Not another surprise, another dance game comes to Kinect, at this point, Kinect is obviously the answer to the dance genre. Anyhow, if you haven’t heard about it, here’s a synopsis:
Step right on stage with a chart-dominating, multi-platinum-selling musical force in this game that gives you the full Black Eyed Peas experience! Join Fergie, will.i.am, Taboo, and api.de.ap on this express ride to musical superstardom. Sing and dance to 30 pieces of delicious BEP pop candy, including mega hits like “Boom Boom Pow,” “I Gotta Feeling,” “The Time,” and more. Kinect tracks your movements as the band performs on screen. You’ll learn and master every one of BEP’s trademark moves in routines created by the band’s official choreographer and creative director, Fatima Robinson. Welcome to the party!
Most people, including myself, thought Ubisoft was taking a step to really compete with Dance Central 2 using professional choreography. Unfortunately that’s not the case. This game was only created to compete with their own title, the Michael Jackson Experience game, more than likely to keep the franchise alive. Whether they are able to do that, depends on if Ubisoft cares about its customers like Harmonix does. I was again, expecting so much, but again, Ubisoft lets me down as I’m sure others as well. They bring these great ideas to us, and then let us down, why?
Interesting enough, to “start” you have to mirror a simple sidestep. It takes a few for it register, although for all we know it could be doing a calibration, not that it would help but you never know. Anyhow, once you are in the game, the menu is simplified. You have 3 options to choose from; Dance Party, Deluxe Experience and Options. It uses the hover and lock system, but in certain areas, you can grab the controller and press Y to take over. Why we can’t use the controller throughout the whole game is anyone’s guess, I’ll call it a Ubisoft feature.
Dance Party mode is exactly what it says. You can jump right into a song and go to town. There are no difficulty levels to choose from and it really is one click and you’re in. This mode will probably be played most with a group of friends. Throughout both Dance Party and Deluxe Experience, the game will accept 2 dancers simultaneously and 2 singers as well. It registers the dancers fine, detection is another story which I explain below. If you have singers, the mics have to connected BEFORE you pick a song. Connecting them during loading will not let them work, just a FYI. That’s really all there is to Dance Party, you can’t customize anything as it’s all random, but to fully “experience” the BEP Experience, you have to choose the deluxe experience option.
Once you enter the deluxe mode of the game, there are a lot of bells and whistles that are welcomed and it may seem overwhelming, but other things that would seem normal to you (such as venues) fall short. First, the experience is a complete unlock project and can get annoying. Don’t get me wrong, I love unlocking stuff and it gives us longevity to the game, but when detection is a problem then it’s just not fun anymore, especially when you can’t proceed further. I’ll discuss it in a few, anyhow when you first start, you will need to choose an avatar. There are 6 to choose from. You basically just need to make sure you have the right sex for the avatar you want as that is the only thing you cannot change as you proceed through your career, everything else you can adjust though.
Speaking of the avatars, they are kind of goofy looking but their animated moves definitely show they can dance. As you proceed through the game, you will unlock new clothing and items. I would have to guess that BEP had their say in this as a lot of the outfits resemble their cool outfits they wear, so that is definitely a good thing. You can customize your avatars hair, eyes, facial features, etc. It’s pretty detailed for a Kinect title. On the style side of things, you can layer clothing such as an undershirt and a coat over it, or have earrings, shades, hats, gloves, etc. It’s really detailed, the game reports there are 12 different types of fashion categories. Since this game is based on people liking you (followers) I was kind of surprised to see that changing your clothes from a tank top and jeans to some snazzy outfits with studded shoes, did not increase your followers. I guess dancing is the only way to win the crowd over. To wrap up the avatar section, you can change your avatar’s clothing and appearance anytime throughout the game and this is one of the menu options after you’ve played through the game once.
The other options you will notice when you go back in are the Choreo Maker, Start and Marketplace. I thought the Choreo Maker was cool. What you can do is pick any song, and choose up to 32 different move sets to fill up a song, so technically you can choose your own routines, although they are from the pre-determined list, so it’s not as custom as Just Dance 3‘s video choreography, but it is better in the looks category. You can choose to import a choreography (from your friends) or create a new one. Once you are done creating it, you can send it onto friends or save it for later. You can also preview before you save it. I thought it was cool to show it, so I created 2 videos here…one is the regular choreography that it’s in the game, and the other is my custom one so you can see what you are able to do.
