Every now and then a game comes along that simply does not fit in any existing genre. Games like PaRappa the Rapper and Resident Evil fit this description to a T, and as a result have successfully spawned new genres -- rhythm & survival horror, respectively. There is now one more game that can easily be added to this list of genre-benders: SCEI's Playstation 2 title TVDJ.

TVDJ (aka. Be On Edge)
Yes, it's the rare, exciting, original title screen of the game, complete with the old name.

   Announced as a surprise title at the Playstation Festival 2000 as Be On Edge (or BOE), TVDJ caught many people off guard. Not really a puzzle, music, or action game, and straying quite far from the realistic trend that PS2 titles have taken, BOE features cartoon-styled graphics and heavily stylized characters. The game then takes these and blends them seamlessly with a killer techno soundtrack. While a first glance the game seems simple and graphically unimpressive, seeing it in action proves to be a real treat, and actually playing it ends up being a true joy.

   The start of the uniqueness that is TVDJ is the concept behind the game. You're an editor for a T.V. station called BBB Television. Your job is to assemble shows and music videos into a crowd-pleasing form. The single playable level at the PlayStation Festival featured a lion by the name of Codename 777 and his James Bond-like exploits, though others have been revealed to take place anywhere from the wild west to suburbia. Packed with action, the 777 level follows the agent through car chases, explosions, dancers with switchblades, and other near-misses with death. Of course, if you were able to take your time editing the shots together, the game would be much different -- not to mention much less fun. Instead, your job is to edit the footage on the fly, and to the beat of the throbbing techno soundtrack. The Codename 777 level had 8 scenes to edit in 5 minutes, with each scene taking 10-15 seconds to run its course. After completing the show, you then get to view it in its entirity, mistakes and all, as it 'airs'. While this sounds like it may be an easy task, it turns out to be quite challenging.

 Assembling clips
In the studio

   TVDJ's challenge comes through its gameplay, which fits into the Othello-brand "simple to learn, difficult to master, and addicting as hell" category. The game's interface features three things: the video screen, the excitement meter, and the editing bar. The video screen shows the clips that you're using, and ends up being of little consequence while you're playing. The excitement meter measures how exciting your scene is, and the editing bar is where you actually create your scene, as well as where the gameplay takes place. The editing bar is shown in a film style, complete with frames and sprocket holes. Each frame on the bar is the length of a single beat of music. The editing bar is broken up into eight-frame segments (which would obviously be eight beats of music). The clips that you work with are placed in blocks; pressing the Triangle button lays down a single frame, Square lays down a two-frame block, Circle a three-frame block, and X a four-frame block. Keeping in time with the music, you have to fill each eight-frame segment exactly.

   Laying down blocks adding up to more or less than eight will force you to restart the scene from the beginning. Thus, four two-frame blocks are all right, eight single frames are okay, but three two-frame blocks and a three-frame block mean a restart. Successfully completing an eight-frame segment adds to your excitement meter. As if keeping track of which blocks to lay down at what time wasn't hard enough, the blocks must be laid down to the beat of the music as well. This means that a laying down four-frame blocks is much easier than laying down four single-frames. To keep people from simply laying down two four-frame blocks over and over, the more daring you are with your editing and the quicker cuts you use, the more excitement is added to the meter. You also have to mix up the length of your cuts a bit; laying down only single-frame blocks may boost your meter up, but the game recognizes what you're doing and starts the scene over. In all, this proves to be very unique, and very fun, gameplay.

Codename 777
Codename 777

   TVDJ's unique gameplay is coupled with an equally unique look. As mentioned previously, the game uses heavily stylized graphics that look just like a hand-drawn cartoon. Flat-shaded polygons are combined with cel shading to give the figures black lines surrounding them, just like you would see in a Saturday morning cartoon. Even the shadows are highly controlled and sharp, just as they would be in a cartoon. This style is accentuated by the character and background design, both of which are done in a similar style.

   Of course, a game that relies on music must have a soundtrack that is good, or the game won't work at all. If the level that was playable at the Playstation Festival 2000 is similar to the rest of the music in the game, then the possibility of bad music shouldn't be a worry in TVDJ. Extremely reminiscent of music by the techno act Fluke (best known in the video game world for the song "Atom Bomb", as heard in Wipeout 2097 and Wipeout XL), the music is good, fast, and drives the game well. Luckily for the less co-ordinated, the music changes and slows down with each re-do of a scene, allowing for more time to think.

   If the remaining levels in TVDJ are as well done as the one that was shown at the Playstation Festival 2000, then the world is in for a treat. While some may dismiss the title for its cartoony look and feel, this is not a title to be overlooked by any means, and even has the gameplay and style to become another PaRappa. Currently about 15% completed and on track for a summer release in Japan, TVDJ could just be the catalyst that will unite the world into one big happy family. On the other hand, it could simply represent the most unique title seen for the PlayStation 2 so far.

Preview by J.T. Kauffman, GIA.
Developer SCEI
Publisher SCEI
Genre Rhythm
Medium DVD
Platform Sony PlayStation 2
Release Date  June 29, 2000
TVDJ gets a release date, price
7 screenshots
Japanese box art