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High School Musical 3: Dance! does the same for dancing that Sing It PS3 (and Wii) did for karaoke. Disney's high energy innocence of High School Musical is matched by some solid gameplay and presentation to create a confident game around this key franchise. Disney's decision to split the dancing and singing into two games (rather than EA's combination in Boogie Wii) here proves the critics wrong.
Rhythm action games combine the enjoyment that comes from creating music with the challenge of video game scoring. The player is usually tasked with dancing on a mat, tapping a touch screen, pressing a button, singing into a mic or strumming a fake guitar controller in time with the music.
High School Musical 3: Dance! may appear to be a simple movie tie-in based solely on the popularity of rhythm action dance games, however there is much more here that meets the eye. The level of innovation and quality make this an engaging experience.
Whereas the PS2 version of the game use a dance mat to get the player moving, the Wii version makes use of the Wii-mote controller. This not only reduces the cost of the game, but enables a multiplayer option with just two Wii-motes.
The Wii-mote enables the player to make a variety of dance moves. There is the basic shaking and moving in a particular direction in time with the song. This is extended to two hands with the use of the Nun-chuck. As well as shaking you are also tasked with holding the controllers in a certain direction for extra points.
These basic moves are enhanced by a number of special moves that have the player spinning, jumping and hopping on the spot. These are rounded off with the use of pointing to score mid-song bonus points and the crowd pleasing dance stances where the player must match the on screen characters static dance position.
The game includes around 30 songs from all three High School Musical films, which are unlocked by scoring enough on each level. Along the way you can choose which dancer you want to control, and dress up with clothing that is won with good performances.
You can play alone or with one other player. The two player game provides both co-operative and competitive dancing. As you play through the songs each player is assigned separate moves and if they perform well enough they can trigger a special move that blocks out the other player from scoring - whereupon they have to shake their Wii-mote to break free.
Although the game's Disney movie title will first attract players, it is the quality and presentation of the gameplay that is the real draw. The variety of interactions we've outlined above give some sense of the innovation here, but it's not until you play them all together that things really start to get exciting.
Pulling of a change of 20 perfect moves to finally block out the leading dancer sets up a nail biting close to the performance. As the end approaches each player does their best to punch out each move before collapsing in a giggling heap on the floor exhausted and out of breath - ingenious!
Each song takes no longer that three minutes to play, although there is a little more time taken up with the pre-game character customisation and song selection deliberations. New players will also want to spend a bit of time acustomising themselves tot the controls.
Our daytime sessions always seem to last a good half an hour in our house. When we play after dinner with friends though, things seem to easily stretch on for a couple of hours.
Young players may struggle to combine both the movement and timing required. Even those a little older will need to teach themselves the specific action required for each direction. A rough upwards wave for instance isn't enough. High notes need to be flicked up like tossing a serve, whereas low notes need to be flicked down like hammering a nail.
Intermediates should find this a good way into the rhythm action genre, although the selection of songs is quite limited (with the title in mind).
Experts may balk at the kiddie focus but should really try and get past this. Like we said of Cheer Leader Squad Wii, this is a better game than the more popular Samba De Amigo Wii, although something that hardcore gamers may not easily admit.
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