Following the Traxx
Though the game's intro and all the marketing moves made thus far would probably have you believe this is something of a hip-hop beats creation tool, and to be honest it definitely has that, but I haven't listened to most hip-hop since Snoop was on trial for murder, so I decided I'd try to coax something else out of the application (and it is an app, not a game, make no mistake). Lucky me, I actually managed to make something that was mildly listenable and wasn't just a straight 4/4 beat.
Traxxpad is broken down into a handful of separate tools that are then culled together to actually form a track. You'll lay down beats with the Real-Time Interactive Sequencing Tool (R-TIST, hurrrr), either by mashing the record button and doing it in real time to the supplied metronome or by going in and placing everything perfectly in time. The sheer number of pre-set samples you can pull up is staggering (there's a 1000 of them that ship with the game, but as I'll explain in a bit, the number is more or less infinite); by loading up banks and mapping the sounds to the face buttons, you can lay down fairly complex tracks.
Jumping over to MyXxer, a basic mixer that lets you fine tune any samples you want, though actual tweaking is done through the MeLOD app, giving you power over individual channels at a time and the ability to seriously screw with stuff. MyXxer's bigger bro is the Studio Through a Console (yes, that's STAC), and it's here that most of the music will come together, but there is one other little thing that Traxxpad does and I could huge every last person working on the project: you can drop in your own samples, heading out to record whatever you'd like with a USB mic and then tweaking all those options in the app.
Though building things in Traxxpad is obviously the idea, is the fact that you can then export things to the PSP's Memory Stick and then, using the USB connection on the PSP, dump it to a computer for more powerful editing or the layering in of analog elements like vocals or actual instruments (not that you couldn't do that with enough samples, but obviously there's an ease of use issue there). When MTV Music Generator infected PS ones all over the place and friends and I started messing around with it, we were invariably stopped by the fact that there was no real way to output all our work short of doing an analog dump. Here, it's done as an MP3, and it's really only something the PSP can do.
The PSP gets a lot of crap for being a system rife with ports and hand-me-downs from the PlayStation 2, but here's a perfect example of Eidos and developer Definitive Studios taking the tech that was packed into the PSP, the variety of different input and output options it supports, the fact that it has massive amounts of storage (remember, the PS one had crap for actual memory and even worse for storage optons), and created something that isn't a game, but actually serves a purpose. I don't think we're going to see any electronica DJs using Traxxpad to mix with (not unless Eidos gives them some serious cash), but the fact that a music creation tool like this even exists, and that it's portable is damned impressive.
Unfortunately, the game's barrier of entry is sky high. The instruction manual tries to walk you through the process, but switching back and forth between the sub-apps in Traxxpad can be incredibly disorienting. It's probably best to learn each bit and be comfortable with it, just screwing around until the controls are natural, then move onto the next part before trying to combine everything. Patience is rewarded, and with a pair of headphones and whole lotta free time, Traxxpad becomes a completely unique experience.
I can't recommend it to everyone simply because it isn't a game, it's an actual program, but if there are any budding producers or fans of hip-hop and electronic music, you're going to absolutely eat this up. Serious props to Eidos, too, for even releasing this thing. With little to no actual advertising, I'm hoping the game doesn't completely shrivel up and die, but then that's down to you and your wallet, now, isn't it?