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Archive for January, 2012

Review of The Black Eyed Peas Experience for Wii

The Black Eyed Peas Experience by
Platform: Wii
3.5 of 5 stars – Great for fans of the Peas, not so much for others.
by ,
Written on January 24, 2012

review of black eyed peas experience for wiiOn November 17, 2009, Ubisoft first released a groundbreaking game called “Just Dance”. Just Dance 2 a year later was an improvement, and Just Dance 3 a year after that pushed the franchise forward with creative innovations like workout modes and multi-person choreography.

But as usually happens when a franchise gets big, a company and its competitors will milk and milk that cash cow until way past the point where the public is saturated with it. We’ve seen dance games for summer parties and country music and Broadway. We’ve seen dance games for kids, including one with Dora and one with the Smurfs. We’ve seen specialized dance games for specific artists like Michael Jackson and ABBA and specific shows like Grease. At some point you just want to shake these game publishers and tell them to THINK OF SOMETHING ORIGINAL FOR A CHANGE. But I digress. I suppose as long as we keep buying them, they’ll keep making them.

The Black Eyed Peas Experience is the latest entry into the morass of dance games, based on the eponymous pop music group. Even if you’re not an avid follower of this group, you’re no doubt familiar with some of their most popular songs such as “Let’s Get It Started”, “I Gotta Feeling” and “Boom Boom Pow”, which have all become popular in the mainstream.

I’ll start off by saying that if you’re a die-hard fan of the group, you’re going to want to get this game and you’re going to love it, no matter what this or any review site will say about it.

For the rest of us, here’s my take on this game.

The Black Eyed Peas Experience is not a horrible game in itself. The menu navigation is among the smoothest I’ve seen in a Wii game. The motion detection is mostly spot-on; I’d say it’s a bit less forgiving than Just Dance 3, but if you practice the moves it’s not hard to get a high score. Not surprisingly, it borrows a lot of great elements from Just Dance, from the use of pictograms to show you upcoming moves, to allowing up to four players to dance at the same time. In fact, one improvement over Just Dance is that all you need to do is to pick up your controller and the game will automatically recognize you as a player.

There are, of course, a lot of “Black Eyed Peas”-specific details within the game. The four silhouettes you follow on the screen are the Peas themselves, so at any point of each song you’ll be dancing as Will.I.Am, Fergie, or…the other two. The background images are all nicely detailed in the ‘hip pop’ style of the Black Eyed Peas and in some cases you’ll see excerpts of the actual music video playing in the background. The choreography is definitely inspired by the style of the Black Eyed Peas on stage–meaning that anything with an intensity level of 2 to 3 sweat drops is going to be a great workout.

One gripe I have is that even though the game supports up to four dancers all songs are choreographed for one or at most two different dancers, so in most cases all four players will be dancing to the same steps. This is somewhat ironic given that the premise of the game is to experience a band that consists of four people. In fact, the scoring is set up to encourage four people to dance together as a team. Even more aggravating–each of the Black Eyed Peas characters will jump in and out of some songs when the came could very well have supported all four of them dancing independently.

Another gripe of the game is that while they did inject a few Black Eyed Peas elements in the game play, it really still feels a lot like Just Dance and not an “experience” of its own. Contrast this with Michael Jackson: The Experience, which I really liked because Michael Jackson’s style of dancing was so unique and so revolutionary that the dance moves in the game really did transcend the typical kinds of moves you’d see in Just Dance. Another plus in that game was seeing videos and tutorials from Jackson’s own dance coaches which really made you feel like you had an “insider’s view”.

In the case of The Black Eyed Peas Experience, there’s hardly anything in this game that couldn’t have been accomplished by just having it as downloadable content of The Black Eyed Peas to Just Dance 3. Heck, if they could get Mario as DLC they could certainly get the Peas in there. At the very least I would have liked to have seen special features such as behind-the-scenes videos from the Black Eyed Peas themselves, insights into how they design their dance routines, or even a break-down of some of the more complex dances by the Peas themselves. This game had none of that, leading me to believe that the Black Eyed Peas weren’t really involved with this game other than allowing their songs to be licensed.

