If you’ve been to a professional basketball or football game lately, you’ll see that cheerleading has come a long way. Gone are the days of “pom pom girls” and guys clappping and yelling into bullhorns. Today’s cheerleaders can be just as much athletes as the teams they’re cheering for. They have to memorize playbooks, they have to undergo constant and rigorous training, they sustain injuries, and their competitions can be intense grueling. But of course the difference is, they try to do it all with a pretty face and a smile.
That’s a good way to describe We Cheer 2 by Namco-Bandai. The primary audience for the game is quite obviously girls from ages 7-15, but it can certainly be enjoyed by people of all ages. The We Cheer world is a bright, colorful world with wide-eyed cartoon cheerleaders with big eyes and bubbly giggles. The music is licensed and recognizable music from such teen pop stars as Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Avril Lavigne. Even Fergie’s “Glamorous” is the “Clean Version”. You definitely won’t find suggestive moves or skimpy outfits, it’s all very family-friendly. Grown-ups probably won’t have as much fun as the youngsters outfitting their characters with pom-poms, outfits, and every hair color of the rainbow, but kids will love it.
Unlike the last version, you also have option to play as a male character, although after playing a few minutes as a male character, I had to stop. I’m not sure why the artists opted to make the male characters awkward and effeminate as opposed to the more athletic guys you see at real college basketball games, but let’s just say after a few minutes even I wanted to beat my character up in the hallway.
As far as the game play goes, I was very impressed. The best way I can sum it up is the same way I summed up the Wiiware game Helix–it’s a lot like Dance Dance Revolution for your arms and hands. You hold the Wii remotes in your hands like pom poms, your on-screen character will dance in a cheerleading routine, and your job is to mimic her moves as closely as possible, with on-screen arrows and animated “timing star” showing you the precise moves you need to make and the speed you make them in. If you’re feeling adventrous, you can even turn off the visual indicators and simply follow along with actual movements of the characters on the screen.
If you follow her moves precisely, the screen says “Cool!” and you hear a jingling sound. If you miss, the screen will say things like “too fast” or “too slow” or even “needs more energy”. The routines you follow are actual, choreographed routines, so this game is truly as close to a real cheerleading simulation as you’re going to get. Granted, you’re only scored based on your arm movements, but if you want a full workout experience, you can also follow along with all of the dance moves the on-screen character is doing.
Unlike other rhythm motion games, which involve only moving your hands up and down and from side to side, We Cheer 2 takes it to a whole other level. literally simulating an actual cheerleading routine. You’ll clap your hands, dance from side to side, tilt and twist your body, shake your virtual pom-poms, and twirl and wave your hands. The choreography is actually pretty impressive; after playing the game over and over again (especially on expert mode), you can literally dance a full cheerleading routine that rivals the kinds you see at high schools and colleges.
The original We Cheer, like Dance Dance Revolution, was touted just as good for exercise as it was for fun. With We Cheer two, they once again put an “exercise mode” under the “Training” menu. In it, your on-screen character will take you through a Jane Fonda-like aerobic workout, selecting exercise routines with names like “Cheer your Muscles” or “The Calorie Burn”. Each routine has a little story; in one case, a tubby guy approaches you because he gained a lot of weight from eating hot dogs while watching soccer games; in another case, a chubby brown bear (yes a bear) laments that he’s got a crush on a panda who won’t give him the time of day because he’s too fat (okay, whoever wrote the dialogue is not going to win a Pulitzer). As a nice touch, the characters will have different sob stories each time you play.
The exercise routine will start, with your character shouting out moves that you have to mimic (high kick! grapevine!). As you successfully mimic each move, the guy will “poof” in a cloud of smoke, revealing himself to be thnner and thinner. At the end, he’ll thank you for helping him get in shape, and you’ll see a report of your total workout time, “calorie points”, and workout success. The workout you get here rivals anything you’ll find in a “pure exercise” game, but is much more fun.
As far as room for improvement, I would have liked to see longer exercise routines (you have the choice between a 2 minute quick workout and an extended 4 minute workout). I also would have liked to see a lot more routines (you get four to start, but you can unlock others).
If there’s one wrinkle in this game, it’s the response of the controller. I should say that the controls are much more responsive and accurate than most other similar games before it, from Samba Di Amigo to High School Musical to Dancing With the Stars. With Wii Cheer 2, just as the authors of Helix did, Namco-Bandai made the very, very smart choice of eschewing the use of the nunchuk and instead using two Wii remote controllers to control the hand movements. This greatly increased the responsiveness of the controllers, although admittedly there was still room for improvement. The controls were spot-on when I was playing on beginning mode or intermediate mode. But when I moved to expert, it was admittedly a bit aggravating when I knew I was making the right moves, but the system just refused to recognize them. I suppose this is because in expert mode, the movements need to be so fast and precise, perhaps more than the Wii can handle.
If you’re having problems getting the controllers to respond, here are some things I did to improve it:
- The Wii system and the We Cheer 2 game have options to adjust the controller sensitivity and to calibrate the controllers respectively. Play around with these.
- Make sure your movements are exagerrated. If it tells you to raise your hands, raise them emphatically all the way you can. When it tells you to move your hands in a circle, make a full circle. Like a real cheerleader, be very deliberate in your movements, and make sure you follow the animated star precisely.
- Practice, practice, practice. You’ll have your best success when you’ve memorized the routines and do them precisely in real-time with the on-screen characters, as opposed to trying to match the on-screen cues. In the video you see above, I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me hours to clear the Expert mode for Miley Cyrus’ “Girl’s Night Out”. But what helped was that as I tried over and over again, I started to memorize the routine, and once I did that, it just became a matter of trial and error to find out which motions worked for which moves. For example, in the part of the song where the cheerleaders are “high fiving” each other, I eventually found that you need to move your arms and wrists in an arc, and to “snap” your wrists at just the right moment.
- In desperation, at one point I ended up removing the plastic cover from my Wii remote, and unplugging the MotionPlus controllers.
- The biggest thing that ended up helping me was to move the sensor bar under the TV, rather than over it.
Here are some other things I liked about the game:
- There are great options for multi-player play. You can play alone, you can have two players each holding two Wii remotes, or you can have four players each holding on Wii remote. It’s great fun to play with friends or as a family.
- The soundtrack contains a lot of recognizable, licensed songs which will excite any teen or tween girl in the house (and the rest of us who won’t admit we occasionally tap our feet to them), including artists like Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Lady GaGa, Rihanna, and more.
To sum up, We Cheer 2 is a worthy successor to the original We Cheer, a lot of fun, and great exercise to boot. While most Wii exercise games focus on lower body, but We Cheer provides a great low-impact upper body workout. Sometimes the best fitness titles are ones that aren’t fitness titles at all, because you end up playing the game over and over again to try to beat the game, without realizing you’re working out. The only gripes I have with this game is that I wish they had much more extensive “Workout mode” options, and I wish the controllers were a bit more precise for expert mode (it might have helped, for example, if they included MotionPlus support).
Still, at the end of the day I was impressed. It’s a game which can provide lots of fun, a good challenge, great fun as a group, and at beginning and intermediate levels at least, the motion controls are spot-on. Highly recommended especially for girls in their teens and tweens, as well as adults who want a new and incredibly fun way to work out (and have a very good set of window shades :))
(Note: this review is based on a review copy of the game provided by the publisher)