By the middle of 2009 Farmville reached the frame of reference of gamers and gaming rubes alike when it started violently sprouting across news feeds, becoming the gift that keeps on giving whether or not you were even asking for anything. Facebook connoisseurs should recognise Nightclub City as one of the additions to the clutches of social networking games that blossomed after Zynga helped make the site a viable gaming platform.
DJ Rivals is its iOS twin sister, a spin-off from the original Nightclub City that has been redesigned for your phone. You slip into character as a DJ with a heart set on taking out your musical nemesis, the Bland Corporation, an organisation who has been replacing guitar strumming creatives with faceless drones. Now you're battling cross-country against rival drone DJs in what's basically a music rhythm game that's been bred with a check-in application in the vein of Foursquare, letting you use real world locations as settings in your game and giving you the opportunity to become the 'House DJ' of your local Tesco.
Your mission is to take out tedious frauds by unleashing attacks in turntable-based mini-games which roughly function like a lesser man's DJ Hero. All battles feature songs that play for 30 seconds, and a tapping and scratching system that has you unleashing different attacks based on how successful you were at performing the song. Missing an input lessens the amount of damage you do, and as you gain experience you can unlock slightly more complicated moves that generally require more finger work but do more damage.
There's a basic RPG-style stat system involved as well. Levelling supplies you with points that you can add to improve your attacks and health, and cash that you'll end up using toward new DJ decks and gear. It's a shame that this kind of customisation gets drowned out in the slog of repetition required to move forward in the game.
DJ Rivals suffers from a supreme lack of imagination. Even now that it's left the old confines of Facebook and can tinker with some of the iPhone's features it fails to offer any legitimate sense of variety. Visually the game suffers from an enormous sense of deja vu, with every city you visit looking like an eerie carbon copy of the last. The iPhone's GPS ability lets you 'visit' locations close to home, a nice idea but unfortunately all it actually adds to the standard game is a different name above the same on-screen buildings you always had.
And sadly it's a metaphor for the entire game. This is a standard Facebook game in iOS' clothing that ambitiously tries to make use of the iPhone without ever really doing anything at all. And while it functions well enough as a mini-game it fails to offer any real sense of progression - something that tends to be necessary in a game where levelling is involved. There is very little incentive for any player to keep scratching out tunes in this treadmill of a game, so despite a fairly decent combat-meets-rhythm mechanic all the good the game offers is overshadowed in bore.