Publisher: Ubisoft / Developer: iNiS / ESRB: Teen [Strong Lyrics, Suggestive Themes] / Price: $49.99 / Played on: Xbox 360
With the popularity of dance games growing, it’s not surprising to see releases based on particular artists. It’s similar to how the Rock Band and Guitar Hero franchises had games based around acts like Green Day, Metallica, The Beatles, and Van Halen. Ubisoft is taking the popularity of dance games and combining it with one of the most globally recognized pop acts in the world in The Black Eyed Peas experience. The game offers enjoyable dancing, distinct visuals, and loads of popular B.E.P. tracks. It’s a fairly complete package, but it also has some shortcomings that will disappoint longtime B.E.P. fans.
Like other dance games, your goal is to follow the body, leg, and arm motions shown on screen. Prior to each move, a silhouette at the top of the screen shows you–in motion–how each move is executed. This method is easier to follow than the step-by-step charts used in Dance Central and the stick figures used in Just Dance.
Depending on how accurately you follow the steps and how good your timing is, you’re given one of four ratings per move: almost, good, great, incredible. As you’d expect, the higher your move rating, the higher your score will be. Since this game is geared towards a mainstream audience, it’s not particularly difficult to get a “good” rating, even on the songs that are supposed to be more difficult. It’s relatively easy to get past a song with a C-grade, even if your rhythm is off and your moves vaguely resemble the ones shown on screen. Getting “incredible” ratings and A-grades is definitely a challenge, even if you’re an accomplished dancer like Machinima’s Billy Shibley. The difficulty level is appropriate for a mainstream game in that most players will be able to progress, but there’s a good amount of challenging for you dancing queens (and kings) out there. That said, I would have preferred the ability to manually select the overall difficulty level.
The meat of the game is the Deluxe Experience mode, which is a career mode of sorts…if your career consisted of following The Black Eyed Peas around the world and dancing with them for no pay. (In some countries, this is called stalking.) In this mode, each song is divided into parts. The first few parts teach you three moves a piece, while the last section has you performing all the moves you’ve learned for the song.
You’ll earn a certain amount of followers depending on how well you performed. The better your performance, the more followers you earn. Earning a certain amount of followers unlocks new clothing, accessories, and venue upgrades. I didn’t find playing dress up with my avatar or playing house with dance venues particularly gratifying, but I enjoyed the collection aspect of Deluxe Experience.
The game’s other mode is Dance Party. This is a free-play mode that lets you enjoy a song from start to finish with all the dance moves intact. This is a great mode for parties or getting your heart rate up quickly without having to worry about a score or clearing a stage. It’s all about firing up a song, dancing, and having fun. As long as you and your friends are able to enjoy an hour or more of B.E.P. music, Dance Party is a good way to have an evening of fun.
There’s a surprising amount of multiplayer options available in The Black Eyed Peas Experience. Two players can dance together cooperatively. Playing with another person makes it easier to gain followers, even if your companion isn’t that good. From what I observed, it was easier to gain more followers with two players earning C-level scores than one player earning a B-level score. It’s great that it encourages participation and group gaming, but it’s also a cheap way to inflate your score. It’s also unfair to gamers that don’t have any friends that enjoy dancing games since it makes achieving high scores and unlocking items more difficult.
The game also supports wireless or Xbox 360-compatible microphones. Two of my friends (begrudgingly) played the game with me. Two people were dancing while the other one was on the mic. Having someone on the microphone increased the rate of gaining followers, but didn’t affect the letter grade earned. In total, up to four players can participate with two dancing and two singing. The singing aspect of the game is a clever gimmick that encourages group play.
When I loaded up the game and saw that it uses Epic’s Unreal Engine, my first thought was, “Oh crap. They’re going to make apl.de.ap look like Dom from Gears of War.” Thankfully, this wasn’t the case. None of the members of The Black Eyed Peas had disproportionately large shoulders that made them look like steroid-addled monstrosities.
Overall the graphics are more about style than substance. The different venues and stages looked cool. I liked the variety of outfits each B.E.P. member wore. Their act is about visual style as well as sound, and it was nice to see recognizable costumes from their videos and concerts.
That said, the graphics are not technically impressive. The character move smoothly enough, but they lack details. The character models aren’t particularly realistic. If you look closely at them then you’ll likely have an “uncanny valley” moment.
Naturally the game features several popular songs from The Black Eyed Peas. There’s a decent selection of tracks from Elephunk and Monkey Business, but most of the music is from The E.N.D. and The Beginning, the last two albums released by B.E.P. The music is censored, with curse words taken out. Sadly “Let’s Get it Started in Here” is used instead of the vastly superior “Let’s Get Retarded in Here”.
Longtime fans of the band will be disappointed that their earlier work isn’t in the game. On one hand it might have been visually jarring to have pre-Fergie songs in the game, removing the most eye-catching member of the group from the screen. On the other hand, not a lot of people are familiar with these songs; they aren’t nearly as popular as the ones from Elephunk on, but it would have mixed things up nicely. Sadly, “Where is the Love?” — arguably the song the truly made B.E.P. big-time artists — isn’t in the game. I love the positivity of that song and was bummed by its omission.
The Black Eyed Peas Experience is a good dance game that uses solid gameplay mechanics. While the visuals are distinct, they’re lacking on a technical level. The music favors the band’s recent releases, completely ignores their earliest work, and leaves out one of their biggest hits. Obviously this game is for B.E.P. fans only, but even the band’s fans will find the graphics and the song selection lacking. Having said that, there’s plenty for B.E.P. fans to enjoy, especially with if they play the game with their friends.
6.5 / 10