Hands-onBritney's Dance Beat

THQ hopes to make its 2002 lineup "stronger" with this upcoming rhythm game.

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It should come as no surprise that the most popular kiosk at a press event recently held by THQ in Las Vegas was the one displaying Britney's Dance Beat, a rhythm game that features everyone's favorite pop star, Britney Spears. What was surprising, however, was that Britney's Dance Beat wasn't a faceless clone developed just to cash in on the hype surrounding the 20-year-old singer--Dance Beat actually looks as good as, if not better than, a lot of the current crop of similar games.

The game is currently in development at Metro, the maker of the popular Bust A Groove 2 dancing game for the PlayStation 2. In fact, Dance Beat can best be described as a cross between the Bust A Groove games and Dance Dance Revolution--with a healthy dose of Britney tossed in, of course. In fact, all of the music in the game consists of Britney's songs, including "Stronger" and "Oops! I Did it Again." The beats are timed to a small circular interface in the lower half of the screen. Much like a clock, this interface has eight equally spaced notations and a hand that completes one revolution every few seconds. The four different PlayStation 2 button icons will appear along these notations a few seconds before the hand passes over them, and as it does, you'll have to tap the corresponding button to successfully dance to the beat. The game complicates this process by switching icons at the last second or by forcing you to execute button/directional-pad combinations.

Interestingly enough, there's actually a plot of sorts to Britney's Dance Beat. You play as one of five generic dancers in the game, and you'll have to strut your stuff across numerous auditions to make the cut as one of Britney's tour dancers. As you progress through the game, you'll unlock hidden stages, more songs, backstage videos, and unique interactive concert footage that'll let you take full control of the camera and pan it in a full 360 degrees at any time. Eventually, you'll also get to play as Britney herself.

The graphics are on par with similar PlayStation 2 games, although the motion-captured animations of all the dancers are quite impressive. There doesn't seem to be any jerking between different animations and dance moves, and the entire game looks like it's running at a smooth 60fps. Several special effects like sparks and pyrotechnics accent the overall look of Dance Beat nicely as well. The game is scheduled to ship sometime in April, although THQ might hold off on releasing it for a few weeks beyond that to coincide with Britney Spears' upcoming tour.

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