Monday, August 27, 2007

And You're Gonna Boogie Oogie Oogie 'Til You Just Can't Stand it No More!

So EA puts out this game called Boogie - a new entry in the follow-directions music game genre started by Dance Dance Revolution, and bulked up by the vastly overrated Guitar Hero games (sorry folks, it's just DDR with your fingers, NOT anything like playing guitar).

Boogie takes the dancing from DDR but places the control into your hands rather than your feet. While one could theoretically play DDR with a controller instead of a dance pad just by pushing directional buttons, Boogie uses the Wiimote's motion sensors to let you control your dancer much like a victim of the Imperius Curse (!) is controlled by wand point - totally subject to your whim, but following your directions with jerky motions and a certain creepiness.

When I first read about Boogie, one of the key selling points for me was that EA had made a decision to allow freeform "dancing" rather than only giving you points for following a specific dance route ala DDR or Guitar Hero. This sounded awesome to me because I've been trying to find some Wii games that my daughter can play to have fun, without having to worry much about winning or losing. Now, EA did deliver on the freeform idea - you only have to follow directions for certain special moves - but they failed to make the game FUN to such a degree I wonder if it was on purpose.

Don't get me wrong, my daughter actually likes the game, but she's 4 years old, and Boogie is supposed to be for ages 10+! For me, the dancing portion of Boogie is abysmally simplistic, and changing the difficulty only makes it harder to earn medals and adds absolutely nothing to the gameplay itself.

You can flick your Wiimote up, down, left, or right to make your dancer dance. Diagonals do nothing, so far as I can tell. Each of those directions has one or two dance moves your dancer will execute. If you do the same direction over and over in perfect rhythm, your dancer will start to do a more flashy move....over and over and over and over until you choose a new direction. You can use the nunchuck joystick to move your character around on the stage. This is useful for collecting bonus points that appear randomly on the stage, and probably adds something to the video playback feature, but does nothing in terms of gameplay and, in fact, probably costs you points because you aren't dancing while you move. Finally, if you jump through the hoops long enough, you can execute super-moves, which do require you to follow a pattern in rhythm, but score lots of bonus points.

So the actual movements you do are a bit dull, and the movements your character does in response are duller yet. That's still not SO bad, because a game like this really is what you make of it. I could play Wii Baseball while sitting down and using one arm to mimic a pseudo-swing, but that's no fun. Similarly, I can sit or stand still and flick the Wiimote to the song rhythm, or I can get into the spirit and move my feet a little.

No, where Boogie utterly failed me is in its critique of RHYTHM. I can't make my dancer look even marginally competent (do flashy moves) unless I stick to the beat, but the beat that Boogie forces me into is HORRIBLE for dancing! Just because a song is written in - let's say - 4/4 time doesn't mean you're moving your feet/arms/legs/head on those exact beats. That's great for ballroom dancing, perhaps, but quite by definition the exact opposite of the rhythm you'd feel when dancing to a disco song full of syncopated beats! I started playing music when I was about 3 years old; I KNOW I have a good sense of rhythm, and I KNOW that if Boogie tells me otherwise, Boogie is - simply - full of crap. Scoring a lot of points means sacrificing myself to the metronomed beat exuding from the Wiimote's speaker, and it is positively maddening!

On the up side, dancing isn't all Boogie is made to do. Boogie comes with a USB microphone and a Karaoke feature that actually isn't bad! I've read reviews about the karaoke that discredit it, saying that it doesn't care what words you sing if words at all, so long as you get the notes right. And yes, that seems to be true - I could "Moo" my way through a song and still rack up the points if my Moos are on pitch. Is that a bad thing, though? If I go to real life karaoke, I care a very little if the singer gets every word right so long as we're having fun, and having fun at karaoke is often best exhibited by a lack of aural bleeding. This is, similarly, why I have a pretty low tolerance for The Singing Bee's contestants ;)

From a game-for-my-child perspective, the colorful characters and their customizable outfits are a plus.

And when it comes to pluses, that's about it, I'm afraid. I'm *OK* with my Boogie purchase because I have a small child who thinks it's fun. If not for that, I'd probably not have bought it in the first place, but if for some reason I did, I'd be a very unhappy customer. There's better Wii party-style games to be had, so if that's all you're looking for, skip this one!

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