Not that the game is a bad deal as far as the songs go; if you buy the game for its list price of $49.99, that comes out to about $1.66 per song (which goes down to 83 cents a song if you can find the game at the street price of $24.99). But by making this a separate game, they take away any chance of enjoying the unique features of Just Dance 3 such as its workout mode and its support of four-person independent choreography.

In terms of the songs, you can choose from 30 Black Eyed Peas songs from four of their albums:

The Beginning
Don’t Stop the Party (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 3)
Whenever (Solo, difficulty 1, intensity 1)
Someday (Solo, difficulty 1, intensity 1)
Fashion Beats (Duo, difficulty 1, intensity 1)
Everything Wonderful (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 3)
Take It Off (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 1)
The Best One Yet – The Boy (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 2)
Light Up The Night (Solo, difficulty 3, intensity 3)
The Time – Dirty Bit (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 2)
Just Can’t Get Enough (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 2)

Monkey Business
My Humps (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 1)
Disco Club (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 1)
My Style (Solo, difficulty 1, intensity 1)
Don’t Lie (Duo, difficulty 1, intensity 1)
Dum Diddly (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 3)
They Don’t Want Music (solo, difficulty 2, intensity 3)
Don’t Phunk With My Heart (Duo, difficulty 1, intensity 1)
Pump It (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 2)

The E.N.D.
I Gotta Feeling (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 2)
Imma Be (Solo, difficulty 3, intensity 2)
Meet Me Halfway (Duo, difficulty 2, intensity 1)
Boom Boom Pow (Solo, difficulty 3, intensity 2)
Rock That Body (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 2)

Hey Mama (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 2)
Let’s Get It Started – Spike Mix (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 3)
Shut Up (Duo, difficulty 2, intensity 1)

With all respect to The Peas, I think there are only probably 5-6 songs which most people who buy this game will dance to; the rest will probably be appreciated only by their biggest fans.

One other point I should make. While this didn’t play a part in my rating, one thing that parents should be aware of is that the songs are uncensored, and are not even the “clean” radio edits. So the language can get quite explicit. Some examples (I bleeped out the cuss words here, but they’re unexpurgated in the game):

  • Boom Boom Pow: “I’m on that next s*** now”, “next level video s***”
  • Pump It: “Your girl admits that we do da s*** and When we play you shake your a**”
  • Lady Lumps: “What you gonna do with all that a**, all that a** inside yo’ jeans? What you gonna do with all that breasts, all that breasts inside yo’ shirt?”
  • Don’t Stop the Party: “Get up off my genitals”
  • Hey Mama: “Hey Mama, this that s*** that make your groove”
  • Take It Off: “a** up side-to-side, come on girl, take it off”

With Just Dance 3, even though some of the songs were suggestive, the publisher took time to at least bleep out the profanity. But with this game they didn’t. And even beyond the profanity, as anyone who follows the Black Eyed Peas knows, just about every song is suggestive and full of sexual double-entendre.

Again, I’m not making any judgments here and this is not factoring into my rating of the game–I’m sure for everyone who decries the profanity in the game, there are just as many people who are happy that the game has remained true to the artists’ original songs.

But this is just something that parents and educators may want to be aware of who may not know The Black Eyed Peas beyond the sanitized versions played on TV shows and at sporting events. I’m actually surprised that this title got a “T for Teen” rating, as I would guess many parents would probably hold off on getting this for their 13 and 14 year olds if they knew the content. I actually thought the ESRB had made a mistake in this case, but sure enough on their site they reiterate their Teen rating with the following summary:

Rating summary: This is a rhythm-and-dance simulation game in which players follow along to dance routines from the Black Eyed Peas. Players score points by accurately moving their bodies in time with the music and scrolling indicators. During the course of the game, a few background videos depict suggestive behavior (e.g., gyrating female dancers); some women are depicted in form-fitting outfits that reveal moderate amounts of cleavage. Some songs contain the words “sh*t” and “a*s”; others reference sexual material (e.g., “(Hotness) sex with clothes on . . . And I got a Trojan/Just in case we get it,” “Just wanna squeeze t*ts,” “You know my style is naughty, right/So don’t c*ck block me,” and “Maybe if you’re lucky/You’ll get a peep show”).