Just a note on the marketplace button, when you go to it, it just loads the standard Kinect marketplace, very lame considering Just Dance 3 has its own in-game store, although knowing Ubisoft, we probably won’t see anymore DLC for it. If you do have this game, Bebot is currently the only available song for it in case you didn’t know.
Once you begin your experience, you pick a venue if I remember correctly. The venues are authentic for the most part, although there’s just not enough of them. There are only 4, Area 246 Tokyo, The Yard, Zero G, and Climax. As you progress, you can upgrade them but only at a certain number of followers. I’m not sure why there aren’t more, BEP has played all over the world, or better yet, why couldn’t we experience their path of stardom? Die hard fans typically want to live the life of their mentors and this game doesn’t do it for you unfortunately. I would have to say the Michael Jackson Experience was better in this portion as you did dance in the music video scenes, which if we could have danced in some of the BEP videos, that would have been unreal, heck they could have even thrown in mini-games such as the Rock That Body scene where the robots dance off…That would have been sweet.
Anyhow, once you choose a venue you can choose any song you want. At this point, don’t worry about difficulty levels, there are 3 different ones, but you begin on Human (easy). What the game does is teach you the moves by requiring you to do step phases. There are 3 step phases to each song, each step phase consists of 3 different moves. Unfortunately only Step 1 is unlocked on every song. You have to pass them in order to unlock Step 2 and Step 3. Completing all the steps will unlock the routine for you. This is all fun, until you do make it to next difficulty and then you start over from square 1 again and the frustration starts to set in. Yes, after you unlock mostly everything on Human, once you make it to Machine, you have to start over and unlock everything again, steps and all. Like I said though, if it was an accurate game, this wouldn’t be so bad, but when it doesn’t work, you don’t get enjoyment out of it.
As you dance in Step 1, you are shown the moves you need to do. Moves vary between 4-16 counts, so I consider them more as a move set, whereas Dance Central actually has moves broken up smaller, thus making it easier on you. Some of the moves in here though are quite challenging and they are definitely on a professional level. I believe the goal is to get your arms/feet in the positions of where the orbs are, similar to Dance Masters although I couldn’t tell exactly with its detection system. Anyhow, if you are having trouble with any of the moves, you can only ask for help once in the beginning. You will see an icon that says to raise your hand. You would think just raising your hand would trigger the dance coach. This is NOT how it works, your avatar has to raise his hand, so you have to hang out for a second or two costing you followers, not very helpful if you ask me.
Anyhow, once you trigger the Dance Coach, it slows it down but you can’t adjust the speed. The dance coach talks you through it, and you just follow along, however much like the rest of the game, you have no idea if you are doing it right or not, so I’m really not understanding the point of this addition. To confuse you some more, I made a quick video of a dance coach session, as you can tell, it’s helpful with showing you the moves, however you can only do certain moves correctly due to the detection system, so I’m really not sure of the goal of it. Anyway see below for the video:
So once you get the dancing portion down, your actual objective is obtain a certain number of followers. Followers are obtained just by dancing. The better you do at dancing, the more followers you can obtain. In human difficulty, its fairly easy as the accuracy system will let you get away with everything, and honestly, if you don’t want a bad taste in your mouth, I don’t suggest going further than human difficulty until or if a patch is ever released, but I had the most fun on this mode. You are rated on your dancing skills in five ratings. These ratings go from nothing at all (your avatar will look confused), to almost, to good, great and then incredible. As you progress and gain more followers, there is always something to unlock. Typically it’s clothes, a venue, venue upgrades, or difficulties. I’m not sure if it’s the same for everyone, but Machine (medium) was unlocked for me at 3,544 followers. Alien (hard) unlocked at 15,784 followers. These are some odd numbers, so it may be different for everyone depending on your skills which would actually be cool, but if it is the same, then I can tell you, it feels like forever to unlock the next difficulty. The only things the difficulties do is double or quadruple your follower multiplier, and accuracy goes from decent to bad to worse. There are no different moves, no different song lengths, etc. – I was disappointed after putting in about 20 hours of actual game time to unlock Alien and found no differences. One last note on difficulties, when you do unlock both, the credits play and you will feel like you have to watch them (watch them once for an easy achievement) but use the controller and press A and it will skip it.
