Q-Games has quite the kaleidoscopic pedigree, touching on very different genres with each game they produce in the Pixeljunk series. The latest creation from the studio is called Pixeljunk 4AM and it is the most cerebral title they have to date. 4AM presents itself as a ‘Virtual Audio Canvas’ and I would argue that it is more of an experience than an actual game. It is a musical toy using motion controls in an innovative way, allowing the user to create a soundscape of rhythmic synesthesia. 4AM does away with the traditional sense of mixing music but is built on the foundation of loops, beats, and samples. You take the role as the conductor and with your Playstation Move baton, must paint a blank canvas with sounds as your medium.
At its core Pixeljunk 4AM is an ambient electronic four track music mixer. You have a bass loop, drums, rhythm, and a synth channel. Each of these instruments can be controlled independently or as a group, allowing you to tweak them to get the desired sound. During playback individual channels can be dropped in and out of the mix, allowing you to highlight different instruments for solos and dynamic mixes. Tie this in with some amazing visuals and you have yourself your very own home grown rave. Think of 4AM as a fun way to mix music because it does away with all the technical aspects of the art like knobs, switches, and sliders and replaces them with the PS Move controller. You’re free to control the music as you see fit and even though there is not much game to play I found this to be one of the most innovative uses for the PS Move.
This is what my basement looks like during a 4AM session.
You can control each of the channels by moving the controller to one of the corners. Each of the channels have four loops associated with them giving you sixteen in total, which is pretty limited when it comes to making a song. I would ‘grab’ a beat and pop it into the song, and experimented with many different combinations of loops and beats but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wanted more to work with. You can’t change the tempo of the song, so once you have played around for a couple hours it begins to all sound the same. 4AM gives you a couple tricks like ‘hitting’ one of the directions on the screen and that will activate an effect that will slightly alter the song. Each track can be manipulated by moving your arms around, and this is where most of the creativity comes into play. Moving up and down adjusts the pitch of the track, and side to side adds or reduces delay. Rotate your wrist to add phase effects and push and pull to control the reverb. It is a really cool system that words simply don’t do justice, you just have to try it out for yourself.