Pixeljunk 4AM – Review
Neither music game nor music software, PixelJunk 4AM is perhaps best described as a music toy. Somewhere buried beneath the ambient visuals and arcane interface, Q Games’ latest is built upon the well-worn fundamentals of multi-track mixing. But rather than providing players with faders and channels and the other familiar features of the mixing desk, 4am makes esoteric use of Sony’s Move motion controller. It casts the player as a sort of orchestral conductor, wielding the controller as a baton used to pluck sounds from the air and tap out rhythmic stabs that layer on top of the soundscape.
Meanwhile, in gathering an audience from across the globe to eavesdrop on your creations in real time, pairing players with listeners, 4am has ambitions toward becoming a virtual concert space in which we can express ourselves musically, albeit using the library of sounds and effects provided. In terms of back-of-the-virtual-box features, 4am has a lot going for it – although it’ll take you a little while to grasp how it all slots together beneath its inscrutable texture and presentation.
Reach down through the tie-dye psychedelic visuals to that core and, in essence, 4am is a four-track music mixer, with one channel proving a bass loop, another drums, another rhythm and the last the melodic synth line. Each of these channels can be played in isolation or in unison, dropped in an out of the mix with a double tap of its corresponding button on the controller. Hold down the button to solo the track, silencing the other three to, for example, highlight the bass or hi-hats for a few bars, then tap all four buttons in unison to bring the band back.
Each of the four channels has four associated loops, all slightly different to the others. Moving the controller to one of the four points of a compass in front of you and ‘grabbing’ it in space using the trigger button selects a loop. So, for example, you activate the ‘drum’ channel by tapping the X button before pointing the Move controller above your head till it shakes to indicate it’s found a loop, then grabbing it and releasing the button to activate a four-to-the-floor kick drum pattern.
Between the 16 loops at your disposal, it’s possible to make some moderately varied pieces of music, although you are unable to change the tempo or rhythm of either the individual components or the track as a whole. However, you are free to manipulate the effects that are applied to each of the four channels individually, clicking the Move button and moving the controller in space to change the type of effect and its intensity. Lifting your arm up tweaks the pitch while side-to-side motions add delay effects. Rotating your wrist adds a phase to the track and if you hold down the trigger button while you apply the effect, it’ll record your actions and loop your inflections.
Read the rest of this review over at Eurogamer here.