Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Release Date: September 16, 2008
Red Bull BC One is one of the oddest Nintendo DS games I've ever played, mostly because it doesn't seem to understand what it's trying to be. At first glance, without playing it, you might figure you're getting into a music or rhythm game, maybe something akin to Elite Beat Agents, especially considering that the Red Bull BC One license is all about dance and music. However, the actual gameplay comes off as more of a puzzle game, and a surprisingly decent one at that.
Sure, I'm familiar with the Red Bull energy drink, but I wasn't aware that they sponsored this big, breakdancing competition that apparently has garnered a fair share of attention within the B-Boy community. As opposed to other dance competitions with a similar flair, Red Bull BC One is all about one-on-one battles instead of team competitions, and it features 16 participants who are battling it out for the main title. It didn't start up until 2004, so it's still relatively new, but it's definitely an odd choice for a DS game, puzzle element or no. I could easily see someone using this as a Dance Dance Revolution title of some sort, but as a DS game, it's definitely an odd pairing.
When you begin playing Red Bull BC One on the DS, you'll be greeted with a character creator. These character models are apparently attempting to be a little nostalgic in their 3D design, and they all look like something lifted straight out of the old Sega Saturn Virtua Fighter 1 and 2 titles, with blocky polygons and no distinguishing facial features. There is a surprising amount of customization you can take on here, with a variety of skin tones (including odd colors, like red and green), plus a few different body types and clothing options. As you play the game, you'll also unlock a variety of other clothing items and designs to outfit your avatar.
If you think you're going to be playing some music-based mini-games, you'd be incredibly wrong. The closest thing I can think of to compare this to would be the classic puzzler Qix, but even that's a pretty far cry from being close. On the bottom touch-screen, you'll see various colored shapes, or pinpoints, that you'll use to draw lines between, connecting the dots. The object is to connect all of the points within a given color to create a shape. For instance, if you have four brown dots on the screen, ideally you'll create a square or rectangle out of these. Most of the puzzles will have multiple color points, and you can't mix and match them; all lines must be connected to the same color dots. The shape selection starts off pretty tame and easy at first, but as you reach the halfway point of the main career mode, it'll start tossing tons of dots at you all at once, and the bottom screen begins to get pretty convoluted with all of the lines crisscrossing each other. You only have a certain amount of time, which is displayed at the top of the touch-screen by a small bar, to draw as many shapes as possible. If you leave shapes undone or end up breaking your lines, then you'll lose one of three lives.
There is a series of these puzzles that you'll undertake for every B-Boy battle you get into, with a series of levels divided into four different competitions, each set in different international locations. I'm not entirely certain if your opponents are supposed to be based after actual breakdancers, but I'm guessing they're not, so if you are a fan and you're looking to see someone you like in the game, this might not be for you. Also, there's not really big a over-arching story going on with Red Bull BC One; it's basically your created guy facing off against all of these opponents, with little snippets of dialogue taking place between them both before and after matches. These lines are also recycled often, and they're generally pretty lame one-liners, so there's definitely no plot to get involved with.
Besides the core dot-connecting puzzle gameplay, there are over a dozen mini-games that will pop up as well. When you're battling against another B-Boy, you'll typically do four or five connect-the-dot puzzles and then a mini-game. After that, you'll get a slight pause in the action with a bit of dialogue, and then a few more puzzles and one more mini-game to finish off the match. These mini-games are all pretty throwaway type stuff, such as coloring in a figuring to gain points, or spinning a circle in various directions according to the on-screen prompts. There are quite a few of them, but the title tends to recycle the same five or six over and over again, so there's a good chance that you won't unlock them all even after playing through the entire game.
The music in Red Bull BC One is certainly good, with a lot of techno-inspired beats that are definitely pleasing to the ears; it meshes well enough with the puzzle action on the bottom screen, but not in any way that affects the gameplay. You're not altering the way the music sounds by connecting shapes, so once again, I can't really figure out why the license is attached to a puzzle game like this, but regardless, I still found the gameplay to be addictive.
Outside of the main Career mode, there's a freestyle mode that allows you to play puzzle after puzzle, and then a mini-game mode that lets you just tackle the mini-games you've already unlocked via the Career mode. Rounding out things is a local multiplayer mode that you can take on with one other player who owns the game; it'll allow you to compare your shape-drawing skills to each other, competing to achieve the highest score within a round.
Red Bull BC One is not particularly challenging, but it's also fun while it lasts. As far as a budget-priced DS title goes, this is a lot better than I would have expected, and if you're willing to give it a shot, it'll most likely surprise you. The license might not match up, and if the developer had created it without "Red Bull BC One" being attached, I believe that more people would have been willing to check it out, but as it stands now, it's definitely enjoyable. I haven't really played a puzzle game like Red Bull BC One that I can think of, so there's no easy comparison, but for $20, you might as well check it out. You might be surprised to find that you enjoy it.