Boogie (Wii)

My review of the early Wii title Boogie—which hit the Internet the moment the embargo lifted on August 7, 2007, two days before the game’s launch—was very quickly maligned. People assumed that my low score, compared to the 4 out of 5 stars that GamePro had awarded it, was surely the wrong scoreand folks on the Internet jumped all over me, going so far as to speculate that I must be a mom who didn’t understand the meaning of fun (I was 24 and childless at the time). I was delighted by all of this controversy, of course—and I was later vindicated, in the subsequent days and weeks, by Boogie‘s rash of bad reviews.
Most exciting of all, Stephen Totilo, then of MTV News, actually interviewed the designer of Boogie about my crummy review; the article contends that the Wii is so new and so different, reviewers still “don’t know how to review games for it.” (I think the issue was more that designers didn’t know how to design games for it.) Anyhoo, my score and my later rebuttal to Totilo were both treated as news.

So, chances are, you’ve heard of Boogie by now: It’s an ambitious mashup of genres, a rhythm/karaoke game for the Nintendo Wii, dosed with a dash of vaudevillian bizarreness. Let’s get another thing straight: This is a party game. If you are playing this by yourself, you aren’t going to have very much fun. After all, nobody wants to look stupid at home, alone, by herself.

But that isn’t all. The crux of the game is, almost certainly, to embarrass you. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — I love inviting friends over and asking them to look asinine. But the reason you’ll look asinine is, in fact, the fault of incredibly shallow gameplay.

And if you’ve seen any Boogie gameplay videos on the Internet (they’re ubiquitous), you probably already know that pulling off dance moves is accomplished by making an obscene sexual gesture with the Wii Remote. No, I am not making this up. This is the sum total of the gameplay. In fact, in this PG-15 segment put together by EA in conjunction with VH1’s Best Week Ever (no, seriously, it is provided by EA itself on YouTube), it is unbearably clear that everyone knows this shallow gameplay mechanic is the heart and soul of the game:

To be fair, the idea behind this gesture is half-valid: Essentially, your Wii Remote is a metronome, hinged at your wrist — and as if you are the conductor of an orchestra, you keep time by waving your remote around. But “dancing” and actually keeping the beat seem to be a fairly imprecise science, so that’s why the mere act of shaking your hand, crudely and violently, apparently does the trick. What impresses me, and baffles me, is that EA concedes shallow, weird-looking gameplay (again, see video, embedded above).

OK, time to get serious: You can, admittedly, get more precision over your dancer’s moves, of course, if you attach the Nunchuk dongle and play with both hands. Occasionally, a target or bonus will appear somewhere on the stage area, and you can use the analog stick to stiffly dance over to the target and score more points. It’s sort of arcade-esque, and if it didn’t feel like you were fighting to step three steps to the side, it would be sort of fun. You can pull off still bolder dance moves by pressing the trigger button underneath the Wii Remote. This shifts you into a timed DDR-ish mode: A series of arrows appears at the bottom of the screen, and you jerk your remote left, left, right, up, or whatever, until you’ve completed the series and landed the dance move. Which is kind of cool, too, except that the control feels so mushy, it’s difficult to pull off properly.

Karaoke is a total sham. Granted, I can appreciate that the karaoke mode in Boogie simply won’t be as fulfilling as the experience offered in an actual karaoke title. But the USB microphone I was given? I don’t know whether the mic distorted the pitch or what, but even the most confident voice trembles and darts along the tablature. You’ll discover it’s easiest to score Gold by putting your lips directly against the mesh of the mic and just humming into it.

And while you can make your character dance while you sing in karaoke mode, you’re probably going to need someone to help you out. That’s because it’s pretty difficult to jerk the remote with one hand and concentrate on singing into the microphone you’re holding in your other hand. And don’t even get me started on how tough it is to optionally use the Nunchuk dongle in your nonexistent third hand.

However, if you are indeed up to the overcomplicated task of singing and dancing at the same time, Boogie sports one spiffy, gratifyingly bizarre feature: editing your own music video. I should disclose that the video editor is fairly rudimentary, but at least it allows you up to 100 cuts, four different footage angles, and a bevy of totally surreal filters and overlays to apply to your video. It’s time-consuming, though, and there are limited combinations of weirdness to explore, but I am, nonetheless, irrationally satisfied with this outcome: [YouTube embed of my Boogie music video]

The antics are fun for a short while, which makes story mode (and you’d better play it, if only to unlock Pink’s “Get the Party Started”) a bittersweet trudge. Perhaps the game wouldn’t seem such a chore if the songs weren’t so horrible. Or perhaps I am so begrudging of Boogie because its heinous song list makes me feel like I must be 90 years old.

Oh, sure, the catalog of tunes isn’t that sparse, per se, but the way the songs have been stacked is a little off-kilter. At the game’s start, you’ve got a scant few karaoke classics — the Jackson 5’s “ABC” and Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon” are among them — but then you have these momentarily relevant radio hits like Kelis’ “Milkshake,” Fergie’s “Fergalicious,” and the Pussycat Dolls’ “Don’t Cha,” among others. And thrill as my heart might at the thought of grown men singing to tripe in adorable shrieks and squeals, the very notion of 12-year-old girls at a Bratz doll PJ party, growling “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was a freeeeak like me” right along with the scrolling lyrics, chills me straight to the bone. No worries, though: Boogie’s rated Everyone 10+, so they were careful to cut the word “ass” out of the Pink song.

But my motherly horror shouldn’t be enough to stop you from buying this game. Oh, no. The fact that this game is fun for exactly 20 minutes, and only in a group of two or more, should keep you from buying this game. In the end, Boogie is light on dancing, light on karaoke — a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none moment of fluff.

Score: 3.0 out of 10

Jenn Frank

I started writing about videogames professionally in 2005. I'm better known for my personal essays. I like vintage computer games and preservation, books, and horror games.