We've published several stories about "Scratch: The Ultimate DJ" without having seen the game running or touching the turntable controller, but that changed yesterday during a mostly hands-off demo in a San Francisco hotel.
"Scratch: The Ultimate DJ" is becoming more of a reality. We've seen the game in person and watched someone mess with an early prototype controller.
Technically, they let me briefly touch the controller and two whole buttons, but this was after the game had been turned off. Still, I touched it. I've even produced a crude drawing of what the controller looks like for you:
I told you it was crude.
The controller is about what we were expecting, but the still-in-development gameplay had some surprises. You aren't just controlling the "DJ-y" bits of songs and randomly scratching along, but switching between different instruments and tapping along with the controller's five buttons. Unlike "Guitar Hero" or "Rock Band," there is no "strumming" needed -- you just hit the appropriate button.
The scratch mechanic can be played with at any time, though careful and creative uses will be rewarded with score multipliers.
Each of the buttons also corresponds to a sample tied to a "battle record" that's picked before gameplay begins. Throughout the track, there are opportunities to mix in these samples and make the song uniquely yours. If you're not satisfied with the hundreds of samples already built into "Scratch," however, the game is compatible with USB microphones and you can record your own. Due to legal reasons, there is no way to share these samples with other players.
A crucial difference between "Scratch" and other music games is how it handles winning and losing. You cannot "lose" at a "Scratch" track midway through. "Rock Band" and "Guitar Hero" will throw a game over screen if you're not keeping up, but "Scratch" allows you to finish every song. It grades performance at the end, however, and provides real-time feedback of how you're doing.
There's a lot going on in "Scratch" and despite watching the developers demonstrate two tracks, the experience left us wondering how many of the mechanics worked. Clearly, "Scratch" is a game best understood by actually playing it. That hasn't happened yet, though we're promised that should happen in the near future. If you have any questions, though, I'll be happy to answer them.