The PSP application that's only as awesome as you are. Unless you aren't awesome. In that case, it's way MORE awesome than you are.
The coolest thing about Beats, and not to say that everything else about it isn't very cool, is that after you're done reading this you can hop on over to store.playstation.com to download it to your PSP. It costs five bucks. It is an excellent application to have sitting in your memory stick. And here I say application for a reason, because as much gameplay as this program has it never escapes the illusion that it is primarily a glorified MP3 player.
Pressing randomish sequences of the face-buttons has about as much to do with music as PaRappa the Rapper has to do with rapping. Say what you will about those plastic guitars and odd dance pads but they do add to the overall experience. Possibly more unfortunate is that hitting or missing any of the "notes" does nothing to the song itself. So right away you're going to have to accept that the game is basically being superimposed over your choice of tunes. You could in fact just let the music play to the end of the track without scoring anything at all.
But don't let that discourage you, as the game on top is enjoyably addicting and is not completely divorced from your music. The game works like this on normal setting and above: in the center of your screen are three circles and lines of circles with face-buttons marked on them that are coming in from top, left, and right of the screen. As the marked circles hit one of the three center circles, you hit the corresponding face button to score points. To hit marked circles coming from the left, you must also push left on the d-pad. You push d-pad right for the ones coming from right, and you leave the d-pad alone for the center circle. Building streaks of successful hits raises a score multiplier that goes right back down for every missed beat. You also build a bonus gauge by hitting sparkly marked circles which once filled you can activate to temporarily double your score multiplier. But during that time the marked circles come flying in from everywhere.
Did any of that make sense to you? It's a lot simpler than it sounds and the result is that you can't help but try again and again even beyond mastering the art of hitting face-buttons in tune. There're 12 possible button combinations to worry about, and in a rhythm game that can get extremely hectic. Don't expect replaying a track to give you any advantage as the face buttons you need to hit and the direction they're coming from change every time you play the song. And being that the only correlation between the buttons you're pressing and the music is that the buttons broadly represent major beats in the track. The stages are generated procedurally, allowing you to use any MP3 you have on your memory stick. There're many times when it is extremely successful, but since it seems a rather broad algorithm generating the levels there're a few times when it's not. Though not being accurate doesn't really detract from the fun all too much, when it works the game really shines.
See here's where the fun really lies, just like in Beats' cousin Phase for the iPod, you're playing games based on your music. Sure it has a couple of its own tracks that come with the game but those are no fun. Anything from Beethoven to Bowie, from Yoko Ono to Yoko Kanno, from Grandmaster Flash to the soundtrack from Flash Gordon, it's all good. But I figured that already, so I had a bit of fun and put a particular podcast through its paces. (Let me tell ya, Beats picks up on Garnet Lee really well.) And establishing that any MP3 will really work, you have yourself an infinity of selection made by you and for you. My personal favorite file to play is a recording of me and my friends having high-jacked our college radio station. It was a long night, and it makes for a hell of a high score.
But no matter what you're playing the game plays exactly the same. From minute one, you've seen all the game part of it has to offer. It's just an application that gives your fingers something fun to do while say... you're listening to tunes waiting for the plane to take off. The game's difficult complexity is absorbing, and before long you're across the country and that last minute paper work you wanted to do in-flight was completely forgotten. It's that good. Even without the punishment of failure, the compulsion to just keep hitting those damn beats is very addictive stuff.
But going the extra mile is the inclusion of a beats generator. After doing the tutorial, I'm content enough that I believe some entrepreneuring DJ could mix a real kick ass track. A track, mind you, that you can share with other players and play on Beats like any other MP3. On top of that is the ability to create tracks together with your friends, which I must say is awesome.
Complaints about representing actual music playing in mind, this download at its cheap price still earns the highest recommendation for any PSP toting rhythm genre playing music loving fan. What are you waiting for then? Go buy the thing right now! Hell, if you forgot the address its right over there at store.playstation.com. Don't know what store.playstation.com is? Well if you really need one, then there'll have to be an article for another time. But seriously, just check the site out. It's pretty neat.
What's Hot: It's cheap! It has multiplayer! It builds levels from your own MP3s! You can make your OWN beat patterns! Buy it!
What's Not: The buttons only loosely correspond to the music. There is no lose condition.