Karaoke Busts a Move

From EA games, a chance to make 'em dance while you sing along to disco hits, without ever getting out of your chair

Electronic Arts invites people to style and profile in its upcoming Wii video game, Boogie, a cute and undeniably strange product that combines karaoke and dancing. Players will groove to the beat of (as of this writing) 40 licensed songs, such tracks as YMCA, Brick House and Don't Cha, all the while racking up points and earning tokens to purchase new items. The game looks promising, with plenty of combos and challenges to complete. That said, it may go down in history as one of the few dancing games that doesn't require its users to physically bust a move.

Strangely enough, Boogie doesn't blend singing and dancing to produce a glorified American Idol experience. In fact, it separates the two. On the musical front, players will belt out a tune into the included USB microphone to hit the correct pitch. All the while, a selected character grooves to the music.

At first glance, Boogie's singing seems basic, but developer EA Montreal's Voice Assist technology makes it much more than a typical karaoke machine. Boogie allows players to save 2-4 of their performances (EA has yet to settle on a number), and if they despise hearing their own voices, they can toggle on Voice Assist, a feature that replaces their voice with the artist's. As they sing into the microphone, the artist's words get recorded. Interestingly enough, if they stop singing so does the game, making this much more than a simple gimmick. However, while it works fine most of the time, humming the tune or just speaking into the microphone sometimes gets translated into actual words from the song. People won't be able to achieve high scores this way, as the game seems smart enough to detect plain old messing around.

On the dancing front, gamers use the remote and nunchuk to animate an on-screen avatar. Tilting the nunchuk's analog stick, for example, causes the character to perform facial expressions. The remote, on the other hand, controls the majority of the moves. Tilting it up, down, left and right makes the character spin around, perform splits, shimmy, and point their fingers in the air Saturday Night Fever style. During this performance, a counter at the top of the screen registers points achieved, while a vertical bar on the left fills with energy as players pull off moves. Once that's full, they press and hold A and B on the remote to activate Star Mode. During this time, the screen blurs and they're able to bust out numerous combos and earn tons of points.

Despite its incompleteness, the karaoke segments work wonderfully, and the singers hired to rerecord the music (the game doesn't include the original artists) did an amazing job. Furthermore, the dancing portion offers mindless fun, a guilty pleasure that'll have people relaxing on their couches and dancing like fools. At the same time, the concept of dancing on screen while sitting like a lump makes little sense, particularly because of Konami's long-standing Dance Dance Revolution series. It just feels strange twisting one's arm to dance while the feet remain planted on the ground. The developers know this, which is why they plan to experiment with various ideas to see if they can combine the two.

Although EA won't discuss many details, Boogie features a wide assortment of characters, from the strange alien, Bubba, to the hip-looking Lea. Players will customize their selected characters, using tokens acquired during performances to unlock items. They'll also visit a series of colorful locations, such as The Boogie Academy and the Lost Temple of Funk.

They won't, unfortunately, travel outside their Wii. Despite being able to save performances, Boogie doesn't feature online play, so don't expect to send/download videos.

That issue notwithstanding, EA has done a great job with the technology available, and GameDaily looks forward to seeing Boogie several months from now, after the team's had enough time to settle on the controls, the modes and discloses all the details.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.