experience utterly unique, almost like you’re part of the sound waves themselves.

There are a few issues and that’s purely down to a few annoyances with the program itself. You can mix different sound palettes together but I thought that I often hit the limit of samples allowed and then it will cancel out one of my drum loops. What actually is happening is that the samples cancel themselves out after 16 bars and so you have to keep your wits about you if you’re going for an endless mantra. On the plus side, it keeps things fresh but occasionally this can get in the way while I’m taking a lot of time and effort to sculpt loops from the one hit sounds to make added musical layers.  Also if you’re not a fan of the strictly low-fi music of Baiyon, you’ll find a lot of the samples are very similar and possibly underwhelming. That said, although there’s not tons to play with here, its surprising how much you can twist and turn the same sample into completely different things.

Positives

~Nothing else like it

~Music and motion combined in the most intuitive and seamless experience to date

~Playing to an audience is one of the most elating things I’ve experienced in gaming in recent memory

~Fun trophies

Negatives

~Some very samey samples

~If you lack imagination and exploration you’ll fall short very early on

Conclusion

Utterly unique and hypnotic, I have literally spent hours playing to crowds expressing music and finding new ways to twist sounds and shapes.  I would have liked a broader variety of samples on offer and for more samples to unlock earlier on in the playing but as a product, it is something that I think a lot of people will have great joy experiencing regardless of how deep you dig into it.

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