I’m no prude, but this seems like it should be closer to an M for Mature (aged 17 and up) than a T for Teen (aged 13 and up).

All that aside, I’d give this game 3.5 stars. It’s not a bad dance game, but for the reasons I mentioned above, it does feel like it falls short of an “experience” that’s worth paying $49.99 for. As I said, if you’re a big fan of The Peas, you’ll probably want it at any price. If you’re just a causal fan, I’d say this would only be worth it when it goes under $20. And if you’re a parent or educator, you might want to take a good look at the lyrics of the songs before bringing it home or to your school.

Review of Nickelodeon Dance for Wii

Nickelodeon Dance by
Platform: Wii
4 of 5 stars – An exercise game for the little ones.
by ,
Written on January 21, 2012

Nickelodeon Dance is one of those games where half the world wouldn’t touch it with a 39 1/2 foot pole, while the other half of the world will say it’s one of the greatest video game of the century. You can tell them apart easily: the latter group will have a house full of bouncing preschoolers.

It’s for this latter group of people that I’m writing this review. If you’re in the former group, take a break and hold on until my next review (which will involve the decidedly-more grown-up Black Eye Peas).

If your TV is turned on to Nickelodeon more than a few hours a week, chances are your kids are going to love this game (and by extension, so will you). As with its predecessor Nickelodon Fit, it features some of your favorite characters from Nickelodeon, including Dora, Diego, and the  Backyardigans. Ni-Hao Kai Lan and her buds were left out of this one for some reason, but in her place is the Fresh Beat Band.

While Nickelodeon Fit had a great variety of different kinds of activties, there’s only one activity in Nickelodeon Dance: dancing. The dance moves aren’t nearly as complex as what you’ll see on games like Just Dance or Dance Central, but many are simplified versions of familiar dance moves like the cha-cha or the twist.

The game starts out with an introduction by Dora. Throughout the opening menus, Dora will out reminders incessantly (I mean every two seconds) such as “don’t forget to press the A button to choose what you want!!!!!!” and “you can scroll through the list of things you can choose by pressing up or down on the plus control panel!!!!!!!!!” It gets annoying very quickly (even to small kids, who are really more intelligent than some of these games give them credit for).

The opening menu is pretty simple:

  • Quick Play
  • Dance
  • Workout
  • Achievements
  • Options

When you start out, you’ll be automatically sent to a tutorial. If you are familiar with Just Dance, it should all be very familiar to you:

  • Three of your favorite Nickelodeon characters will dance on the screen, and your goal is to match the moves of the character in the middle, as if you’re looking in a mirror.
  • There are icons on the bottom of the page that tell you what move you should be doing and what move is coming up. I didn’t find the icons particularly intuitive, but that didn’t matter too much because the moves themselves are very simple. Also, the character will shout out the dance move, which even small kids will quickly catch on to.
  • As you hit moves correctly, stars will fly out of the character into a “score meter”. The score meter only consists of three stars, and there isn’t a numerical score count at all. The game supports either one or two players dancing together; one player will have a blue score meter, the other’s will be purple.

There doesn’t seem to be any difference between “Quick Play”, “Dance” and “Workout”, except that with “Quick Play” you’ll see a list of all four song categories, while with “Dance” you’ll see songs from only three categories (“Starting Steps”, “Smooth Moves”, “Fancy Footwork), while with “Workout” you’ll see songs from the fourth category (“Workout Songs”).

