Hexagroove: Tactical DJ is a shot of concentrated joy for fans of dance music, but the lack of content or a proper tutorial prevents it from becoming a truly useful tool for would-be DJs.
The Nintendo Switch exclusive Hexagroove: Tactical DJ combines rhythm and strategy to gamify the art of beatmatching. It essentially tries to teach you the basics of DJing, which is a fun idea in both theory and practice.
In Da Club
Hexagroove: Tactical DJ isn’t your run-of-the-mill game, with hours of content, quests, or a well-defined goal. It’s also not a music mixing software you can use at home to create your first track. It’s here to teach you the elements of a proper dance mix: the important bits (and beats) you should know, how to read your audience, and when is the best time to wrap it up.
The campaign takes you through seven different clubs, each with its own groove and theme. Heading into a new venue always feels like a unique experience. You have different loops each time, new visual effects, and your audience responds to different mixes and vibes. The campaign, although short, manages to keep DJing feel fresh.
But it’s not only the locations that keep Hexagroove: Tactical DJ exciting. The game has over 420 instrumental loops in 10 different genres, from artists all over the world. As you progress, you unlock more effects, tricks, and filters used by real-life DJs.
Turn the Music Up
The music is excellent, as it should be in a rhythm game. Developer Ichigoichie did a fantastic job with the soundtrack, and you’ll often find yourself humming along and moving to the beat. Switching between genres and individual loops is smooth yet impactful, and the cheers from the audience are always rewarding and enticing.
When I say “audience,” I’m referring to rather expressive sticks going up and down at the bottom of the screen. These sticks are your masters, you play to their amusement. Your sole purpose is to make the sticks happy. The sticks are life. The sticks are love. But it can be challenging to understand where you stand with your audience, and whether they like your track or not. You only have their movements and some flashing lights to indicate their mood, and it’s pretty unclear at first what it all means.
The low-poly yet visually rich graphics, the dancing sticks, the fireworks, and confetti – all contribute to an atmosphere of stardom without overpowering your senses. The sound and graphics work really well together. It’s a shame that the gameplay doesn’t quite do what the developers hoped it would – teach you how to DJ.
Hexagroove: Tactical DJ is pretty simple, perhaps even too simple. The campaign takes less than two hours, but you have local multiplayer and freestyle modes to pad out the experience. But not by much.
The campaign starts off very confusing, and it’s this confusion that is the game’s main weakness. There’s no proper tutorial, and while you can read the “How to Play” section, there are barely any in-game instructions. You don’t really understand what you’re supposed to do or how to captivate your audience. After going through the written instructions, then back to the game, and then back to the instructions again, things started falling into place. Still, it can take a long time to wrap your head around the gameplay.
But even then, the scoring system remained a mystery. There’s no single, consistent explanation to the scoring system, so all you can do is theorize. It’s too bad that a game with an implied mission of teaching doesn’t tell you what you’re doing wrong and how to improve.
Occasionally, you’ll need to select new instruments for your loops. Here’s another part of the game that’s a bit incomprehensive. Hexagroove: Tactical DJ wants you to keep your beats fresh but not “too fresh.” You can’t tell when you’re overdoing it, and much like with the scoring system, you’ll often need to repeat a level because you just couldn’t figure out what went south.
Mixing Things Up
The tracks in the game are composed of four quarters, represented by pulsing lights around your turntable. The lights change color based on the audience’s reaction, and your goal is to mix in new loops to get the best result possible. That’s basically the entirety of Hexagroove: Tactical DJ. It’s a fun gameplay loop that sadly does get boring pretty quickly.
To mix things up, so to speak, there are the minigames. One such game is helping your audience bounce a beach ball. Whenever such a ball enters the scene, you need to rhythmically press a button to make it bounce, and increase your crowd’s satisfaction. It adds more stuff to do while you mix loops and helps speed up the gameplay a little.
When your track shifts a phase, you encounter other minigames. One is very similar to Guitar Hero and requires you to press buttons at the right time and in the correct order. Missing one note will most likely throw off your entire rhythm and result in a low score, so some wiggle room would have been appreciated. Another minigame has you following a visual “sound wave” with the right analog stick; this one’s pretty chill.
When you’re done with a minigame, you go back to the main stage to add loops and keep your crowd on their feet till the end of the track.
The idea behind Hexagroove: Tactical DJ is an admirable one, but it doesn’t manage to deliver the basics of being a DJ. Developing a more robust tutorial would have made it a useful and fun tool for any aspiring disc jockey.
But it’s still an enjoyable rhythm game, with upbeat tracks and gameplay you can really lose yourself in once you figure everything out. The visuals provide the necessary feedback without being too distracting, and the beats can be pure ecstasy when you get it right.
Release Date: Oct. 03, 2019
Genre: Rhythm, Strategy
Available On: NS
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
Our Hexagroove: Tactical DJ review copy was provided by the developer.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.