From soda to sneakers, pop sensation Britney Spears has lent her likeness to virtually every youth-oriented consumer product known to humankind. Now, following in the footsteps of former pop queens The Spice Girls, Britney is starring in her very own rhythm game. But unlike the ill-conceived Spice World, Britney's Dance Beat can actually provide an enjoyable if short-lived experience, and it serves as a good introduction for the uninitiated to the world of rhythm games.
This might come as a surprise, but you never actually play as Britney Spears in Britney's Dance Beat. Instead, you play as one of eight dancers auditioning for a spot as one of Britney's backup dancers. The gameplay in Britney's Dance Beat is highly reminiscent of the gameplay of Enix's Bust A Groove franchise, in that you'll compete in a series of head-to-head dance competitions against either the computer or another player. The focus of your attention while playing the game will be the rhythm wheel, which is a circular field where various controller commands appear. You must execute these commands in time with the music. If you make more mistakes than your opponent, you lose. The longer you go without making a mistake, the harder things will get for your opponent, as commands will start popping up, moving around, and changing into other commands at random. Your opponent, of course, can do the same to you by performing well.
Notably, Britney's Dance Beat is one of the select few rhythm games out there that can be played with a standard controller and a dance mat, and unlike most other games that support both peripherals, Britney's Dance Beat is pretty enjoyable either way. It's a relatively easy rhythm game to pick up, and while the difficulty markedly increases as you progress through the game, it will present little challenge for players familiar with games like Parappa the Rapper, DDR, or Bust A Groove.
The first thing you'll probably notice while watching Britney's Dance Beat is the fluidity with which the dancers move. The House of Moves, a studio that specializes in video game motion-capture, handled all of the dancers' movements in the game, and the results look incredibly natural. Not only do the dancers move well, but they also look good, and the digital version of Britney Spears that appears in the game looks uncannily like the real thing. The stages you'll perform your dance routines on capably reflect the feel of each individual song, and they wouldn't look out of place in Britney's stage show or one of her videos. During each stage, the song's music video will play in the background, but oddly, the video is never in sync with the music itself. You initially might not notice this while you're playing the game, but it's rather obvious to spectators, and it definitely detracts from the experience soon enough. Another distraction is the game's overuse of lighting and particle effects, which can sometimes make it hard to keep track of your place on the rhythm wheel.
Sadly, the biggest shortcoming in Britney's Dance Beat comes in the area of sound. The game consists of five of Britney's higher-profile singles: "...Baby One More Time," "Oops!...I Did It Again," "Stronger," "Overprotected," and "I'm a Slave 4 U." They're some of the best songs in Britney's catalog, and they're all catchy, well-crafted pop songs in their own right, but five songs simply aren't enough to carry an entire game, and unless you have an undying love for Ms. Spears, they can quickly become repetitive. To date, Britney has produced more than 10 music videos, so there's really no reason why other singles like "(You Drive Me) Crazy" and "Lucky" aren't included here.
The shortage of music and the relative simplicity of the gameplay in Britney's Dance Beat will keep it from truly appealing to rhythm game enthusiasts, or anyone who isn't thoroughly enraptured by the young pop star. However, if you are a fan, then you're in for a treat, as there is no shortage of Britney in this game--despite the fact that you don't play as her. Aside from getting to interact with the music, there is an abundance of unlockable goodies, including "immersive video" of Britney in concert, which uses proprietary technology that lets you pan the camera 360 degrees in real time, as well as a ton of behind-the-scenes video. These extras will be of little consolation for someone looking for a rhythm game with some legs, but Britney fanatics will undoubtedly walk away with a smile.