This past May saw the release of Gabrielle's Ghostly Groove: Monster Mix. We enjoyed it more than we expected to, and you can read why right here in our Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove: Monster Mix review. In fact, you'd better read that review, because the retail sequel, Gabrielle's Ghostly Groove 3D, doesn't deviate much from its WiiWare counterpart at all.
We've seen this sort of re-release/pseudo-sequel business before with Pokémon Rumble Blast, and like that game, Gabrielle doesn't offer us too much more than we had on WiiWare already. But that's not to say it's without its specific charms.
The game opens with Gabrielle sneezing. We didn't make that up. It's a significant sneeze, though. In fact, it's such a significant sneeze that it kills her outright.
At first she doesn't realise that this is what happened, but, when she finds that she can communicate verbally with her cat and that her mother can't see her, she knows something's wrong. With that the game is underway, and it's Gabrielle's job to find a way to come back to life (or end her "out of body experience," as her cat tactfully puts it.)
The game itself is played as a series of rhythm sequences. Gabrielle learns that the titular "ghostly groove" can be used to scare humans, their screams serving as a kind of currency for ghosts and ghouls. With enough screams she might — just might — be able to get her body back.
This all sounds like bad news for Gabrielle, but it also turns out to be bad news for gamers, as the rhythm sequences are spread painfully far apart. It's not uncommon for five or even ten minute stretches to separate these interactive scenes, and the rest of your time will be spend tapping to advance dialogue. No matter how funny that dialogue is — and we confess it is often quite funny — it's extremely dull to have to sit through stretches of it that last exponentially longer than the isolated gameplay itself.
It's a serious design flaw, and it really does hurt Gabrielle's Ghostly Groove 3D. Young children make up the audience that the game should appeal to most, and the chatty characters are likely to bore them long before they've had much of a chance to do anything. There is no voice acting, so that makes it even more tedious for any child who can't yet read.
When there's actually something to do within the game, though, it's quite fun. The dances are performed by following prompts, of course: these appear on the top screen and you tap, slide and flick your way across the touch screen in response. The controls are solid and responsive, and we never had a problem with our actions being read improperly.
During these segments, Thriller Time may trigger. Thriller Time is a sort of revolving micro-game sequence in which you are given a deliberately unclear direction regarding what to do... but do it well enough and you can earn Gabrielle some screams.
How well you do in the dances, and how many screams you collect, will determine what you can unlock. The unlockables include decently amusing mini-games, replayable dance sequences and accessories for Gabrielle that she will wear throughout the game. In fact, you can ultimately customise her so that she resembles anything you like, turning her into a sort of single-game Mii in that regard.
The soundtrack isn't quite as fantastic as a rhythm game deserves, but it's certainly more than passable. It's fun and indeed groovy, but not quite memorable. The visuals, though, are phenomenal: characters move fluidly, and the cel-shading is gorgeous. There are, of course, some impressive 3D effects, though playing the game with the 3D disabled won't impress you any less. If nothing else, Gabrielle's Ghostly Groove 3D is a delight to watch... we just wish it let us play with it a lot more.
The fact that so much of the game consists of tapping through redundant dialogue really prevents us from recommending this too strongly. It's a small amount of gameplay padded out with enormous reams of filler, and that's a serious problem. When you get to dance or play a mini-game it's quite fun, but that fun only lasts a few seconds before you're on to yet more dialogue.
Gabrielle's Ghostly Groove 3D, sadly, is just a ghost of what it could have been.
Gabrielle's Ghostly Groove 3D is infectious in all kinds of great ways: the music is good, the graphics are lovely, and the characters are charming and quirky, but it’s let down by tedious dialogue and repetitive gameplay. For many gamers, these things won't pose huge problems, and they will find a lot to enjoy. But we expected more of this retail sequel to a WiiWare game, and it almost seems like this game gave up the ghost.