Our boogie ain’t biased. We can recognize a groove when we see one, and we give props where necessary. It’s just that nobody has graced the iPhone gaming scene with a solid gold groove yet, and Hip Hop All Star certainly doesn’t reverse the bad reputation that DJ games have.
For starters, HHAS has a pretty awful track list. There are a few tracks that are good, including one roof-burner by Busta Rhymes, but on the whole the tracks are generic with no variety and bad sound quality. What’s more, there are only 10 total songs, which is a far cry from the robust track lists of other iPhone rhythm games. Even a stinker like DJ Mix Tour gave you 16 songs.
Break it down.
The core gameplay that surrounds those songs is no better. HHAS lacks any kind of challenge or difficulty to extend the play time of this game. We can pretty much guarantee that on the first playthrough of the career mode the vast majority of players will make it through with no less than a three out of five on every song. Even then, most of the ‘mistakes’ you’ll make come from the fact that the pickups are too close together, so you’ll often accidentally trigger more than one (unless you have the very daintiest of fingers).
It’s not just the pickup placement, though; HHAS has some major core design problems as well. The notes you have to tap come scrolling along a spinning record, so notes closer to the center move slower than the ones on the outside. HHAS also does almost nothing at all to utilize the iPhone’s capabilities beyond the touch screen. Plus, there’s no variety from song to song in terms of play. Since hip hop songs generally have a pretty similar bass line and beat, most songs play identically to one another.
One of the biggest gameplay problems with HHAS has to be the Scratch Mode. If you do well enough over a stretch of time, a meter will fill up and when fully charged it will allow you to enter a scratching mode where you score points for scratching quickly. Pretty standard stuff for a rhythm game like this– it’s the same as Star Power in Guitar Hero.
The problem is that scratching is completely incoherent and you just make muddled noise, making it musically unsatisfying. What’s more important is that the amount of points you score in a single scratching session can easily quadruple the amount of points scored in all of a song’s regular play combined, which renders everything else but Scratch Mode utterly pointless.
Ultimately, HHAS is lacking key features from several other rhythm games on the iPhone, and is woefully lacking in the features it does include. A tiny track list, bad sound quality, uninspired gameplay, and major design flaws are all things that alone would be enough to sink a rhythm game, but when combined all in the same product the results are intolerable. HHAS seems to be a cheap, portable clone of the upcoming console game DJ Hero, but even in that modest goal it’s a failure across the board.