It should come as no surprise that more and more artists and record labels are embracing the iPhone and iPod Touch as a new means of marketing themselves to today's generation of heads who are either covertly or overtly electronic geeks. In December we took a look at the Delicious Vinyl DJ application, and now to kick off February 2010 we're taking a look at the RJD2 Mix application to see whether or not it's something you'll want to throw down $2.99 for!
RJD2 Mix is a bit obtuse at the start, as you're offered the screen pictured at the right with no explanation what you should do next. Fortunately it's a loading screen so if you simply do nothing a menu pops up with one big blue button in the middle that says Start To Mix, and well below it you are offered three other non-game options: RJD2 on Twitter, RJD2 on iTunes and More Touch Mix - the latter being a whole series of iPhone app made by Future Audio Workshop similar to this one. In the press release accompanying this game FAW says that "RJD2's iPhone remix app finally (gives) fans and tinkerers alike the chance to experience a bit of what it sounded like in RJ's studio as he worked on upcoming LP The Colossus." That's a bit daunting given RJ has to have tens of thousands of dollars of equipment in his studio - how could a $2.99 touch screen app possibly even come close to reproducing that?
The bad news is there's no chance in hell you're going to get that kind of value out of this release - the good news is that you're certainly getting well more than $2.99. RJD2 has pre-loaded this app with five different tracks from his catalogue, ranging from "Iced Lightning" off "Since We Last Spoke" to "Ghostwriter" off "Deadringer," stripped to their instrumental essence and conveniently chaptered into sections that start at each break. Your touch screen essentially functions like two 1200's and a fader, with a stripped down MPC to add in effects. It takes a little getting used to going back and forth between the "A" side and the "B" side, but this was a necessary and honestly clever way of getting around not being able to display both tracks at once even though both are playing at once. Oh and don't worry - the songs RJ and FAW selected are BPM matched already. There's no need to work the variable pitch control - not that there is one to work mind you. They had to simplify things a little for the non-DJ's out there. There's a short demo video below showcases how all these elements are operated during actual gameplay, although with more proficiency than I managed during this review (practice will make perfect).
One of the most innovative features of the app is the MPC effect slider can also be operated using your iDevice's built in level sensor. Push down with your finger on the "tilt" button and simply turn your wrist one way or the other to produce the modification. This might look totally ridiculous in public, but if you're jamming to the game walking around your home there's no reason not to give this a try instead of having to have one finger on the screen at all times. Then again you might want to because there's one other thing the demo video really doesn't show off - you can actually scratch the beats by moving your finger up and down the track. Unfortunately since you can't manipulate the fader and the record at the same time (I need one hand to hold my iTouch and the other to play) you really are going to lose something in translation compared to standing in the booth as a DJ, not to mention the whole "A" side and "B" side means you can't "look" at both records at the same time even though you can hear both and fade between them. There are also times the app randomly just won't let you scratch, and even reloading the records into your virtual turntables won't give you control back.
Overall these are minor gripes given how much fun it is to manipulate the instrumentals of an eccentric (and sometimes reluctant) hip-hop producer like Ramble John 'RJD2' Krohn, and the surprisingly deep amount of features that they managed to squeeze into the tiny amount of space there is to work with on the screen. Even though I think the iPad is an overpriced and gimmicky tablet computer, I have to admit I imagined how much more fun this application could be on it, with an almost lifesized turntable spinning under each hand and a full array of MPC effects at your command. In a way this takes the DJ Hero concept and gives it a (no pun intended) really clever spin, because instead of trying to recreate somebody else's mix to score arbitrary points, it's an open-ended experience you control to create your own - you "win" when it sounds good. For $2.99 it's really hard to go wrong with this app.
* Design: 7.5 out of 10 * Replay: 8.5 out of 10 * Overall: 8 out of 10