Fans of rhythm-action jukeboxes like Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution, rejoice and prepare to add one more game with a bulky controller to your library. If you've ever wanted to imitate a DJ, Beatmania is the game to make that dream come true.
Beatmania's gameplay is very straightforward, and should be familiar to anyone who's played a rhythm game. A series of bars cascade down the screen in time with the music, and when they reach the bottom, you'll need to either hit the corresponding key on the control panel or, in some instances, spin the panel's turntable-like "scratch pad". The game includes the original Beatmania (which uses only five of the controller's piano-like keys and is generally much easier) and Beatmania IIDX (which uses all seven), each with its own song set.
But while it's a DJ game, the song selection features much more than your average techno and dance music. Want some of Britney Spears' Toxic? How about Moby's Lift Me Up? Or even Funkytown? This game covers a broad range of music styles, including pop, drum & bass, hip-hop and trance. And with more than 50 songs in its arsenal, including remixed and extended versions for advanced players, you shouldn't get bored with Beatmania anytime soon.
It takes a little while to get used to the big DJ-table controller, and until you do, it can be extremely difficult to keep up with the beats. Never fear, though; even if you're doing badly, you can always let your eyes wander over to the side of the screen and watch the strangely interesting videos that accompany each song (or just exit it like a coward). You'll still get a lot of booing when you fail at the end, but at least it softens the blow.
Each song carries its own difficulty level; the easiest will toss a few notes at you, one at a time, while the hardest will have you pounding the controller in an effort to keep up with the beat. This difficulty is adjustable, too, and each song can be modified with things like extra speed or hidden notes. So if you especially like a song, you can always make it more challenging. For a real challenge, though, give expert mode a try; not only will it enable you design your own multiple-song "course," but it'll rank your performance on the Internet.
Meanwhile, beginners can train with no pressure in the game's practice mode, while more confident players can try "free mode," which also lets them record their sessions to replay later. Expert beat freaks can opt to use two controllers at the same time for extra insanity, or just compete against a friend.
While we're on the subject of difficulty, it's worth mentioning that the challenge level of each song (ranked on a 10-star scale) seems really inconsistent. You might find that a two- or three-star song gives you no trouble, while a supposedly easy one-star song keeps tripping you up.
For those who loved the arcade hit, this is a long-awaited must-have. But even if you're a newcomer to the series, Beatmania is a fun, rhythmic button-masher that will turn you into a fan.