Developer: Gorilla Software
Release Date: October 27, 2008
As far as the Nintendo Wii is concerned, there have been several rhythm games revolving around different themes. Aside from the instrument-based games for the system, one of the more interesting ones to have come out in recent months was We Cheer, a rhythm game based on cheerleading. Using either one or two Wii Remotes, the user performed various cheer maneuvers to 30 different popular songs across several different venues. The formula worked and became a surprisingly good rhythm game. Not content to let just one cheerleading game exist on Nintendo's latest console, THQ released All Star Cheer Squad, a title that tries to capture an audience by making use of the Wii Balance Board along with the Nunchuk and Wiimote. Unfortunately, a new control scheme doesn't help make a game fun if the other elements fail to deliver.
The premise of All Star Cheer Squad is similar to the competitor's product. As a new cheerleader sent to be a replacement for an injured squad member, you're out to prove to the team that you belong. After a successful tryout, you go with the team to several competitions, each involving a different routine, until you win the championships.
The game is pretty packed when it comes to having different things to do. You have the Career mode, which is your single-player story mode. This is where you end up unlocking different outfits for your character as well as different cheer moves. You have a multiplayer mode that can be played cooperatively with up to four people or in versus mode with four players. When playing versus, you have access to several different attacks as long as you perform well, making it a very competitive experience because you always have to worry about your opponents messing you up at every opportunity. Finally, you have a Cheer Editor mode, where you can construct your own cheer routine to any song on the disc.
The different game modes listed above make All Star Cheer Squad sound like it would be fun. Once you play the game, however, you quickly discover that any semblance of fun quickly gets thrown out the window. No matter what you do, you're simply reduced to getting different poses done at the right time. This isn't so bad, since it seems to follow the basic formulas set by other rhythm games before it. The problem is that the competing product, We Cheer, makes the experience more enjoyable by having you perform complete movements when the arrows appear, as opposed to simply getting the correct pose at the right time. This also makes it boring for other people watching you, since all they'll see is you doing several stiff poses instead of something that resembles actual cheering or dancing. Things get worse when you decide to add the Balance Board to the mix. For some reason, the game has to calibrate the board every time you begin a cheer routine. The process is quite long compared to Wii Fit and if the calibration fails, you immediately fail the routine. This makes the experience frustrating and renders the packaging's single bullet point useless, since no one wants to go through all that hassle for the extra peripheral.
The controls for any game can make it a fun experience or a completely terrible one. Unfortunately, the controls for All Star Cheer Squad are so bad that it won't get played much on your console, if at all. The game uses a combination of the Nunchuk and Wiimote to perform most of the moves. While the Nunchuk is known not to be as robust as the Wiimote when it comes to detecting movement, it actually performs fairly well here. The problem is that because it is tethered to the Wiimote, the amount of movement you can have becomes limited simply because the cord between both controllers isn't very long. The other major issue with the controls is that once a move is done, it can take up to a full second before the game detects it. This is a cardinal sin for any rhythm game, since it completely destroys the rhythm established by the musical track. Considering that this was played on a set that produces no lag in other rhythm games, this is pretty much a deal breaker here.
The graphics are decent but nothing spectacular. The backgrounds are fine, though they seem to lack much detail. This is especially evident in stadiums, where the crowd is nothing more than a bunch of colored dots. Both the male and female cheerleaders are nicely rendered but don't push the graphical power of the console. During any cut scenes, none of the mouths move at all; this was a forgivable technique back in the PSOne days, but this is completely unacceptable on today's consoles. More disturbing, however, is the fact that everyone is smiling all of the time. No matter what's happening, everyone has big, wide smiles that seem to be plastered on their faces. It's a bit disturbing to see, and it has the opposite effect, making the characters more unattractive.
At best, the sound is mediocre. There's not much to speak of when it comes to the sound effects, and while they're not bad, there's also nothing special to make them stand out. The music isn't what you expect, and it doesn't get people excited enough to want to cheer. Instead of going with licensed music that people would recognize, the title goes for some basic beats by artists that could either be unknown or in-house musicians. As for the voices, the delivery and dialogue are bad. Everyone sounds like a snob, and the dialogue seems like it was lifted from movies like "Bring It On," where all girls hate each other. Couple this with the aforementioned control problems, and you have a game that sounds like it does nothing but hate you every time you play.
By the end of the tutorial, it becomes painfully clear that All Star Cheer Squad is a complete mess of a title, and it doesn't improve as you progress through the game. While the graphics aren't really exciting and the music isn't good enough to make someone want to cheer, the controls are what really bring down this title. Completely unresponsive and boring, the game suffers even more when the Balance Board is being used. If you really want a good cheerleading game, stick with We Cheer and leave this one on the shelves.
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