Converted to casual gaming for all, Electronic Arts wants everybody to dance thanks to the Wii interface and their new rhythm-based musical game Boogie. Ready to sweat in Paris.
“We all enjoy some creative killing and at Electronic Arts we know how to make those kinds of games”, explains Studio General Manager EA Montreal Alain Tascan while demonstrating Boogie on Wii in Paris, “but it’s time to go back to the basics, we want to put smiles on people faces when they play videogames”. Now that both the Wii and DS have sold and keep selling millions, the once Nintendo only philosophy, game is fun, game is for all, “casual” has become every videogame editor mantra. A few weeks ago in Paris, Ubisoft officially announced its casual gaming division, now Electronic Arts confirms its own EA Casual Entertainment. Both divisions based in Montreal with executive women in charge (Kathy Vrabeck for EA, Pauline Jacquey for Ubisoft).
Exclusive this fall on Wii, the musical videogame Boogie is the beginning of a new IP for EA. No other supports is announced but Alain Tascan answer’s to the absence of online features for the Wii is a hint that the game should appear on other consoles with market place facilities to buy, for instance, new songs.
Alan Tascan left foot is discreetly taping the floor on stage while playing Boogie. It’s not part of the gameplay but obviously it helps him keeping track of the main beat. The Wiimote in his hand has to perform some combos that skips and adds rhythms to the original beat of one of the 40 songs picked from 70s to the 2000’s. We’re familiar with the Miis, now meet the Boogs. The chosen preset cartoonish character dances while facing the player on exotic outdoor stages (gas station in the Arizona desert, jungle, pagoda, space station…) along the expected disco nightclub. The game plays seriously, but as the funny stylized characters, the overlook is definitely relaxed with bright colors and light menus. On this demo the nunchuck is only useful to strike a pose when a photo op is prompted, while the main game is played with the Wiimote only. Which is both a more accessible and limited design choice. Since the movements are only verticals and horizontals, first with no visual indications except the dance moves of the character, then with some arrow combos asking to make very brief left-right-ups or downs, the player itself is less dancing that agitating the arm like a chef d’orchestre (conductor ?). Unofficial resting is offered with various rhythms to be followed while only pressing the Z button. If the player tends to move like a robot, the characters on screen are wonderfully and very smoothly animated and make up for it. A cross between Jet Set Radio and Mad’s Don Martin characters, they mix comic postures and real dance steps accordingly to their personality.
As planned, with easy to difficult options and 2 players battles, the game seems destined to every member of the family, even, they say, the shy ones. Along the regular features, the karaoke section – a microphone will be included in the box with a pair of paper glasses to watch recorded video clip replayed in green-red 3D – offers a “shy mode” where the prerecorded voice sings with the player only if the player sings. It supposedly helps to hide false notes and give confidence. Will the girls be interested to join the party then?
François Bliss de la Boissière
(Published June 2007 on US online magazine NEXT GENERATION)