The most pleasant surprise at this week's Nintendo Media Summit was the EA-developed rhythm/singing game, Boogie. I was pretty skeptical of the game from just the early screenshots that I had seen, and judging from the deserted EA booth, a lot of other people felt the same way. You'll understand then that I was surprised to find myself actually enjoyingBoogie, not only for the gameplay but also the attractive and pleasant graphics. For those of you unfamiliar with the game, Boogie is one EA's attempts to cash in on two current crazes at the same time -- rhythm/music games and the Wii. It combines a rhythm-based dance game with karaoke (via an included microphone) and a host of likeable, wacky characters and they pull it off surprisingly well.
Probably what impressed me the most about Boogie was the graphics; it had a really nice cel-shaded look to it, fantastic stages, and good animation. It was by far and away the best looking game at the show, with no other game except maybe Mario Strikers Charged coming anywhere close. The five different characters are attractively designed in a cartoonish way, and they're all well animated -- a key detail for a dancing game. The stages themselves were fairly small, but the backgrounds were huge and detailed. The forest stage in the below screenshots is probably my particular favorite. And the game gets extra points for being less aliased than any other title shown by Nintendo that day -- a huge plus for people bothered by the chainsaw-like jaggies on some other Wii titles (like me).
The gameplay is broken down into two main pieces. The first, and most fleshed out, is the dancing rhythm game, where you flick the Wiimote to the beat of the current song playing in the background. As you flick the Wiimote side to side, your character will dance left or right; flick the Wiimote up or down and your character raises their hands up or gets down low. You can also use the nunchuck to move yourself around the stage to pick up power-ups dropped by little demon guys and to help modify your dance moves. As you shake your money maker, the more on-time you are, the more points you get. If you repeat moves too often though the points awarded will start to drop. As your points build, you are given the chance of pulling off a special move by freestyling a bit, earning you a lightshow of special effects and extra points.
The second part of the gameplay is the karaoke, which is made possible by a bundled microphone. Currently the mic is black, which is a little offsetting considering the Wii's clean white finish; hopefully that is something that they change before the release. The gameplay is instantly familiar to anyone who's played the SingStar or Karaoke Revolution series as it is pretty much the exact same. The game judges your tone and timing to the lyrics displayed on the screen and scores you accordingly. The mic works well and seemed to pick up my voice in the crowded room and the game has a nice feature called 'Vocal Assist,' where you can set how much of your voice you hear versus the original singer's voice. This really helps in being able to nail the notes and timing of some of the songs, and helps make the game pretty user friendly. Side note: I was the only journalist there who sang and let me tell you: I nailed that rendition of Brick House. I think I only saw Tycho and Gabe look at me once or twice in disgust.
Unfortunately, there are no online features; having a dance off with a buddy from the other side of the country would have been pretty fun. As it is though, I still consider Boogie the best looking and playing title shown at the event. I'll definitely be interested to check out the final product on August 7th when it is released.