TOKYO--If cheerleading can be a video game (think of 2006's Elite Beat Agents and its Japanese progenitor, Osu! Tatakae! Ouenden!), then why not ice skating? Sure the sport has made its way into games before, most recently with Hudson's Deca Sports, but the most recent entry in the not-exactly-overwhelming canon of ice skating video games is Sega's Princess on Ice for the Nintendo DS. We had a chance to take a few turns with the game, and though it's clearly meant for kids (and, more pointedly, girls), we had a pretty fun time trying out our lutzes and double axles.
The comparison to Elite Beat and Ouenden are particularly appropriate considering Princess on Ice's rhythm-based gameplay. As with those games, you don't control your ice skater directly; instead, you tap onscreen icons in time with the music in order to pull off various spins, turns, and other tricks. In addition to the numbered icons that appear in various combos onscreen, Princess features some unique twists on the formula. For instance, a series of icons will appear rapidly onscreen in a shape and you need to clear the shapes as quickly as possible by tapping them in rapid succession.
At one point in our routine, identical icons slid in from the left and the right sides of the screen. The idea is that you need to tap them when the two icons meet in the middle of the screen. There was even the Ouenden-like spin at the end, where you draw a circle as quickly as possible onscreen to finish off your routine with a huge flourish, to the delight of the judges that fill up the top screen.
There's little doubt that Princess on Ice is meant for girls--what with the large number of clothing options you'll have to customize your skater with (everything from new gloves and tiaras to entirely new skating outfits) and skating environments that were so saccharine in their design they'd make a Disney movie character nauseous. Still, there's some good, if somewhat derivative, gameplay to be found here. Would it succeed if it were to come stateside? It's tough to tell, but we're man enough to admit to being charmed by it. Should news break of the Princess's arrival in the US, we'll keep you informed.