You start by selecting a song. If a second player wants to play, they have a few seconds to press the “A” button on their controller to join in.

Each song has one of three icons to distinguish how much physical activity the song involves. There’s 1) a “walking” icon, 2) a “jogging” icon, and 3) a “running” icon. If you’re a parent that wants to wear out your kids, go for the “running”.

Here’s a complete list of the categories and songs:

Workout Songs
Down by the Bay – Dora the Explorer (3)
Great Day – The Fresh Beat band (3)
Limbo Rock – Go, Diego, Go (2)
Rhythm is Gonna Get You – Dora the Explorer (3)
The Lion Sleeps Tonight – Dora the Explorer (3)
We Did It! – Dora the Explorer (3)

Starting Steps Songs
A Friend Like You – The Fresh Beat Band (1)
Al Rescate – Go, Diego, Go (3)
The Backyardigans Theme Song (1)
The Fresh Beat Band Theme Song (3)
Get On Your Feet – Dora the Explorer (2)
Dora the Explorer Theme Song – Dora the Explorer (2)
Oye Como Va – Dora the Explorer (2-locked)
Santa Claus is Coming Aqui – Dora the Explorer (1-locked)

Smooth Moves Songs
Alouette – Dora the Explorer (1)
Go, Diego, Go Theme Song – Go, Diego, Go (2)
Joy to the World – Go, Diego, Go (1)
Locomotion – Dora the Explorer (1)
We Got the Beat – Dora the Explorer (2)
Yeti Stomp – The Backyardians (2)
Iko Iko – Dora the Explorer (1-locked)
P.U. (Stinky Swamp Song) – The Backyardigans (1-locked)

Fancy Footwork Songs
Dancing in the Street – Dora the Explorer (2)
Music (Keeps Me Movin’) – The Fresh Beat Band (3)
Here We Go – The Fresh Beat Band (3)
Rockin’ Robin – Go, Diego, Go (2)
Tuba Polka – The Backyardigans (3)
We’re Unstoppable – The Fresh Beat Band (3)
Animal Jam – Go, Diego, Go (2-locked)
Sleigh Ride – Dora the Explorer (1-locked)

The songs are all cover versions of popular songs. The singing is done by Dora, Diego, or the Fresh Beat Band, and is characteristically high pitched and energetic, just like their TV shows. From my observations, I’ve found that adults generally fall into two categories: those who hear such cover versions as fingers on a chalkboard, and those who love them (primarily because their kids’ eyes perk up and their feet involuntarily start moving whenever such a song starts playing). Play through the demonstration videos I’ve posted here and decide which camp you fall under before buying the game.

For parents who are worried that the lyrics of games like Just Dance 3 are too suggestive, there’s obviously nothing at all to worry about here. Even very, very mildly suggestive lyrics (such as the phrase “every guy, grab a girl” in Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Streets”) are rewritten to something very innocuous (in this case, “ever-y boy, and ever-y girl”). And as is often done in Dora songs, some of the lyrics are rewritten to teach kids about different hispanic and latino concepts (in the same song, places like “Philadephia, PA” and “Baltimore” are replaced with places like “Puerto Rico” and “Columbia”).

One think I always check for in dancing games is how accurate the controllers are. In this game, the controller response is very noticeably lenient. First, I tested it out by playing normally, and easily scored three stars. Second, I tested it out by just waving my arm up and down to the beat, and scored three stars again. Finally, I decided to just lay the controller on the table–and I still got one-and-a-half stars.

Of course, this would be a detriment in most dancing games, but because the audience for this game is pre-schoolers, it’s actually an advantage. If a child in your family has felt left out while everyone is playing and having fun with Just Dance, they’ll love the game that’s “made just for them”.

