Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Montreal
Release Date: August 7, 2007
Boogie is not the most technical rhythm/dance game on the market, nor is it likely to be the most comprehensive karaoke experience, but the most important negative statement we can make after spending time with the game is that it is not, by any means, hardcore. The learning curve is largely nonexistent, the visuals and concepts are notably non-threatening, and the soundtrack is comprised entirely of pop and R&B hits from the last several decades. In other words, the game is very, very mainstream.
Which is fine, but many rhythm gamers are likely to be turned off at the mere mention of that word. Boogie was designed with everyone in mind — children, parents, and non-gamers alike. As such, it grabs elements from several different subgenres in the wide-ranging spectrum of games set to music.
On one side, it's a rhythm game, challenging the player to shake the Wiimote in sync with the beat. But it's also a karaoke game, much like SingStar or Karaoke Revolution, albeit with fuzzy original characters. Toss in some video creation tools, and you have a game that touches on a little bit of everything, but may not hold much appeal for those who have been down any of those separate gaming paths in the past.
The rhythm/dancing half of the game can be played entirely with the Wiimote, though the Nunchuk attachment can be used to make some aspects of the experience a bit easier. For the most part, all you're doing is moving the Wiimote up, down, left, or right — almost like a maraca, but with short, singular movements.
Variety is the key to earning a high score, so be sure to mix things up and move the Wiimote in all directions (in time with the beat of the song). The only time you'll need to worry about following prompts is when pulling off a special combo, which happens sparingly over the course of a performance. Also, players will be asked to strike a pose at key points, which requires rotation of the Wiimote in the direction of an on-screen target. Coins and power-ups will fall onto the dance floor during each song, and the d-pad (or the analog stick on the Nunchuk) is used to walk around as you dance.
Certainly, the singing portion of the game isn't markedly different from those aforementioned pillars of the genre, but it's a proven mechanic that seems to have carried over well to Boogie. Players must match the pitch of the vocals by singing the words that pop up at the bottom of the screen, but there is a slight twist — so long as you are singing reasonably well, the game will play the vocal track recorded for the game, not whatever it is that emanates from your (presumably untrained) pipes. Producer Alex Hyder calls it "the shy person's karaoke," but your neighbors may call it a saving grace. The included USB microphone looks to be the same as the Logitech-branded one on the PlayStation 2, and can plug into one of the ports on the back of the Wii.
When putting together the soundtrack for Boogie, the developers at EA Montreal had one ultimate, self-imposed guideline to follow: "Basically, our razor for the music was songs that get everyone on the dance floor at a wedding," said Hyder. As such, tracks like "Oops… I Did it Again" (Britney Spears) and "Don't Cha" (The Pussycat Dolls) are saddled up nicely between established classics like "ABC" (The Jackson Five) and "Brick House" (The Commodores). Like most other karaoke games, every song is a sound-alike, which we suspect has as much to do with licensing fees as it does the ability to separate the vocal and instrumental tracks. A total of 39 songs will be included, and from what we saw, the soundtrack compares favorably to those of other recent karaoke games.
Multiplayer in Boogie sounds like an interesting prospect, as one player can dance and the other can sing (as far as we can tell, one player cannot do both simultaneously), and both can move around the dance floor in a battle to collect coins and power-ups. Positional gameplay is the name of the game, and being in the right position to grab an item (or block the other player from getting it) may be the difference between a high score and utter defeat. Hyder revealed that antagonistic items would also be in the game, including one that freezes the other player for 10 seconds.
Saved replays can be chopped up into as many as 100 pieces in the included video editor, allowing players to apply several special effects to each miniature segment. However, one of the more compelling effects may be difficult to see, thanks in part to Nintendo. The effect in question uses an overlay that is only visible with the help of "3D glasses" (with the red and blue lenses), but due to the fact that said glasses are not an officially licensed accessory, Nintendo will not let EA include them with the game. Hyder was unsure of what the company would do to counter this bizarre limitation, but it seems more than likely that interested parties will simply have to obtain the cardboard spectacles on their own.
What's most surprising about Boogie is that it spent just six months in development, yet seems entirely playable and reasonably polished. According to Hyder, the team is "happy with the results, and looking forward to doing 10 times as much with the next one." Assuming Boogie reaches its target market of, well, everyone, they just might have the opportunity to deliver on that claim.
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