Super Funky Fresh Mad Flava!
I'm really not sure what to make of this game, but what I am sure of is that it's fun, addicting, and has a very broad appeal. Couple this with silky smooth motion captures and a quality soundtrack and you've got a great game on your hands. It's pretty easy to pick up, but those of you that have no rhythm might get a little frustrated.
Bust a Groove is very much like a fighting game, but instead of throwing punches and fireballs, you must out-dance your opponent to win. The screen shows two rows of moves; the top row being easy and the bottom more difficult. Moves consist of various directions to push on the D-pad followed by pressing either O or X. Moves must be completed on the fourth beat of the song; however, you can press the directional buttons as fast or as slow as you want so long as you are able to hit the O or X on the fourth beat. It might sound simple or easy, but the game throws in a few tricks such as syncopated beats, gnarly six button combinations, or downbeats to throw you off. Believe me, it's not as simple as it may appear. Heck, a friend of mine who's a drummer had a devil of a time with one particular song.
Just like any good fighting game, each character has his/her own dancing style and theme music that samples from almost every genre of dance music: Rap, hip-hop, house, disco, soul, and pop. There are so many moves available for each character and the songs have such a good beat that this game puts classic dance/music shows such as Dance Fever, Soul Train, and Solid Gold to shame.
The scoring may seem ambiguous at first; whoever is winning gets more camera time and the camera itself works off an internal point scoring system. The first move you pull off is worth 100 points, the second 200, the third 600 and so on with each subsequent move worth roughly twice as much as the previous one. So obviously it behooves you to land as many moves in a row as possible (combos) to build up a huge point score. The moment you miss a move you have to start at 0 again, but any previous points you scored are still part of your total.
You also have a level meter which keeps track of your current level. If you are able to pull off a 5 move combo or more, you will gain a level meaning bigger combos, more difficult moves, and higher point scores.
Throughout each song each player has the opportunity to solo. Aside from being able to show off how badass you are, the solos are also critical in momentum shifts. Much like a Double Jeopardy round, comebacks from a match you are losing are not only common, but frequent as well. If you think you've got the match in the bag but your solo sucks, be prepared for an unexpected outcome.
I found Bust a Groove to be a truly interactive experience. While learning the game, I had a hard time keeping the beat on some levels so I tried everything; tapping my foot, nodding my head, swinging my shoulders, counting to four, or all at the same time. My roommate would walk in sometimes while I was "dancing" on the couch, frantically trying to keep the beat and just throw me weird looks.
There is, however, a downside. Playing Bust a Groove is a lot like having sex; you *could* do it all by yourself, but it's much more fun and satisfying with a partner (says who?! - Ed.). Single player mode is fun for a few days until you 1.) get sick of the same songs, 2.) get sick of the repetitive gameplay, or 3.) get sick of the game altogether. The replay value in 1p mode is very limited as the game gets terribly repetitive.
Bust a Groove shines in a party setting as watching the game is about as fun as playing it. The motion captures are excellent and the dance moves extraordinary. Watching someone play the game complete with all the body english they go through trying to keep the beat is a gas (see above paragraph).
Bust a Groove really takes the fighting game genre and turns it on its head with an interesting and very original concept that will have all your friends itching to try it. This game's as fun to play multiplayer as WWF War Zone but without the daunting learning curve. Still not convinced? Rent a copy the next time you throw a kegger. You won't be disappointed. It's like the Men's Wearhouse, baby: I guarantee it.