Reviewed: August 27, 2007
Released: August 7, 2007
As the resident karaoke king here at GCM, I was more than excited to take a stab at EA’s first foray into the rhythm genre, Boogie, for the Nintendo Wii. As the first truly high profile competition to Konami’s highly popular Karaoke Revolution, and Dance Dance Revolution series of games (which were recently combined in the very unique Karaoke Revolution Party), Boogie attempts to blend the elements of karaoke and dance into a single experience.
The result is a game that seems to know exactly what it wants to accomplish, but suffers from a range of technical issues – leaving us with a game which is both overly easy, and overly frustrating, all at the same time.
What gamers will notice first with Boogie is that EA has taken out all the stops to deliver a more cohesive single player experience than any of the competition in the past. Rather than simply tossing a bunch of songs and venues in a simplistic menu, Boogie actually makes an attempt at delivering a single-player storyline, complete with unique characters and goals.
The story involves five separate interplanetary characters that cross paths on their way to stardom in the world of entertainment. The game is broken down into either Dance or Karaoke segments – which are performed using the Wii remote and Nunchuk, and/or the included microphone.
Dancing is performed using the motion-sensing capabilities of the Wii remote and nunchuk. By moving the remote left, right, up, and down to the beat, gamers can incite their character to get their animated groove on with a series of basic dances steps. Performing a perfect succession of on-time moves fills the boost meter, allowing gamers to press the shoulder button to pllace a set of onscreen arrows which, if followed, result in a unique special dance move. If the special moves are timed right, they can be chained together in a series of high-scoring uber moves. At different points in time, sprites will appear scattered around the stage holding tokens which can be picked up and used to purchase outfits and accessories for the custom character.
While it might sound overly simplistic, even performing the simplest of meter-filling moves proves to be a pain due to the poor response to the Wii remote’s motion – which often registers movements to be off-beat, even though they match with the built-in metronome ticking away from the remote’s speaker. Even worse, is the game’s poor recognition of remote movement, which more often than not stifles the successful completion of super moves.
Luckily, the judging isn’t very tough, and most dancing segments can be passed on the first or second try – but the fidgety response of the controller really does a knock-down job of ruining flow and fluidity of the dancing.
For the record, we tried both fresh AA batteries, as well as a fully charged rechargeable batteries, but noticed no improvement to the response. It appears that the game might exclusively utilize the IR reception of the controller, as anytime the controller points off screen, the action stalls momentarily.
The Karaoke segments are fairly straightforward – utilizing a very similar interface to what we have seen in Konami’s series of crooners, gamers are shown a scrolling bar musical bar with indications of pitch and duration matching up with the selected song. As they sing along, a slider tracks their matching of pitch and duration in relation to the chosen song.
The first thing that struck me with the Karaoke was that much like the Dance segments, the game did a very poor job of recognizing and balancing the song being sung into the included microphone peripheral. Whereas I can usually knock through a Karaoke Revolution song on the first or second try (even without a good singing voice), I had a very difficult time getting the game to credit me with even the most basic of notes in Boogie.
And just like the Karaoke Revolution games, Boogie only grades on pitch and duration and does not actually recognize the words being sung. So it is quite possible to cheat – even if you are just humming – as long as the pitch and duration match. While most of us used to knock off points for this, after five years, we have all come to accept it as the norm. Sadly, even the cheat is only about half as effective simply due to the poor response to the microphone input.
Thankfully the judging is just as forgiving for karaoke as it is for the dancing, so most gamers can walk through the songs on the first try – regardless of how well they sing.
While Karaoke Revolution Party successfully integrated the dancing and karaoke elements into a single event, Boogie still treats the two as two separate entities. Sure, you can perform both elements at the same time if you really feel inclined – but it really only adds to the overall frustration, and does nothing to help the outcome of the game.
For instance, while the game does allow dancing during the karaoke segments, this dancing has no bearing on how the judges will decide; they are only judging the quality of the singing. Then arises the question of what to do with the nunchuk controller while holding a Wii remote and a microphone, and essentially half of the options are gone. So there is no real reason to assume the extra effort of trying to put on a good show.
Speaking of good shows, Boogie does deliver a limited video editor allowing would-be directors to produce their own music videos using the replay feature. The game features a decent array of editing tools and video effects, and it only takes a few minutes of clicking to get results.
On the upside, Boogie looks fantastic on the Wii; with full support for progressive scan, and up to 16:9 widescreen, the game looks clean, crisp and vibrant.
The cartoony characters come from the Jet Set Radio hip-hop-meets-disco camp, and have nice fluid animations to go along with the moves – at least when the controller is not ruining the flow. There are times in the dancing portions where it is difficult to see the subtly differences between similar dance moves, but most gamers will focus more attention on the boost meter than they will on the dancer, so it really does not make or break the game.
It is a bummer that the story is conveyed through storyboards rather than CG cutscenes, but even storyboards are better than the nothingness of the Revolution games.
Boogie features 35 tracks spanning 40+ years of music, including everything from ABC by the Jackson 5 to Fergie’s own “Fergalicious.” Most of the stuff is Top-40 fare, but there are a few tue-blue rock and soul songs thrown in for good measure.
Overall, the mastering of the music is performed quite nicely, and the songs sound new and fresh even to today’s standards. Gamers are allowed to set the balance sliders between the original singer and the microphone to help maintain timing and pitch. Regardless of the balance, the only voice played during the replay is that of the gamer – so be forewarned that things are not always as they first appear. The game does have an echo slider to help give a more spacious and professional presence, but this is hardly on caliber with the effects one would find on a high-quality karaoke machine.
The one biggest selling point with Boogie will definitely be the microphone accessory, which comes packaged with the original game. And while the microphone itself seems sturdy enough to warrant the extra $10 tacked onto the price tag, I did feel a bit misled by the packaging in which it appears that the microphone is wireless; it is not wireless. In fact, the heavy gauge USB cable and large power block are downright cumbersome – and plugging it in on the upper back side of the Wii is asking for an accident – especially while wagging a Wii remote around helter-skelter. While the box does not outwardly say anything about the microphone being tethered or not, I think that the omission of the cord in the three box shots was a conscious marketing decision and a tad deceiving.
Otherwise, Boogie’s front-end presentation is nice has the feel of a big-name title – and if it was not for the frustrating controls, it would definitely be worth every penny.
As it stands, I really would not feel comfortable recommending a purchase of Boogie without recommending a rental first. Some gamers might like the mish-mash controls and poor karaoke recognition – I would wait for a sequel before dropping any cash on Boogie.