Boogie Hands-On

We get our groove on in EA's upcoming singing and dancing game for the Wii.

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We got our first look at Boogie earlier this year when EA offered a sneak peek of the game during GDC. At that time, we got a brief taste of what the game's dancing system was like but not how the singing was going to fit in to all of it. Fortunately, we got some hands-on time with a work-in-progress version of the game at EA's recent press event. The updated version featured a refined dancing system and karaoke support.

We saw only one level on this occasion, but we were able to choose a new character, Lea. The level gave us a better idea of how you sing and dance with the game. Basically, you can choose to dance or karaoke through a level. Dancing requires you to use the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to move your character. The simple control system offers one-to-one movement with your character. Moving the remote left or right moves your character in those directions, while up and down has them follow suit. Pressing the B button while dancing changes the way the character reacts to your movement, and hitting the A button will switch your dance style completely. Though there were only two dance styles to choose from in the version we played, there should be four in the final game.

The D pad will let you move around the dance area and collect combo modifiers, which appear as you play. You'll use the Nunchuk to manipulate your character's upper body, while the analog stick will let you change its facial expression and the Z button will open its mouth. As you dance, you'll fill your onscreen boogie meter, which, when full, can be used to perform special moves by hitting A and B at the same time. Of course, the point to all of this is to rack up tons of points. In the demo we tried, we were given one of three medals--gold, silver, or bronze--based on our score at the end of a level. In the final game, you'll earn currency that can be spent in the in-game store on accessories and gear, which in turn lets you radically change your character's appearance.

EA Canada hopes to deliver more than the same old song and dance with the game.
EA Canada hopes to deliver more than the same old song and dance with the game.

The karaoke component of the game is a good deal simpler. You'll simply follow onscreen prompts and sing your heart out into a USB mic, which will ship with the game. One of the coolest features of the game is the audio slider, which is used to toggle how much of your voice can be heard over the original song while you play. You'll still be graded on your performance, via envelope comparison and pitch recognition, but you won't necessarily have to traumatize a room with your song stylings if you don't want to.

As you play through a level via dancing and karaoke, you'll be able to record your performances. When you're done, you can create your own music videos, which should be fun for kids. Though we didn't see it in action, it seems like it could be a cool feature in the game.

Beyond what was shown in the demo, the final game is expected to have roughly 40 songs and more than 10 backgrounds to choose from. The game will feature a story mode wherein you'll take one of the playable characters--all members of the Boog family, apparently--on a journey to be the best dancer around. The game's multiplayer mode will feature competitive and cooperative play with two players as well as minigames. The visuals in the game have been changed up some since we last saw them. The stage we played, Boogie Theatre, had a much more traditional cel-shaded look. Lea looked typical for a female character in a dancing game, although it seems as though the customization feature will let you give her some different looks. The dance area featured an open stage with some room for you to move around on. Props and other assorted theater gear were strewn around. There was some early effects works in place when you used the energy from your boogie meter, which was flashy, albeit understated. Animation was a little jerky, but we expect it's going to get smoothed out some. The pickups were plain looking, which is something we also hope sees some improvement.

Any rhythm game with music from the Commodores is doing at least one thing right.
Any rhythm game with music from the Commodores is doing at least one thing right.

The audio in the game was pretty spare outside of the music. The demo level on display featured "Brick House" from the Commodores, which dominated everything else. We didn't hear much of anything else in the version we played, but you'll be able to tweak audio levels in the final game. The USB mic worked well, although we'll be curious to see what the final design will be, as the one used for the demo was pretty big.

Based on what we played, Boogie looks like it's aiming for a casual audience. The controls are simple--almost too simple--and easy to pick up. The karaoke and music-video creator are interesting and have the potential to support much goofiness. The only odd bit to the mix is that the gameplay lacks structure right now. If the various elements of the game experience--dancing, singing, video creation--can be tied into a cohesive whole, Boogie should be a fun little game for the Wii. Boogie is slated to ship this fall. Look for more in the coming months.

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