We bust some moves in Canada with the latest build of EA's party game.
by Craig Harris
May 4, 2007 - When last we saw Electronic Arts' original Wii title Boogie, it was in an extremely early form at the Game Developers Conference. So early, in fact, that it was just a single concept demo, and we had to collectively imagine what the final game would end up becoming. Earlier this week, however, we had a chance to visit EA Canada to check out how Boogie has evolved in the past few months. Though it was still not anywhere close to ready for prime time, it at least took on a form that more resembled a playable production.
At its core, Boogie is a dancing and singing rhythm based party game. In the dancing portion of Boogie, you bust your moves using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combination; specific dance moves are handled by waving and twisting the remote in specific directions, while control of the character's upper body's taken care of by moving the Nunchuk. Moving the analog stick will rotate the character's head, and hitting one of the Nunchuk's trigger buttons will open and close his or her mouth for a bit of "lip syncing."
EA has utilized a unique visual style for the title.
The idea in the dance portion is to whip around the controller to the beat of the music, busting moves that'll score points and fill up the Boogie Meter on the left of the screen. Using the Boogie power by holding the A and B button together on the remote will allow for move combos. You can also increase points and build up the Boogie Meter with power-ups that are scattered around the dance stage; by hitting the D-pad on the Wii Remote your character will side-step while dancing in that direction to pick up any tokens that pop up randomly during the dance.
In the GDC demo, the Wii's pointing function was used for head movements - early screenshots showed on-screen eyes where the remote was being pointed. The pointing function's been removed since that demo, in a move to free up the design to allow players to simply wave the controllers around without requiring precise aiming. Pointing will only be used for menus in Boogie - it won't be a part of the actual gameplay.
Karaoke is the other big half of Boogie's design. The game will come packaged with a microphone that plugs into one of the Wii system's USB ports. Like Karaoke Revolution and Singstar, Boogie will recognize the pitch of the singer's voice as they belt out the tune, following along with the on-screen lyrics. The karaoke mechanics weren't implemented in the demo we played, so it wasn't tracking points or the voice. It did, however, show one of the features of this game's Karaoke engine: players can choose to activate the song vocals by singing along. In other words, you don't have to have your voice blaring through the speakers…instead, the recorded vocals will crank louder as you sing. If you don't sing, you won't hear the lyrics at all. Of course, you can still play the normal Karaoke way by having your own voice come through your speakers as well.
Dance 'til you drop in Boogie.
When the game's finished later this year, players will have the ability to "record" their sessions and save them for future replaying. There are also plans for multiplayer support and character customizations like colored hair and different clothes. The game still has a ways to go in development, though, and many of the ideas planned weren't even an option in the demo. Online will not be supported in Boogie, so anyone expecting to trade Boogie replay saves with friends will have to do it in person.
Visually, the game looked great with a cool art style and exaggerated character movements. In early screens and in the GDC demo the developers showed off the disco alien-type character Bubba, but for this hands on, the team focused on a female character to demonstrate the various dance moves players could pull off. It was pointed out, though, that a lot of the art that was in the demo was early placeholder and will change as the game continues in its development cycle. EA hopes to beef up the game with as many as forty licensed tunes spanning more than 30 years of groovin'; for our demonstration, though, we only got to play around to the tune of The Commodores "Brick House." The tracks will be covers and not the actual recordings, but they'll be as close as possible to the original songs.
But what we played in Canada was still mostly conceptual as the version there was in a pre-alpha state -- there's still so much to be added and changed to Boogie that it will most likely look entirely different the next time we see and play it. The game still has a vague "2007" release, so expect this one to hit just in time for the holidays.
We get our groove on in EA's upcoming singing and dancing game for the Wii.
By Ricardo Torres, GameSpot
Posted May 4, 2007 4:49 pm PT
Bust a Move Check out the foot-tapping action in this first trailer for Boogie.
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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.
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.
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.