Game Rant's Ben Kendrick reviews The Black Eyed Peas Experience on Nintendo Wii
Ubisoft has carved out a profitable niche in the "dance game" marketplace with the enormous success of their Just Dance franchise - as well as similarly themed musical act-specific spin-off titles such as Michael Jackson The Experience. While the former continues to tear-up sales records installment after installment, the latter came across as little more than an excuse to slut-out the "King of Pop" brand - without doing the music justice with competent gameplay.
As a result, is The Black Eyed Peas Experience the next megahit dance title or just a thin gameplay experience in Black Eyed Peas clothing?
NOTE: Game Rant reviewed the Nintendo Wii version of The Black Eyed Peas Experience. As a result, this review should not be taken as an indication of the Xbox 360 Kinect version's quality - as the two differ greatly in on-screen presentation, core mechanics, and even song offerings.
That said, unfortunately, The Black Eyed Peas Experience on Wii is especially hard to recommend to anyone but die-hard fans of the band who are more interested in singing along and flailing around rather than actually playing a video game or learning new dance steps. Even though many of the core mechanics in Michael Jackson The Experience were similarly broken - at the very least, the game allowed players to test-out some of Jackson's signature dance moves (even if the Wii didn't track or score the player particularly accurately). Sadly, The Black Eyed Peas Experience suffers the same game-breaking frustrations but without recognizable choreography or, at the most basic level, an element that sets the title apart as anything but a clumsy cash-grab.
There's no doubt that The Black Eyed Peas have enough style and booty shaking musical offerings to actually provide players with an enjoyable dance "Experience" but, aside from the fundamental songs and some wild hip-hop choreography, this title is entirely void of personality and in-game fun.
Out the gate, it's as if The Black Eyed Peas Experience is trying to intentionally frustrate players. Not only are the menus unintuitive but the game presents three variables that change depending on the song selection - difficulty, number of players, and... some other marking that isn't explained anywhere on-screen or in the included instruction manual. Cycle through songs and the icon switches from one to three marks but it's never clear what effect the difference means from song to song - though, strictly guessing, we assumed that it had something to do with the "intensity" (as opposed to technical difficulty) of the selected song. While menu icons are hardly the biggest problem in the game, it's a glaring example of the title's lack of polish, and subsequently, consideration for the player.
Even worse is the in-game experience, which is marred by a combination of technical deficiencies, overly difficult choreography, and poorly implemented prompts. While challenging dance moves aren't exactly a problem - given that some players will no doubt have the skills to pull them off, the game rarely rewards accurately performed moves with appropriate scores. Flailing around is just as likely to positively impact a player's score as actually attempting the moves. As a result, there's little incentive to pay attention to the score - or try and improve - since, most of the time, refining a performance and trying to nail the moves will result in little to no measurable improvement to the player's actual score.
Players who, in spite of the game's horrendous tracking, still want to shake it like Fergie will find that, compared with similar offerings on the market, The Black Eyed Peas Experience is easily one of least accessible titles available - due largely to the lack of a training mode or individual move tutorial. Instead, players are expected to figure out the entire routine by mirroring one of the Peas on-screen as well as watching the least descriptive or intuitive stick figures ever placed in a dancing game. The figures only highlight upcoming changes in the routine and don't assist the player in accurately anticipating the speed or orientation of more complicated choreography sequences.
Where Michael Jackson The Experience was criticized for a lot of slow (and boring) move-sets, as a result of similarly lousy onscreen prompts and haphazard tracking, The Black Eyed Peas Experience can be extremely overwhelming - meaning that only the most dedicated players, who are willing to actually replay entire songs over and over and over in order to learn the various moves, will find enjoyment in the game. As a result, unlike similar titles, such as the Kinect exclusive, Dance Central 2, it's hard to imagine the game scratching the same party title niche that has propelled dance games to astronomic sales numbers.
Admittedly, we all look ridiculous playing these games in front of other people but, where as other titles offer gamers a range of difficulty options (as well as modes that actually help them improve), the frustration induced by playing The Black Eyed Peas Experience will likely result in a lot of friends propping up the wall - instead of throwing their inhibitions out the window in favor of getting in on the fun. Four players can join the "Experience" at the same time, and Ubisoft has included score bonuses for a group that performs well together, but with all the tracking problems and grandiose choreography, team performance and scoring will be a complete afterthought.
While The Black Eyed Peas certainly have a library of music worth centering a dance party around, given the barebones and broken gameplay offerings in The Black Eyed Peas Experience, it's hard to recommend the title as a competent "game" experience. Since many players will undoubtedly forget about attempting high scores or perfecting choreography, it'd be just as fun (and cheaper) to grab some friends, blast The Black Eyed Peas greatest hits, and encourage players to make-up their own dance moves - since that's basically what they'll resort to during The Black Eyed Peas Experience.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick.
The Black Eyed Peas Experience is available now for the Wii and Xbox 360. Game Rant played the Wii version for this review.