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ups: Lots of Brittney footage for Brittney fans; dance game fans will get a kick out of it; great extra features.
downs: No innovation in dance game genre; very short.

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Brittney's Dance Beat Review (PS2)
game: Brittney's Dance Beat
four star
posted by: Monica Hafer
publisher: THQ
date posted: 09:10 AM Sat Jul 13th, 2002
last revision: 05:07 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

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As much as Brittney\'s Dance Beat has its obvious shortcomings, nothing I say is going to keep it from selling like hotcakes. No one stumbles upon this game by accident (unless someone buys it for them as a gift), and those who are going to purchase it know what it is that they\'re buying: one hefty dose of the teen diva herself, Britney Spears. And perhaps I may get hate mail for years to come, but this game is less about the actual art (of gameplay) and more about the artiface and the extras. That\'s not to say that it doesn\'t do a nice job for what it sets itself up to be, but I think it\'s time for dance games to march to a different paradigmatic beat, and Britney\'s doesn\'t happen to be it.

The premise of this game is that Britney is looking for new dancers for her world tour and the auditions are on. You can choose from six characters (three girls, three guys) and can play in single or two-player mode. Kudos to the game for giving us a nice multicultural selection of characters (though all of the female character\'s names end in \"a,\" which is annoying) and for giving us both genders. I was pleasantly surprised at this game\'s ability to have cross-gender appeal, and seemingly not just for ogling our teen idol\'s well enhanced/rendered chest and bare mid-drift. There were plenty of guys in line at E3 for this title, and it wasn\'t just for the droolfest. I think having male and female dancers broadens the appeal and capitalizes on younger, dual gender audiences via the wave of boy-band popularity.

You can practice as much as you want before you actually audition, and it\'s helpful to do this while you steadily increase the difficulty level (shown by four incremental bars). There are ten auditions total, with five using only half-songs and the other five using the full score. The way this game is played is fairly standard. You are given a metronome circle which counts off the beats (generally in 4/4 time, with a standard eight moves per cycle, just like real choreography is broken into) and you must press a combination of buttons plus directional pad in the time and sequence they are shown on the sweeping dial. This is made more difficult because as the computer pulls off more uninterrupted combos, it changes your sequencing. This makes the game more challenging, but also insures that your eyes cannot really leave the metronome. That means that if you want to see the cool choreography, you have to watch it in the Preview Mode of the game, rather than seeing it during gameplay.

I enjoyed the choreography that this game employed, using some cool movies from Britney\'s own repertoire along with some old developer favorites. However, with just five songs, and the fact that all of the characters perform the same dance for each song, I was left wanting even more. But the motion capture did a great job, and the characters are all nicely rendered and visually pleasing. As far as graphics in general go, this game is solid, but nothing that really pushes PS2 programming. Our dancers compete in backgrounds ranging from sixties-style lounges and hip clubs to aquariums and Chinese courtyards, but the most interesting backdrop in each is always the bigscreen showing Britney videos. It was disconcerting to note that the videos did not synch up with the songs, which made me wonder if it were some postmodern statement, some diabolical plot to keep us from singing along, or just plain sloppy. I\'m not sure what I decided. Perhaps it was to simulate a concert in which the lip-synching doesn\'t match up. The world may never know.

This game employs some of the old dancing standby annoyances, such as Britney\'s encouraging (or sometimes demoralizing) commentary on your dancing abilities. The effect is softened only slightly by the fact that our Southern Belle\'s drawl is particularly noticeable, which is always cute. The other characters have minimal voice responses after auditions, so that gets old fast, but I was impressed at the hopeful and imploring tone they captured for Britney when she asks \"Don\'t you want to try again?\" after you get your butt kicked. I actually found myself compelled to push the button, even if I wasn\'t really interested. How\'s that for psychological torture? As far as music goes, the game features five hit singles: \"Baby One More Time,\" \"Oops!...I did it Again,\" \"Stronger,\" \"I\'m a Slave 4 U,\" and \"Overprotected.\"

The major sell for this game is not the gameplay. That itself is short. Very short. What really powers this game is the unlockable features. You earn six different backstage passes to unlock Behind the Scenes Videos and Immersion Video features. The behind the scenes are a must for anyone obsessed with Britney. The immersion video shows concert and rehearsal footage that you can pan 360 degrees to view and zoom in and out. My big gripe with the immersion section is the film quality (maybe that\'s realism, but hey, I\'m a technophile at heart) and the fact that the zoom is incredibly limp. My old 35mm can do better than that. Perhaps they were trying to keep the perverted audience from capitalizing on this feature (you know who you are), but I would like to think that if the purpose of this is to get the \"front row seat\" appeal, you ought to be able to zoom in at least that far. But, to be less critical, the subject matter is pretty interesting from a fan perspective. These two features and basic fan appeal are what earns this game a four star rating-nothing else.

Besides my bitch about the shortness of this game, my biggest problem is the fact that it does nothing to break out of the current dance-game paradigm. Perhaps this discussion is a little esoteric, and if you want, you can skip down a paragraph, but this is important to me with so many games following a pattern that simply doesn\'t work well for this genre. Having button pushing that doesn\'t have any relation to actual choreographic moves stinks. It also makes sure that the last place your focus is on is your dancing. It took me a while on this game to realize that Britney comes out and dances for a few seconds during an audition duel because I hardly ever got a chance to look up from my metronome unless it was my competitor\'s turn, and then I had to keep an eye on it because I didn\'t want to miss my return entrance. There are plenty of games which rely on combo moves and provide plenty of different styles (I\'m thinking of the Tekken series here) and there\'s no reason that dance games can\'t employ that type of tech. You could respond to visual cues rather than sign cues, and it could also open up the ability for freestyle rating of moves of your own personal choreography (I\'m thinking Tony Hawk here). There are so many ways dance games could evolve that I think getting stuck in the metronome/wheel paradigm is like refusing to invent the airplane because a bicycle works just fine. I also think this is an issue because the Dance Pad does not work well for this type of game design. You\'re only looking at frustration if you buy one thinking it does. I think it could become the most fabulous addition since sliced bread, but the current game design just doesn\'t let it. Making the leap from virtual to actual is going to have to be given more thought; the assumption that the transfer of input from controller to Dance pad is direct and should work without some modification is ludicrous.

This game is a great addition to any fan\'s library. Those who are looking for the latest and greatest in dance will want to check this out via rental. The game is short, but visually pleasing and the extras make not only the icing on the cake, but really the cake itself as well. The choreography is pretty, and the broadening of character choice is nice. The biggest drawbacks to this game are its incredibly short nature (but I guess if you get it just to unlock the extras, that isn\'t a problem) and the fact that it functions on a paradigm that doesn\'t really suit the subject/medium. But still...even with all of this...the sales of Britney\'s dance beat will not suffer. Not really.