It seemed only natural that the Spice Girls should come out with a video game based on their music. After conquering the film, video, and CD markets (not to mention the Pepsi ads, teen-mags, Barbie dolls, clothing and accessories, Chupa Chups candy, and so on), where else was there to go? Yet it appears their flood of quality releases has finally run dry, for this misdirected mess fails to deliver on practically every level imaginable. I normally adore the Spice Girls: I bought both albums, I own the DVD, I even lined up for five hours to buy tickets to the (sold out) concert. I awaited their leap into video game-dom with baited breath. And yet I wouldn't recommend this game to a single fan.
Apparently taking its inspiration from last year's fantastically successful Parappa the Rapper, Spice World offers cheeky lo-fi caricatures of each girl, who walk you through the strenuous task of becoming a Spice Girl. You'll learn to remix songs, sing them, dance to them, and, by the end of the game, you'll even have a video to prove you were there. But don't get your hopes up; it's nowhere near as fun as it sounds.
Once you've armed yourself with a Spice tune (five are offered) and a Spice guide (all five are available), it's off to the studio, where the lucky Spice helps you mix and match nine samples from the song into an 18-clip-long megamix. Already, the game's first major problem rears its ugly head. The samples may be instantly recognizable, but only nine are offered from each song, and they really don't fit together. Few bridges are provided, and some sung lines cut off halfway through. Then, squeezing these clips into exactly 18 slots means that no matter how hard you try, the result always seems to be a choppy, amateurish edit of what was once an absolutely gorgeous song (remember, I am a fan).
By the end of this first level, chances are you've listened to the nine samples so many times you have a splitting headache and frayed nerves, so the thoughtful programmers have added a brief respite to the choppy audio pain. Level two, unabashedly taken straight from Parappa, provides your Spice Girl with a chance to learn her handful of impressive dance steps, as taught by an afro-wearing disco king. These 11 trendy moves range from her basic, yet seductive, shoulder shimmy, to the sexy shuffle and knee wiggle. The lack of any freestyle mode, though, means that once you've mastered these set moves (which become as complicated as XSXO), you know all there is to know. Dance training takes no more than four minutes to complete, and then it's off to the TV studio, where you run each Spice Girl through her moves to the song. This lets you, or, more appropriately, forces you, listen to your megamix over again for each of the five girls. Ugh.
But at last, the musical trauma is almost over. The chance has arrived to direct a music video to your incredibly grating mix, and for the first time, the five girls are fully animated: they sing, they dance, they pout and smirk Mel C. even does her trademark backflips. Each character really starts to shine through, while you just watch and record the action through eight different camera angles. Finally the game almost seems fun, but then, within a minute, the show is over. A cry of "Great show! Now we've gotta go," and the fab five are off, your "interactive music experience" is over, and presumably you know "everything it takes to become a Spice Girl." That it only took about 15 minutes doesn't say much for the Spices, but then again, nobody said their jobs were hard.
Seemingly as an afterthought, a dozen interview clips were thrown onto the disc as a final level. A few of them feature entertaining Spice moments, such as Geri pinching Prince Charles' bum, and the girls wrecking havoc on a Japanese talk-show, but the shocking levels of video compression and the poorly-synched voice dubbing renders the footage barely watchable. A pixellated Victoria talking like she's in a '70s kung fu flick just isn't too much fun.
Last year's Parappa the Rapper, from which Spice World is obviously derived, managed to succeed because of its catchy tunes, humorous characters, and the fantastically surreal storyline. Spice World has none of these. The once-catchy tunes have been mangled into a collection of painfully mismatched snippets. The normally humorous and loveable characters (who can resist Ginger's cheeky retorts or Posh's deadly stare?) have been transformed into personality-less cartoons, featuring only a few trademark idiosyncrasies. And if you're looking for any sort of storyline or gameplay whatsoever, forget it. Fifteen minutes of pressing a few buttons, and the whole thing's over. This PlayStation mess is only a piece of embarrassing cultural kitsch, a joke birthday present meant to be displayed on a shelf and played but once. Wait for the next album, the next movie, the next TV special, or whatever. But don't bother buying this game. Scary, Baby, Ginger, Posh, and Sporty have all failed. Spice World is a flop.