It’s starting to look as if Namco has abandoned one of my favorite Wii dance-gaming series, We Cheer; after We Cheer 2 came out in the fall of 2009, there hasn’t been a peep (despite rave reviews at Amazon) and both games now are labeled “discontinued”. But late last year, Kidz Bop Dance Party, a game that also has you tracing imaginary lines to the beat of dancy music, was released, and I just picked up a copy last week since Amazon had it for around $12.
Confession time: I can’t stop playing it!
Kidz Bop Dance Party is of course part of the heavily-advertised Kidz Bop franchise of popular hits rerecorded in kid-friendly versions, but the game is just a rebranding of a Japanese dance game, Happy Dance Collection. They took out the Japanese pop idols and put in tweenish-looking kids, plus 24 songs, which is less than many dance games. (I think I’m going to start a personal “Dance Game Rule” of not spending more than a dollar per song.) Songs include shortened versions of Thriller, 1985, Party in the USA, Don’t Stop The Music, and – ugh – Girlfriend, plus fun originals like Kidz Bop Shuffle.
Gameplay is the same as We Cheer: pick a tune and dance along with the avatar while moving your remote along the tracks of arrows. This game only uses one remote, and the dancing isn’t as complex as We Cheer’s, but I still work up a sweat. This is also a better party game than We Cheer because it offers a guest mode, so guests can jump right in without having to create a file.
In Free Play mode, all the songs are unlocked from the beginning, and you can play them on easy or normal mode. In Challenge mode, you progress along a trail of stars and win badges on your way to Superstar status by passing groups of songs and then a “test” song. It looks as if you eventually unlock harder modes and Mii support, although I haven’t gotten there yet.
There’s a versus mode for 2 players, and they made it more kid-friendly by not showing who is winning until the song is over, to prevent discouraging the very young. With all the modes, you win points that you can spend in the shop on clothing, shoes, hairdos and accessories. There are boy and girl avatars with adjustable hair and skin colors.
No workout mode or online/downloadable content, but for $20 or less, Kidz Bop Dance Party is a great deal, as fun and active as Zumba, We Cheer, Michael Jackson or Just Dance.
I saw that Amazon now has a trailer for the upcoming Kidz Bop Dance Party, and besides its gameplay resemblance to the We Cheer series, I thought it looked very much like a We Cheer-like game that was released only in Japan, Happy Dance Collection. HDC came out at about the same time as the first We Cheer, but it featured Japanese pop songs and used only one Wiimote. It wasn’t so much dancing, as the sort of star posing that pop idols often do on stage.
Here’s a screenshot of Kidz Bop, courtesy of Amazon:
And a video of Happy Dance Collection:
A bit of a resemblance? (There’s also this cute video of a family playing HDC.) The game is now out of print, but I recall that it got some good reviews from dance-game fans, so now I’m more interested in Kidz Bop than I was before.
With Just Dance being the most successful third-party (i.e. not made by Nintendo) Wii game ever, we can expect lots of imitators in the dance genre. To me, that is awesome news. One thing that sets console games apart from workout DVDs is that games seem to be able to license far better music. Thus games allow us to dance and sweat along with popular hits, often by the original artists, rather than the tuneless canned music that fitness DVDs are often stuck with.
Now the Kidz Bop franchise is entering the dance game market with Kidz Bop Dance Party. Kidz Bop, for anyone unfamiliar with their commercials that have been saturating kid TV for nearly a decade, is a series of CDs where kids sing “cleaned-up” versions of popular hits. Kidz Bop Dance Party for Wii is scheduled for release in September, but Gamespot has a pre-review that sounds very promising.
From the review, it sounds like gameplay is very similar to Just Dance: hold the remote in one hand and mimic the dancer on the screen. But this game adds the customization features of We Cheer or Boogie Superstar by allowing you to import your Mii and dress it up with clothes and accessories bought by the points you won. In addition, you score points based on how appropriately your avatar is dressed, so the highwaters-with-white-socks look might score big with with Thriller, but best hit the wardrobe before switching to Lady Gaga. So this game might teach your kids to either dress for success, or shop till they drop.