DJ Hero
Credit: Activision

Playing Guitar Hero doesn’t require the skill of an actual guitarist. Part of its ingenious fun is how it sells the illusion of ax-shredding when you’re really just twiddling a giant oblong joypad. DJ Hero — whose Renegade Edition comes endorsed by no less than Eminem and Jay-Z — spins a slightly more authentic rock & roll fantasy, albeit one best enjoyed by those more likely to raise a glowing iPhone for Moby and Dr. Dre than Slash and John Mayer. The setup is Rock Band?Guitar Hero-derivative. You can play as a winky subculture caricature rendered in Gorillaz-video-style anime, or as your own customized character. You advance through stages of a DJ’s party-bumpin’ career by completing short set lists of infectiously inventive mash-ups, like Cameo’s ”Word Up!” mixed with Bell Biv DeVoe’s ”Poison,” or Black Eyed Peas’ ”Boom Boom Pow” melded into Benny Benassi’s ”Satisfaction.” (The allure of hearing more and more of the killer soundtrack is enough to push you forward.) The gameplay extrapolates Guitar Hero‘s color-coded whack-a-molery. Players use a fake plastic laptop turntable, but minus the needle, whose function is replaced by red, green, and blue buttons. When the corresponding icons traveling on separate tracks pass into the strike zone, push the buttons. You can simulate scratching with a booda-booda magic-lantern rub of the platter, and execute other sonic tasks — blending or separating tracks, distorting the sound, dropping in samples (”Yeah, boyeee!”) — with other switches. It’s all admirably credible…and incredibly exhausting. The easy setting is too easy, but medium is too hard; the game needs a just-right. DJ Hero is an impressive piece of work, but it is work. Sounds awesome, though. B