[EDIT: Lead developer Rowan (from the video) contacted me via e-mail and elaborated on the game mechanics. Suffice to say that the mechanics are much more extensive than you see in the video, so take any speculation about the mechanics with a grain of salt. It sounds really cool- I will be posting an update article in the near future, so look for it!]
PixelJunk 4AM is the first game in the series overtly about music, and is a collaboration with Baiyon, a Japanese multimedia artist who created the graphics and composed the music for PixelJunk Eden. The developer, Q-Games, has a habit of innovating within densely-populated genres (shooters, platformers, etc.) with the series. They often emphasize pretty environments, music, and ambience, so this is a step in a natural direction for them, and they bring a healthy amount of experience to the project.
The game is hard to explain, but the first video does a decent job- you use the playstation move controller to add, remove, and manipulate any of 4 music tracks (drums, bass, etc.). There are a number of hand-held mechanics that allow you to manipulate the sound of any of the tracks in real-time, and the graphics on the screen change accordingly. The controls look natural and appealing, and the concept looks fairly simple, once you start playing. If there is more depth to the game, the developer is keeping it under wraps for now.
4AM’s website is even more subtle! It’s hip and cryptic! “Perform, create, share, live”- it sounds like a quote from a highschooler’s Facebook profile. Check out their more stylistic trailer from Tokyo Game Show:
If you could afford a laser light show and a professional DJ for your big party, wouldn’t you be pissed if the guy pulled out a rhythm game? I think developers of music games always hope that the game will be the centerpiece of a big dance party, but that’s rarely the case, at least from my experience. This game introduces an online aspect where users can listen to others manipulate tracks in realtime, so they’re really banking on the game being fun to experience from a third-person perspective (if you get a DJ rather than a Top 40 playlist for your party, he had better be interesting).
Hey, wait- I think I recognize someone… They invited Rowan, from the first video!
“4am is that deep night hour. In clubs, the music drifts to a new level entering a deepened state that often seems removed from reality. Whether you’re in a club or not, 4am always feels like the night has gone on forever, where there’s still that little bit of time left before dawn.”
(What? Someone’s taking house music too seriously? On MY Internet?)
On the other hand, I can understand why they say “The game needs to be played to be understood”- the game looks pretty fucking cool. On the surface, the music creation tools seem a little shallow; but it could be deceptive. I am quite impressed with how the game seems to take advantage of the Playstation Move- it really engages three senses in a way that most other games cannot, which is important for a music game. The feeling of reaching out into space and feeling a track (via vibration) that you can pull into your song is totally appealing, and you can’t fault these guys for being creative. At the very least, I’m interested in seeing more of 4AM, and I’m definitely eager to play it for myself.