Stay on target Review: ‘Fantasy Strike’ Is A Fighting Game That Understands…Game of the Year: Jordan Minor’s Best Video Games of 2018 For too long the definition of “Game of the Year” has been unfairly narrow. How boring is it to see every website shower the same stale AAA games with praise at the end of each holiday season? So at Geek.com we’re doing what we can to put a stop to this in Game of the Year, a new column celebrating worthy alternative picks for the year’s greatest game regardless of genre, platform, year of release, or even quality. Here, any game can be Game of the Year!There was a point in middle school where I went from wanting to perform music to wanting to write and manipulate it. I got into MIDI music software and vague DJ aspirations. There’s a different kind of creative joy that comes from combining and remixing existing sounds, of hearing new art emerge from the old.That’s a tough joy to replicate in video games. Making music that sounds good is really hard. It takes a lot of memorizing math and scales and all kinds of patterns, to say nothing of artistic taste. Give the player too much freedom, and they just make noise like in Wii Music. Meanwhile, rhythm games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero were huge hits but those are about following music, not leading it. Activision’s wonderful DJ Hero experiment in my opinion actually came the closest to letting players experience the joy of the expressive improvised mash-up.Until now.Harmonix has spent like two decades mastering the art of the music game. But ever since the plastic instrument boom they created and thrived on went bust, they’ve needed a new hit. Backed into a corner, they’ve now partnered with Hasbro to create Dropmix, a new product that combines music games with Skylanders-esque toys to life ideas. The result is weird, risky, and perhaps the greatest music game I’ve ever played. It’s a legitimate Game of the Year contender.With the base Dropmix you get the physical deck and 60 starter cards for $99. Looking like something out of hip-hop Yu-Gi-Oh, the battery-powered deck (unfortunately lacking in AC charging) lights up as you place cards on it and pairs via Bluetooth to a mobile device with the free Dropmix app. There’s even a handy slot to place your phone/tablet. From there you can start up one of Dropmix’s multiple game modes.Freestyle is the purest expression of Dropmix’s creative brilliance. Each card (featuring lovely original abstract art like some kind of musical tarot deck) represents a loop of a certain part of a specific song. Different colors stand for different parts like bass or percussion. You can then play up to five of these cards at once and listen as they are seamlessly blended together into an original dope mix.Want to combine the bass line from Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” with the vocals of “It’s Tricky” by Run D.M.C? Why stop there? Throw in the horns from Cake’s “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” and the drums from “Barbra Streisand” by Duck Sauce. The first card you play sets the tempo and pitch. But certain powerful cards that can function as all parts of the song tend to reset things. Disturbed’s “Down with the Sickness” can’t help but loudly announce its presence with some Neil Cicierega-approved grunts. You can stack the RFID cards on top of the each other and the card on top always takes command.Colors on the deck help guide you toward making better mixes but you can really do whatever you want, and it’s incredible. It’s unreal how well the software knows when to drop in the new tracks. Outside of creating a cacophony of shouting with multiple vocal cards, it’s difficult to make something that sounds truly bad. I got chills when “Bring Me to Life” segued right into a hot Ricky Martin beat. It sounds like a magic (iPod) trick and so wonderfully captures the experimental beauty of being a rave DJ. You could honestly put on a killer club set using this tool, provide an exciting surprising soundtrack at your next party or drug adventure.Dropmix also does a fantastic job at educating you about the artistry that goes into a song’s component parts. It’s like the Song Exploder podcast. Some sounds can overpower others, and building the right balance trains your ears to appreciate the unique flavor of each audio ingredient. The subtle bass horns of Charm Syndicate’s “All Frazzled” can really make a mix much more dramatic. Meanwhile, if you quickly need to inject some energy, thrown down “Bangarang” by Skrillex.That said, because all of these samples are compressed inside one somewhat large mobile app, the sound quality isn’t fantastic. You can save custom mixes and listen to them later without even using the physical deck but even as a non-audiophile I was a little disappointed with the results.Dropmix also cunningly uses of the collectible card game format/business model. The base game comes with a healthy amount of cards, but I’m already itching to buy expansion packs either centered around certain genres and artists or even just full of random new tunes. Harmonix flexed its Hasbro muscles and showed off a limited PAX card featuring the Transformers theme song (why not “The Touch?”). But literally every song ever would be a great addition. Daft Punk! Freezepop! Chance the Rapper! Chaos Chaos ft. Justin Roiland! I would pay a significant amount of money for a single foil card featuring “All Star” by Smash Mouth with custom Shrek art.You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Dropmix’s other modes at all. They’re not bad. In Clash mode individuals or teams compete against each other to dominate the board using cards and modifiers of certain colors and strength. Meanwhile, Party mode has players keeping the crowd happy by taking requests like a real DJ.These other modes are nice for people who’d like some more structure as an excuse to keep playing, and they can help you discover new great mixes you may have never considered. But given the option, I would always just rather just play Freestyle. Dropmix is at its absolute best when it’s being the greatest artistic musical toy, not game, technology has ever produced. Sorry, Instrument 1.I’m obsessed with Dropmix. I want to buy every expansion pack. I’m constantly showing it off to people in the office. I want to bring it to parties and family gatherings. I love seeing other people’s musical taste come through in their mixes. I’d love to see real musicians mess around with it. I made me wish I listened to more contemporary pop songs so I could recognize more of the cards (even if it’s also a low-key indictment of how all pop music basically sounds the same). I create instrumental mixes, plug in my headphones, and use Dropmix as personal editing music. I’m listening to it right now. I love Dropmix and I can’t wait for everyone else to love it once it drops September 24.In 2009, The New York Times published a review of Harmonix’s The Beatles: Rock Band that might be the most hyperbolic piece of video game criticism ever written. “The Beatles: Rock Band is nothing less than a cultural watershed, one that may prove only slightly less influential than the band’s famous appearance on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1964.” Sure. But with Dropmix, Harmonix has made something, a Game of the Year, actually worthy of that level of praise. Its success would be an artistic, musical win for all of us. It sings.Check back next week to read about the next Game of the Year!