Boogie Hands-On Update

We hit the stage with a near-final version of EA's upcoming karaoke rhythm game for the Wii.

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We've had a few chances to try out EA's Boogie in the few months since the hybrid karaoke dance game was first shown off. The game's been morphing in a few directions as development has progressed, skewing squarely toward a casual experience. We recently got our hands on a near-final version of the game to see how it's working out.

When you first start out, you'll get walked through a tutorial mode that covers the three major features: dancing, singing, and video editing. Once you go through the various exercises designed to bring you up to speed on how to play, you'll find yourself at the main mode-selection screen, which offers a mix of modes including proper game modes and more functional options. The game modes are story, karaoke, dance, and party. The story mode follows the members of the Boog family, the cast of the game, through several levels of dancing and karaoke. Their stories play out in linear fashion, and the levels mix up singing and dancing challenges that require you to hit a certain score in order to clear a level and move on. As you go through each character's unique story, you'll unlock items you can use to customize them, and you'll also open up content in the game's store. Karaoke and dance let you hop in and try out any available song on any available venue for fun and points. The party mode lets you take on a friend in a dance-off marathon of three, five, or seven songs.

The video maker is a cool extra that lets you record a dance and karaoke session that you can meld together into your own music video. Once you record the performances you want, you can go through and add filters and special effects to them, even changing the camera angles. The interface for the whole thing is a breeze to pick up and lets you easily cobble together clips. Once you're happy with your creation, you can save it to show off to friends. Finally, the game's shop is where you'll spend the points you'll earn from playing the different modes. You'll be able to buy accessories, songs, and venues to play in, some of which are available for purchase only if you advance through the story.

The various game modes offer a variety of ways to play through Boogie's content. The core game mechanics are very simple, amounting to rhythmic Nunchuk waving in time to the music. You'll be prompted to do some specific motions and button-pressing during certain parts of a routine, which helps break the monotony, but we were hoping for a bit more meat to the experience. Fortunately, the addition of the karaoke mode, which supports a USB microphone, helps buff up the experience some.

The visuals in the game are clean and cartoony, making good use of the Wii hardware. The characters look sharp and, once you start customizing them with the various accessories, wind up looking quite different from one another. The venues are equally sharp and look good, although there's not too much going on in the background. When you trigger your special dance moves, there's a respectable assortment of flashy effects that help spruce up your strutting.

Look out: EA got karaoke in your rhythm game!
Look out: EA got karaoke in your rhythm game!

Audio in the game is strong thanks to the game's varied soundtrack. The weak link in the chain is the character's voices, which are just gibberish a la the adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon. The element of Boogie's audio that self-conscious players will appreciate is the vocal assist option, which lets you karaoke without traumatizing those around you by letting the actual song vocals drown out your own voice.

Based on what we played, Boogie's definitely got the accessible angle covered. The dancing and singing are easy to do and have enough options to support players of any skill level. The video editor follows suit and offers an equally user-friendly experience. The visuals are bright and colorful and feature some nice animation. The only big hitch we see in the game is that it doesn't have a ton of depth to it. The mechanics are almost too simple and didn't really keep us hooked. The multiplayer helps give the package some appeal, as does the karaoke. Though the game still has some development time left, Boogie's looking like a simple game that skews young and casual. The game is slated to ship this August for the Wii.

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