On the other hand, I imagine some children may realize very quickly that no matter what you do (or don’t do), you’ll get a high score. So I think the best way to approach this game is not so much to focus on the score, but just on having fun dancing with their favorite characters. Since they’re probably dancing to songs that play on the TV anyway, this game adds an additional layer of interaction with their on-screen friends that they’ll get excited about. There are also “Achievements” that you earn as you progress through the game by completing songs and earning stars.

Overall, this is a very basic dancing game that’s accessible to preschoolers. I would have liked to see more options, such as the ability for different dancers to dance at different levels (this way a parent or older sibling could dance with a child and be somewhat challenged). I also wish the game could accommodate more than two players, as sometimes the whole family would like to get involved (my guess is that they limited it to two players because they wanted to keep it consistent with the version on the Kinect, which by definition can only accommodate two players). Finally, it would have been nice to have had a little more personalization in the game, as this is something that would have brought the interactivity far beyond what kids already see on the TV–for example, making use of the child’s Wii character or allowing the child to be greeted by name (or even to store their name and their progress).

All in all, I’m giving it 4 stars out of 5 and my recommendation, but really only for a very specific group: parents of preschoolers who are fans of shows like Dora the Explorer and Go Diego Go. Parents of older kids may opt for Just Dance Kids, and families of teens and older will probably want to stick with Just Dance 3 or its many variants.

Why I’m supporting #sopastrike

I’m not a big site, but already I’ve seen what overzealous lawyers can do to a site. When I posted my review of a major release last year, I did my usual thing and posted a long review and some YouTube videos of my gameplay.

The next day I came back to the site and found that my YouTube account, which had hundreds of videos and thousands of followers, was in the process of being taken down due to “copyright infringement”. I was flabbergasted. Here I was giving positive free publicity to this company, but they wanted to shut me down. And of course, my silly little videos of Stii-Wii shaking his booty didn’t infringe on anyone’s copyright nor prevent anyone from buying the game–to the contrary, I know for a fact that hundreds if not thousands of people ended up buying it because of me.

I wrote in desperation to the legal department at the company who was trying to shut me down. No response. I wrote to their Marketing department. No response. I wrote to the publisher. No response. The clock was ticking and soon the years of time and literally sweat I put into my YouTube Channel would be gone.

Thankfully, I knew enough to file a counterclaim, and knew all about fair use and copyright law. But that’s just because I’m a computer geek. Most bloggers would have given in.

Don’t get me wrong–I understand the reasons behind SOPA and PIPA. The United States hardly produces anything anymore…tragically we don’t manufacture TVs or electronics or pharmaceuticals or practically anything. The only thing we still produce is entertainment like movies and video games, and yes, thieves are stealing them and getting rich by selling them for pennies on the dollar or giving them away for free and benefitting from online advertising. So in a sense, one of the last vestiges of our gross national product is under assault by thieves and counterfeiters from China to Eastern Europe.

I have indeed been the victim of copyright infringement myself. A few years ago, I found an offshore site that copied all the hard work I’d done on my site (as little and inconsequential as it is) and serving it up as its own. So yes, I see the rationale behind these laws. But the way they’re implemented is flawed. It would essentially deputize sites like Google and GoDaddy to become arms of the FBI. Any lawyer anywhere can take down any site just by complaining about it; you are guilty until proven innocent. This threatens every site from YouTube and Wikipedia to his one. Read more about it here.

The US Congress and presumably the President who would end up signing this bill Have good intentions but are under a delusion that this bill will solve more problems than it creates in its present form. I always marvel at our politicians who triumphantly sign bills that are supposed to help we consumers and never realizing that the bill only ends up making lawyers rich, giving bureaucrats busywork to do, and empowering lobbyists in all industries to continue buying off their favorite politicians, left and right…and not even solving the original problem it was supposed to.

I agree…there oughtta be a law. But just not this one.

Playstation 3D Bundle on sale again at Best Buy

Looks like they’re trying to clear some inventory again, so the great deal from the holidays is back. Best Buy is selling the Playstation 3D display for $299.