Regarding the followers, if you hit the required number, you automatically get a C grade. Going above this increases your grade to B, A, and finally S. The grades really don’t do anything for you besides unlocking achievements, in-game they have no effect, your followers determine your grade. Now if you don’t hit the number, then you fail. What really sucks is if you don’t pass, you don’t get any followers at all, kind of annoying considering a step/routine is somewhat time-consuming. Speaking of the routines, once you unlock all 3 step phases the routine is available. It is broken up in two parts, Stage 1 or the beginning, and then the Final stage. There is an intermission in between to give you a short break, although there is no difference between Stage 1 and the Final Stage. Whatever moves you do in Stage 1, the same moves and same order are danced again in the Final Stage, kind of boring considering the variety of moves we have with Dance Central, I don’t recall MJ being like this either so its sort of a step backwards.
The songs in the routines are authentic, but they are kind of edited/mixed to fit. I noticed in Don’t Stop The Party it doesn’t play the slow part, and Imma Be is broken up as 2 different songs, the slow part and the fast part, I really didn’t understand any of this as Just Dance 3 had full length tracks. It is kind of a shame on Ubisoft’s part as BEP makes very unique music and takes you from being calm to party pumping in a matter of seconds so this sort of disappointed me. Speaking of tracks, it has all of the great ones, I couldn’t think of any that needed to be added, but in case you don’t know which ones are on it, we have the exclusive tracklist here for now. The tracks are categorized in their own difficulties, from Casual, to Skilled to Professional and then Legendary. I didn’t notice actual difficulty difference with the moves, as some casual songs have harder moves than Legendary, but again that could be led to the detection issues.
Another note, most of the songs are not censored, so I wouldn’t really consider this a kid/family game, although it’s about time. I am getting tired of playing songs that are always edited, we are grown ups last time I checked, and it’s always fun to yell out swear words when you are partying with your friends :) Anyhow, once you complete the routine, if you pass it, your score is automatically added to Xbox Live. This is the only online portion of the game, it only offers leaderboards.
As you dance, you will notice “Smooth Transition” stars. I mentioned this previously in Dance Central 2′s review, which amazingly enough, I didn’t think BEP would have actual transitions in the game, so I was very much impressed with it. Basically if you go from one move to the next without much fiddling, you’ll get a smooth transition bonus. It only helps you point wise though, you won’t gain additional followers, however if you end on an incredible move, you typically get another incredible rating on the transition move. There’s also poses at the end of the songs although its more or less for challenge purposes, not really much about it.
Another random thing is that BEP will challenge you before a dance. These are cool as someone will ask you to get an S rating, or achieve 60 incredible ratings total, sometimes there is more than 1 challenge. If you complete these challenges successfully, you unlock special items that aren’t available via the normal unlocking method with followers. Each member of the BEP has challenges for you, so there is quite a lot to do.
Now, the actual presentation of the game is just beautiful. I’m assuming this was the ultimate goal of the game. The whole game is very detailed graphically as well as game wise. For example, during a routine, BEP will all have microphones in their hands, and when their part is playing they actually stop dancing and sing it. Their mouths actually move as well. This gives more of a realistic atmosphere which I know we aren’t used to, so I appreciated it a lot. Also in all 4 venues, the original music videos (if there is one) will play on the TVs/screens which is also pretty cool. The moves and training dancers themselves are pretty authentic as well, the Climax venue reminded me of the Super Bowl one, but the one character that teaches you the moves I recalled in the Don’t Stop The Party video so all of it is legit which is really good. During loading, you also get fun facts about BEP, it’s interesting as there were things I had no idea about so it does give you something to do during loading.
Even though a game can look beautiful, Ubisoft has proven it to us before with MotionSports that it can look good, but does it play good? As I mentioned earlier, I recommend just playing it on easy for now. Once you move up to medium, the detection is not as sloppy, although it doesn’t work as well either. I did everything to test this detection system out. Most of us dance freaks are pretty satisfied with Dance Central’s system, so I was assuming something would have been implemented like it, or heck, even Cat Daddy Games used it for their upcoming title, Let’s Cheer! Anyway, this is part 1 of the huge problem. With dancing these professional moves, accuracy is key. Even if you don’t know what you are doing, you need to know what you are doing wrong, especially on a 16 count move at that! Well, there is no feedback system at all. You have no idea what you are doing wrong, or if you are even doing anything wrong. How are you supposed to get better? It’s pretty bad.
