When I’m not busy writing about videogames, I like to hit the streets and dance. I dance for money. I dance for prestige. Most importantly, I dance for respect. The respect that I get stems from my ability to do some wicked circles on my back or tap my shoe to the beat without a cardboard mat. You would be surprised by the amount of posers out there who can’t do it without a safety blanket.
Naturally, when I got FreeStyleGame’s B-Boy on the PSP, I was all about it. I already understand what it's like out there, man. I live it. The only problem is (I've been waiting for days to type this) I’m not quite sure B-Boy is dancing to the same beat that I am.
In a world where I’m beginning to seriously reconsider my love affair with silly plastic instruments, I was relieved to find that there was still a rhythm game out there that didn’t require any funny paraphernalia. I suppose I should be happy that the game didn’t ship with a dance mat.
Read on for the full review.
B-Boy (PS2, PSP [reviewed])
Developed by FreeStyleGames
Published by SouthPeak Interactive
Released on August 5, 2008
B-Boy is one of those games that is new, but feels really old. It’s like picking up Super Mario Kart for the Wii and realizing that you’ve been playing practically the same game for nearly a decade. B-Boy is a rhythm game, designed around the idea that break dancing is fun and Stomp the Yard was a good film.
B-Boy begins with a bunch of loading screens, which is a particular problem with UMD in general, but especially pronounced in B-Boy. Everything takes forever, even getting to a simple menu. There are several options available to the player from the start, but the most prolific of the gametypes is the “Livin Da Life” mode in which players will take a no-name break dancer to break dancing stardom through a series of competitions, practice, and apparel decisions. The mode is controlled through a place called “The Lab,” which should remind people of "The Crib" from the 2K series. In The Lab players can use the computer to check e-mails, take challenges, train, and change clothes. Essentially, The Lab is a conduit to the greater game - dancing.
The Lab doesn’t accentuate any features of B-Boy. The only reason to check the computer is really to get to the next challenge – not to look at phony e-mails or listen to the “jukebox” function. It would be great to say that the computer served to give the game flair, but it only succeeds in peeling away at the already soft surface of B-Boy. Clothing is worthless unless you’re really into dressing up PSP avatars. The one vital function other than missions that The Lab brings players is the ability to train moves. After winning competitions players will be given new moves, which can be applied to the character. These moves don’t come with directions, so it’s best to try them out. The best part is that the individual dance moves utilize an RPG leveling system. Practicing will improve the move and therefore your scores when dancing.
The other modes are for quick battles and multiplayer sessions. While they certainly don’t detract from the game, they don’t really offer anything that Living Da Life doesn’t already. Accessing matches in Living Da Life is just as convenient as selecting a quick match.
Of course, B-Boy wouldn’t be B-Boy without dancing. The game utilizes a circular interface with little dashes indicating beats. The object is to link together varying moves while tapping the trigger buttons with the beat. There are a ton of different dance moves that can be earned and subsequently linked - the only problem is using them. The face buttons (in coordination with the d-pad) define the different moves a character can do. The interface seems a bit clunky when trying to pick something outside of simply tapping a face button to begin the move. The odd part is that a great majority of the “throwdowns” can be completed by merely using the standard moves granted at the beginning of the game. In this regard, B-Boy disappoints because there are so many different moves available, they just don’t necessarily need to be used.
The scoring system is also incredibly odd. When initiating a “throwdown” players compete to win “reward” medals. There are no numbers and it’s often hard to define what wins a match. Often you’ll find that you will win a match even though you performed worse than the other player. Aside from that, throwdowns can become tedious after an extended amount of time. While dancing is great, watching another person dance isn’t so fun. Each round of a throwdown lasts 40 seconds, and players are forced to watch the AI get his groove on in its entirety before getting to play for the brief amount of time allotted before having to watch a loading screen, boot up the computer, and pick another match. After several hours this gets quite nerve-wracking. Obviously the goal in any rhythm game is to ultimately display rhythm, uninterrupted.
While the circular interface suffices for what B-Boy is, the camera can often get in the way of the action. When doing the more spectacular spinning moves the camera will pan inward, and often block the view of the beats causing missed beats and opportunities. After a few lost matches as a result, this becomes as equally nerve-wracking as watching the AI perform.
Visually, the game isn’t stunning on the PSP, but once again it suffices. The art in the game is quite sound, but the real stunner is the motion captured moves. Every move that can be conducted in the game was mo-capped, and it shows. Even the transitions between moves are wonderfully handled. The sound is where B-Boy really takes off. The songs come in smooth and pretty and I was caught off-guard by the quality choices that FreeStyleGames made.
B-Boy has a decent amount of potential, but a variety of different problems hinder the overall game. The camera can often become an obstacle, the moves can be difficult to pull off or memorize, the flair outside of dancing is lackluster, the time spent on loading screens is ridiculous, and the dancing itself can be at times, pretty damn derivative. The sound and motion-capture work and great beats will keep players interested, but the flaws within the experience will easily turn off those who aren’t exactly interested in B-Boy to begin with.
Score: 3 -- Poor (3s went wrong somewhere along the line. The original idea might have promise, but in practice the game has failed. Threatens to be interesting sometimes, but rarely.)
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