To get the deal, click the Best Buy logo below and then when you get to the home page, type the number 2891051 in the search box.

Click here for the Best Buy Homepage

Big Wii Fitness Games Sale at Amazon

To help everyone with their New Year’s Resolution, Amazon is having a big sale on a whole bunch of fitness games.

Some of the better deals you’ll find:

Just Dance 3 for $29.00
Zumba Fitness 2 for $29.99
Zumba Fitness for $27.99
Cyberbike Magnetic Edition (Wii Exercise Bike) for $149.99

Not a bad way to start the New Year. But jump on it quick before the sale ends!

Move Fitness for PS3 is coming…eventually

Back in August we shared that Move Fitness from Sony was coming. And sure enough, it arrived in the UK just before Christmas on November 25, 2011.

Strangely, though, the US version still is “TBA” according to Sony’s official sources, and isn’t even showing up for pre-order on Amazon. One wonders whether the marketing folks at Sony are holding off until THQ does what will sure to be a massive PR campaign for MiCoach in the Spring which should increase awareness for PS3 Fitness in general.

Surfing around UK message boards, I’m finding that the UK version received tepid responses from critics. The consensus seems to be that while motion controls are excellent (not surprisingly), the routines themselves are repetitive and uninspired. Worst of all, they’re reporting that the game is simply not entertaining, a surprising assertion given that it’s developed by the same folks who developed The Fight: Lights Out.

However, in what I see as a trend for fitness games, user reviews seem to be giving it much higher reviews. This is where the perspective of a magazine reviewer playing the game for five minutes will differ from someone who’s committed to doing an exercise regimen and is looking for any tool available to spice up her or his routine.

Hopefully the delay in getting it to the US will be used to fine-tune it based on reviews in the UK. In the meantime, if you’re really looking forward to this game and can’t wait, you can buy the UK version of Move Fitness on eBay. As with all PS3 games, the UK version will play on US Playstations, but of course things like narration, spelling, and units of measurement will be British. Not a bad thing if you’re looking for a sophisticated workout 🙂

Times Square in 3D on Earthcam on the Playstation 3D Display

One thing I happily discovered this year was that the site Earthcam.com was broadcasting this year’s Times Square ball drop in 3D.

As I’ve mentioned before, my PC’s video card has 3D capability but it doesn’t seem to be playing well with the Playstation 3D Display. But happily, after I followed the instructions I wrote for watching YouTube in 3D on the Playstation 3D Display, I was able to watch the whole thing live even without a 3D video card.

Again, the basic process is to mirror your screen so that your PC and your Playstation Display shows the same thing, turn on full-screen 3D view (in the case of Earthcam, by clicking on the radio button in the lower right-hand corner of the video which says 3D Mode to 3D TV) which will show a full-screen side-by-side image, and then selecting “Side By Side” mode on your Playstation Display.

After that, you can just sit back and enjoy the show with your glasses on your Playstation Display. This year, I had my regular TV showing Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve and the Playstation Display showing Earthcam’s feed. The timing was remarkably close–Earthcam was only a second or two off.

Overall, Earthcam’s feed was a bit choppier and lower resolution than the HD picture, which is to be expected of course. As the countdown got to under a minute, the connection got really choppy; my guess is they probably underestimated the number of people pulling up the feed and didn’t anticipate the bandwidth they’d need to broadcast to so many people. But even so, I was astounded by the 3D. The confetti literally seemed to be floating in the air and overall the 3D effect was excellent.

If you missed it, no worries, they have a complete archive of the evening and the countdown at http://newyears.earthcam.com/ so you can countdown the New Year anytime you wish, this time without millions of people competing with you for a clear picture. There’s also a YouTube video which shows some of the highlights:

In addition, their everyday Times Square camera has a 3D view now so you can just leave the camera on and watch the people of New York City all the time on your Playstation Display.

Just another way to play with your 3D Display connected to your PC without necessarily having a 3D card.