Posted by Damien McFerran
It's time to grab the mic and shake your money-maker, because EA's Boogie is about to hit the dancefloor...
Music-based games – often assigned the rather auspicious genre title of ‘rhythm action’ – are big business these days. Titles like SingStar, Dancing Stage and Guitar Hero are massive sellers, attracting thousands upon thousands of rabid fans with each new update. It’s therefore unsurprising that veteran publisher EA has decided to strut into the arena with its own musical masterpiece – Boogie.
Announced a short time ago amid a whirlwind of hype and expectation, Boogie promised much early on – EA made it clear that it intended to merge the gut-busting action of traditional dance mat games with the deliciously cheesy crooning of popular karaoke titles. Now Boogie is with us and sadly EA’s lofty claims have fallen flat – to a certain degree at least.
Boogie is divided into two sections: dancing and singing. The former is the most demanding and complex, requiring the player to learn a series of movements and follow on-screen instructions in order to keep in time with the beat indicated via a handy on-screen metronome (as well as a clicking sound emanating from the Wiimote’s speaker).
Although prolonged play in this mode is likely to give you a good workout, it doesn’t take long for unfortunate shortcomings to be exposed. You never actually feel like you’re dancing – simply shaking the Wiimote is about as demanding as it gets. Although you’re perfectly entitled to wobble your booty along with the music, your sweaty cavorting won’t have any discernable effect on proceedings. It might raise a few laughs from onlookers, but that’s about it.
The karaoke sections are a little more straightforward and make use of the bundled USB microphone. A pitch gauge is displayed on the right hand side of the screen and the different levels of pitch are shown as the song plays out – it’s your job to ensure you keep at the correct level. As is the case in other games of this type, it isn’t strictly necessary to actually sing...as long as the sound you make is ‘in tune’ with the song then success is pretty much assured.
The selection of songs is about as good as you could possibly hope for – there are a decent number of disco classics here as well as some risible recent hits. EA obviously knows that people of all ages will be playing this so they’ve tried to cater for everyone. In this respect the game is a tremendous success, as we can attest here at NintendoLife, having played it with a wide range of family members. Older players will be at home with the funky 70’s hits while youngsters will instantly recognize some of the more contemporary artists (although we have to admit that some of the songs seem a bit racy for pre-teens – Pussycat Dolls, anyone?). The tunes themselves are all cover versions, as seems to be the norm with many similar titles. Thankfully the replications on offer are of a very high standard so it’s not really an issue unless you’re a stickler for accuracy.
EA is the master of ‘drip-feed’ gaming and as you might expect many of the songs are locked when you begin playing. Successful progress results in access to these tunes being granted, as well as different outfits in which to dress your on-screen avatar. There’s scope to create some truly weird and wonderful characters here and in terms of charm it’s hard to pick fault with Boogie. The design is pretty solid throughout and will be particularly appealing to younger players.
Ultimately, Boogie is quite a shallow experience. You only have to spend a few minutes in its company to see that it’s got about as much depth as a puddle. There’s very little scope for honing your technique, unlike games such as Guitar Hero, which allow you to improve your skills as you progress. Although EA is proud to boast that Boogie offers two forms of music-related fun, neither is done to what could be described as an acceptable standard. The dancing sections are often inconsistent and the singing portion is put firmly in the shade by Sony’s SingStar series.
However, all of this criticism is rather pointless. Boogie is designed to appeal to a wide audience, which includes younger players as well as older, casual gamers. We’ve experienced the effect such a title has on kids – it’s like digital crack; they simply cannot get enough and are willing to look past the shortcomings of the game engine and the rather lackluster game design. Older gamers will be dazzled by the new-fangled Wiimote interaction and the wide range of songs; they too will be more forgiving as a result.
Boogie is something of a missed opportunity - a rough gem, if you will. EA has high hopes that it will blossom into yet another lucrative franchise that can be endlessly updated for all eternity. While this is a good foundation to build on, more meat needs to be added to the bones if it’s got any chance of succeeding against increasingly impressive competition. Maybe next year?