Cosmic DJ Steam Early Access Impressions

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I don’t know what the hell is going on in Cosmic DJ, but I don’t really care. I just know that this game is straight up bonkers. And I love it!

Actually, it’s difficult to even consider Cosmic DJ a video game by regular standards. It’s more like a piece of music visualizer software that lets you tap icons to create various instrumental sounds while watching some truly bizarre imagery animate in the background. The story setup — yes, there is a story — sees you taking on the role of a Cosmic DJ under the guidance of what looks like a glowing space particle named STEVE3, the Cosmic Conductor of the Universe. After STEVE3 gets done teaching you the ways of becoming an intergalactic beat maestro so you can throw the mother of all dance parties, an evil villain calling himself STEVE4 crashes the party and sabotages the city’s Jamtenna Network with his harsh vibes. As the Cosmic DJ of Legend, you must travel the galaxy and repair the damaged Jamtennas using the Power of Music.

See, I told you this game was nuts.

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Each Jamtenna is presented as an individual stage on a typical-looking level selection map. Within each stage, you must drop phat beats in order to restore the Jamtenna to its former glory. This entails clicking through five cubes lined up across the top of the screen representing an ensemble of instruments (bass, guitar, drums, bells, keyboard, vocals, etc.) and then using the sequencer across the bottom of the screen to place notes for each track. The sequencer can be toggled on the fly between a 32 x 4 grid for precise note placement, and a tap pad which allows you to click away on four circles to generate notes in a more freeform manner. The main objective being to fill a Jam Meter until you are allowed to submit the sequence and move on to the next phase.

There is no time limit or threat of failure, and thus filling the Jam Meter requires little effort and no music-mixing skill whatsoever. Still, the space techno jams will have you bopping your head and grooving to the beat from your seated computer chair perch. Once you’ve finished a stage, the game automatically records a remix of your work that you can save and listen to from the main menu or export to your desktop as an actual MP3 file. While the track is recorded, you even get to give the song a title and create a cover art graphic for the single using a simple paint editor. No one will ever forget my one-hit wonder club jam classic, ‘Two Turntables and a Corgi’. That shit is hot!

The silliness surrounding this simple gameplay is where Cosmic DJ shines. Each stage is tied in with a ridiculous back story that must be resolved to repair the Jamtenna. STEVE4’s harsh vibes have not only removed music from the world, they have also caused lovers to break up, BFFs to feud, and a corgi named Potato to blast into bits. Each of these storylines plays out like some trippy Adult Swim skit. Even if you don’t do drugs, you’ll feel like you must have puffed a little something’ somethin’ before playing. Take the corgi track as an example. The stage opens with a background scene of the corgi’s floating head appearing in the form of a fireball-breathing 2D shmup boss. Once you fill the Jam Meter, the head turns into a rocket ship and blasts into space where the headless body is seen flying around the galaxy, a rainbow smoke trail left in its wake. Once you’ve put the corgi back together again and recovered his jetpack, the story ends with Potato happily chasing sheep around a garden of yellow flowers.

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A jetpacking corgi is only the beginning of this game’s strangeness. You will also see horses wearing old timey red and blue 3D glasses, 2D digitized muppets riding horseback through the woods, lovers sharing their love of cheeseburgers in a diner seating dancing sheep, a gorilla, and robot TV monitors, and too many other weird things to even recount. Seriously, WTF!? STEVE3’s monotone enthusiasm while narrating the story contrasted by STEVE4’s Cartman-like dialogue only adds to the comedic charm.

As both a game and a music sequencer, Cosmic DJ is fun and intuitive, but also pretty shallow. The Early Access developer note on the Steam page says that the game is “mostly complete,” but there isn’t a whole lot of content here. In terms of technical performance the game feels like a finished product, but it could use more stages and a greater variety of musical themes. The six levels (an introductory stage, four Jamtennas, and a finale) only take around an hour to complete. As catchy as the music is, by the end the songs all start to blur together with similar-sounding beats and melodies. Once finished, I didn’t feel an immediate urge to replay tracks to experiment with different remixes. However, I did want to replay just to watch all the crazy visualizer animations over and over again.

Although the genres are completely different, Cosmic DJ hits a lot of the same notes as the Katamari Damacy games, matching simple pick-up-and-play mechanics with hypnotic tunes and a random, offbeat sense of humor that will leave you completely mesmerized. You may want to hold off to see what else is added to the final game, but even now less than $6 is probably worth it for the sheer oddity of the experience.

Disclosure: A free Steam key for Cosmic DJ was provided to VGBlogger.com for preview by the game’s publisher.

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!