Part 2 of the problem adds in knowing your playspace. As with most games, you know your playspace area, or you get some kind of feedback knowing you are doing something wrong such as Dance Central’s box with your ghost image, flashing red when you are too close. Not in this one, you have no idea where your playspace exists, so you have to guess about everything. The other things is that there are moves that consist of box steps, walking forward and backwards and a majority of moves have you turn on angles. If you don’t get the right angles, then the best you’ll usually get is almost or good, sometimes a random great is thrown in there now and then. Also moves requiring arms/hands in front of body barely register, sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. It really is a horrible system.
Part 3 that I found out the other night is that I am almost positive it’s using the imaging detection in their other games. I typically play games with the lights off, except for a few Ubisoft games, reason being the games that project your image, typically need the lights on to reflect back to the camera. Well, when I had the lights off, it didn’t detect anything I was doing. As soon as I turned the lights on, it was working like it was before. This detection system was not a good idea for a dancing game, in my view.
Overall, this is why I mentioned to just keep playing it on easy. You’ll have more fun. Once you proceed further, it begins to get frustrating because you absolutely know you are doing moves right, while other moves that you are doing wrong (I intentionally did a few moves wrong) it will give you incredible on even on the hard difficulty. If you do make it to alien, it just gets stupid to be blunt. I tried all of the songs and could not beat a Step 3 because of detection issues so I couldn’t grab a hard routine for you to view, but my guess is it is the same as the other two, so we’re probably not missing anything. The whole method just makes no sense. The way Harmonix set up their different difficulty levels is just so much better.
To give you an idea of how it works and the detection, I’ve done most of the songs quite a few times I’m sure you can imagine. I went in order so you can see the difference, the first video is Human (easy), the second is Machine (medium) and the 3rd is Alien (hard). The hard level does that to you in most of the songs, where you only need like 2-5 followers and won’t give it to you, and then you have to start over and gain no followers, frustrating you. At that point, I had to set the game down after doing it about 20 times. Anyway, here’s the videos…again these aren’t censored so they do swear a little bit in it, this was the easiest song for me to compare:
Lastly, so you can get an idea, here’s how the routine looks after you go through all of the steps – it mixes 9 sets of moves per song:
I did try the singing as well, as I thought maybe they put some effort into it. Unfortunately, it’s as bad as the dancing detection. All it does is show the words, and when you sing them right, a microphone icon will say almost, good, great and incredible. When you sing it wrong, it marks the word red. There isn’t anything letting you know if your pitch was off or what. For a developer that created Lips, I am in awe at how appalling this karaoke system is. It’s horrible and I hope to never see it in another game.
It really could have been a fantastic game, but the factors I mentioned just ruin it unless you play it on easy, although medium isn’t that bad either, which is why I gave it a 6 and not a 5, it’s still playable until you get to the hard level. If there was some kind of direction on how to make yourself better this game would have deserved an 8 or even a 9. A last sidenote, Uplay is not on here, I think this is the first Ubisoft game without it, not sure what the deal is there. Peabodies will love it no matter what, as I do admit, BEP is great in my opinion as well, so even with the flaws, I still like the game. Also, Fergie is the first real-life woman to transition to a video game and I have to say, she’s definitely worth it being as gorgeous as she is :P It’d be nice to start getting real people transition into video game characters so hopefully this starts something. I really hope Ubisoft puts out a patch for this game to fix the detection or even add some kind of feedback as that really is the only negative factor in this game.
But as we know, looks don’t work games alone. I can only imagine how awesome this game would have been had Harmonix worked with BEP instead, but as we assume, Ubisoft probably just has too much on their plate and I think they were trying to follow Just Dance 3′s path with creating another party game. This is not what we wanted though, just compare the BEP Experience Pump It to Just Dance 3′s Pump It and I’m sure you can figure out what one you would rather have. At least I do feel they did a little better than the MJ game, but as our saying goes, three strikes and your out, so I’m sure Ubisoft will attempt the Experience again with one more title, let’s hope they heed our warnings this last time around.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of The Black Eyed Peas Experience
Scoring policy: What do these game review scores actually mean?