Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Montreal
Release Date: August 9, 2007
EA, the paragon of sequel-it is, is seriously trying to work on revitalizing itself with more fresh content alongside Madden Version 1489012 and Ultima Online: Kingdom Reborn, but so far, one of their larger-name efforts just isn't getting it. Boogie is a sweet concept ruined by insufficient content, and to make things worse, they threw in one of today's most overused concepts in an attempt to add accessibility. You can dance, you can sing, and you can sometimes do both, but most people just can't do what a game like this needs them to do — get into its groove.
Dancing video games are currently defined by choreography, whether it's the ubiquitous Dance Dance Revolution, or iNiS's Ouendan series, and the only freestyle game I've seen is the mediocre Korean online dance title, Audition, which basically took the classic semi-freestyle dance offering Bust-A-Groove and added more moves. Boogie, however, tries to go for pure freestyle, with no choreography whatsoever to limit your options.
Unfortunately, this freestyle dance is then juxtaposed with the idea of having a score (since score is what defines the "missions" of story mode), and things start to break down, thanks to the largely arbitrary and non-fluid structure. The game quickly garners a second strike when you realize how few moves and options there actually are because of the control scheme, and it strikes out completely with a poor array of characters, weak unlock system, and carbon-copying Karaoke Revolution right down to having a significant number of songs from previous KR releases.
Boogie's play mostly divides into two modes: Karaoke and Dance. As previously mentioned, the Karaoke mode is too derivative, to the point of being identical. The only difference between them, besides the Wiimote letting you dance around in the background for no added value whatsoever, is that the bar that marks when you should sing moves, instead of the notes themselves. While this does feel more like a real karaoke machine, the bar's speed has all the consistency of static, making it difficult to figure out how to time your singing if you don't know the song. Additionally, its pitch control is far too tight to give you any hope of garnering close to a decent score if you sing while drunk, baked, are just a crappy singer, or are being silly in any way. Plus, the only source of background variety is your character's dancing, making things very boring from a visual standpoint as well.
The Dance mode is what EA has shown in the game's advertising as the real meat of the gameplay. Your Wiimote, when moved up, down, left, or right, does one of four moves. The A button lets you switch between a small number of groups of moves for some variety, and the Nunchuk or d-pad lets you move around the stage. You can also "strike a pose" with the Z button, which puts you in perhaps the most confusing targeting game I've seen on the Wii to score points, and attempt to perform "super moves" by holding down the Wiimote's B button, then following a precise order shown onscreen, to the beat. By the way, if you don't do something to the beat, you don't get diddley squat for points.
Does this limited array of options sound anything like freestyle dancing to you? Even Audition's pseudo-freestyle nature had a larger variety of moves — not just per character, either, but in total. Even the choreography-based dance games let players come up with a wider array of moves, and look better than the insipid cast of characters in this game, even if you're dancing like an idiot. Most damning, however, is that both are far more fun than Boogie ever really approaches. The Dance mode ends up looking stupid, and in the effort to make a game out of it, ends up de-emphasizing the dancing part of the game a bit much. (This is made worse by making it so you have to move past little gremlins to pick up varied awards, and randomly tap the Z button to the lyrics of the song for a "solo" at the oddest times).
So what we have here is half of Boogie cloning another game, while the other half doesn't hold up to much scrutiny. However, a good enough presentation and song list can create an enjoyable experience, and EA stuck to a clear tack with their song selections by favoring a more "retro" theme with classic danceable music from past decades and a few recent songs to mix things up. The resulting variety, however, is fatally stilted by all of the songs being covers, and many of the songs possessing little to no recognizable beat for significant portions of the tune. When you have to be on beat in order to score, having songs with barely recognizable beats isn't a good thing. If EA can afford to make most of Rock Band's songs be built off master tracks, they could've done the same for Boogie, too.
Boogie certainly looks nice, but without, well, anything going on to make things interesting, only your dancing shows. This quickly wears thin, since there's such a limited array of moves, and they often don't transition fluidly from one move to the next. A mere five characters, even with a fair variety of costumes you can put on them, is also very limited, and EA's attempt to give them personalities in the game's story mode doesn't make them any more fun to play. The voiceovers have bad speech rhythms, turning most of the cast into ethnic stereotypes more so than the dialogue does.
Boogie hit on a good concept, namely that "Wii + Dancing = Freestyle Dancing = FUN!" The developers came up with a theoretically good way to do this, but screwed itself up by not providing enough variety in moves, making boring characters, and trying to save itself with a karaoke mode that feels tacked on and doesn't work well if you're drunk or messing around, essentially killing the game's effectiveness for party use. It's commendable that EA is taking risks on games like this, but sometimes it takes more than a good concept to sell a product, and EA Montreal lost sight of this somewhere along the way. EA's marketing push for Boogie seems to have quieted down near its launch, as if they knew this game wasn't going to live up to expectations. They're also quietly porting the game to PS2, almost as if to admit it was a failure and didn't really make full use of the Wiimote controls. This title isn't party enough for party players, isn't hardcore enough for hardcore players, and isn't fun enough to be recommended to anyone.
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