As a franchise, Kidz Bop is a strange one. While compilations of popular dance songs are nothing new, Kidz Bop releases are actually compilations of covers of dance songs, all performed by a troupe of prepubescent moppets whose voices are auto-tuned and otherwise processed until they arrive, indistinguishable from each other, at Kidz Bop Corporate's desired sound: that of a genderless, emotionless, inflectionless robot.
And by "performed," we should instead say "vocalised," as the backing tracks that they warble over wouldn't feel out of place in a karaoke bar, and it's pretty obvious that these grade-school Ke$has aren't learning to play 15 new songs every six months in order to keep up with the frantic album release schedule.
For these reasons, the appeal of the Kidz Bop series may be somewhat confusing. What, after all, is the point? The songs covered are always in heavy radio rotation anyway, the covers (intentionally) do not attempt any creative reinterpretation of the tune we're familiar with, and any lyrical content in the original song that's deemed too racy is swapped out here for clumsy (often nonsensical) rhyme-alikes. Again: what's the point?
Well, the point is that it's for kids, and we have to remember (as adults) that this product is not designed to appeal to us. We're bound to be baffled by its appeal, because it doesn't want to court us as consumers in the first place. Which, of course, is fair enough. That's not to say that the same entertainment can't appeal to children and adults – see Pixar or The Muppets – but Kidz Bop is by no means obligated to chase down both audiences.
And just as it wouldn't be entirely fair for Rolling Stone magazine to review Kidz Bop Vol. 46 with the same criteria that it would apply to a classic album by The Who, we can understand a certain amount of hesitation when it comes to readers taking our review of Kidz Bop Dance Party! The Video Game seriously. Once again, we are obviously not the intended audience, and we're bound to come into it with expectations that the game may have no interest in living up to.
And that's true. Because one of our expectations was that the game would at least be playable, and Kidz Bop Dance Party! The Video Game made it perfectly clear right off the bat that it wasn't at all interested in living up to that.
The simple fact that we can make it this far into the review without describing the gameplay should give you some idea of how unimportant it was to the developers. Kidz Bop Dance Party! The Video Game (it's like A Tribe Called Quest; you have to say the whole thing) is ostensibly a rhythm game in which you shake, jiggle and whirl your Wii Remote around in an attempt to match patterns that appear on screen during the songs.
Unfortunately, the game does such a poor job of recognising gestures that you almost have to question whether or not you have any input at all. Throughout the songs, at frequently-illogical intervals, a pattern will appear on screen, indicating what the game wants you to do with your Wii Remote. (Quiet, back there.)
Simple movements (left to right, down to up) were read well enough, but anything more complicated was a crap shoot. For example, one pattern asks you to spin in a slow circle with the Wii Remote in your hand. Doing so never successfully registered for us while playing the game, consistently resulting in a miss, yet just shaking the Wii Remote rapidly without otherwise moving (something that clearly should not have been mistaken for a slow turn) got us the points. Likewise, we were once given a pattern so convoluted that we didn't react to it at all, figuring it was easier to just sit that one out. That turned out to be a wise choice as our decision to stand perfectly still earned us full points, despite the fact that the spaghetti mishmash on screen implied that we should have been jittering like a convulsing spider monkey.
And that is the entire game. You can choose to blindly shake your Wii Remote through the songs one by one, earning you Kidz Bop Fun Buxx or some such thing that you can exchange for avatar bling, or with complete freedom over which songs you play when, which will earn you dismay over the path your life has taken. There are also some bonus materials such as a music video and a Meet the Kidz Bop Kidz feature, which, to be honest, may well be of interest to fans of the series, but in no way help to justify this disc's release as a video game.
The avatars are limited to very small selections of hair styles and clothing, requiring you to accumulate credits to unlock the rest. Describing this even as a "small incentive" to complete all the songs in the game is very generous. And, out of curiosity, what's with the Mii-like characters in the background of every stage? Why not just use actual Miis instead of these flat, bizarre approximations? You know you're in for a lacklustre gaming experience when even the Miis look miserable.
As mentioned above, this game was not marketed toward adults, and so it's true that even if it were a well-handled product much of its appeal might have been lost on us. But the fact that the game itself doesn't actually work means it won't be appealing much to its target audience either.
A cash-in is about the most polite thing we can call this. Outright theft would be the alternative.
Fans of Kidz Bop (don't worry, we don't expect you to confess in the comments section) can buy these songs on the much more versatile (and fitting) compact disc format. That would be less expensive for them as well. Kidz Bop Dance Party! The Video Game is about as interesting as it can be to shake a Wii Remote while things completely unrelated to your gestures unfold on the screen before you, and if that does sound like fun, do yourself a favour and stand in the middle of your living room waggling to some old Cheers reruns instead. At least then you'll have a shot at being entertained.