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Following the success of 'Michael Jackson: The Experience' (reviewed previously) in our household, my mom endeavored to buy more party games for our family to play over the Christmas holidays. Among her purchases is another spinoff game from the same company as 'MJ: TE' and the 'Just Dance' series (Ubisoft): 'The Hip-Hop Dance Experience', released in 2012 on the Wii and Xbox 360. So does 'The Hip-Hop Dance Experience' serve as a decent game for fans of hip-hop music and dancing games in general, or is it a mediocre cash-in on the series? You've probably guessed my answer to that...
Playing the game is very simple. You pick one of the songs from the menu and then, following the two dancers on the screen (one faces with their back towards the camera, the other in front of them like a mirror image so you can follow both) and mimic the dancing movements which appear at the bottom left-hand corner of the screen with the Wii-mote. Each song has its own difficulty (ranging from 1 to 5) and variety of moves. Some songs with unique moves have those implemented when possible, which I found nifty. The better you perform each move (out of 4 gradients as it were), the more points you get for each and a bigger combo score you build up, although getting a move completely wrong ruins that combo. At the end of the song your total score is shown and converted into a percentage score to determine how well you did overall, possibly placing you on that song's scoreboard.
There are a few other gameplay modes as well as the default one- 'Dance Party'- placed on the main menu:
*'Dance Marathon' just lets you constantly play through the songs for as long as possible.
*'Power Skooling' is basically an enhanced tutorial mode that focuses on you getting each move right.
*'Dance Battle' is a multiplayer mode where you get diamonds for each move you perform more correctly over the other players. However these diamonds are stolen off you and vice versa. The person with the most diamonds at the end of the song wins.
Actually, all the modes can be multi-player, with up to four players with Wiimotes. It's very easy for people to join in the game (even midway through the song) by pressing A on a spare Wiimote, and then it calibrates it immediately to the song. Whilst I don't mind perfecting my score on certain songs, it was definitely more fun trying to compete against my sister on the 'Dance Battle' mode trying to steal diamonds off each other!
Unfortunately, that is pretty much it for gameplay. I'm glad it's very basic and easy to pick up and play; there aren't any confusing sub-menus or options. Essentially, you pick a song, put your name in and dance. However, there are some noticeable flaws whilst dancing. First of all, the game will only be tracking your Wiimote (indicated by a white glow on the dancer's right hand), as opposed to your whole body, with the sensor bar. This can make the game rather easy, since you don't have to move the rest of your body in line with the dancer on your screen when it's the movement of your Wiimote that really matters! Even regarding that, the game has no way of indicating to you how you did a move wrong- was it the way you held it or the movement that you got wrong? That said, the game is pretty good at tracking you/the wiimote on the screen and I haven't had any calibration problems. However the control for the menu is very poor. You have to point the Wiimote at the arrows on the sides of the screen to scroll across the songs, yet the songs move so fast if you linger the Wiimote there for more than a split-second! Why they don't allow me to move through the menu with the directional buttons on the controller is beyond me. There is the option play the game with the Wiimotion Plus add-on, but as I don't own a Wiimotion Plus controller I can't say how it adds to the experience.
The Wii version of 'The Hip-Hop Dance Experience' has 33 songs, a bit lacking compared to Xbox360's 40. Due to length constraints I don't want to post the whole song list here, but you can find it on the Wikipedia page for the game: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hip_Hop_Dance_Experience).
Ubisoft really need to reconsider their definition of 'Hip-hop' music. A significant portion of the songs are in fact dance-pop (LMFAO's 'Sexy and I Know It') or RnB (TLC's 'Creep', Amerie's '1 thing'). Nevertheless the majority are hip hop songs past and present, although I imagine true hip hop fans will have trouble taking Pitbull's inclusion in that category seriously. It was nice to see Naughty by Nature's 'Hip Hop Hooray' and Terror Squad's 'Lean Back' there, which are my favourite songs to dance to in the game. It's just that it would be more fitting to call this game 'The Urban Dance Experience' instead given the collection here.
Song list aside, the background noise just mediocre hip-hop beats which aren't noticeable.
The graphics are nothing special. The menu has dark, moody background colours which I suppose fit that 'hip-hop' feel the game is trying to go for. The 3D dancers are animated very well and dance fluidly, especially during the 'break time' cutscenes where the player stops dancing for a moment while the dancer on the screen does some solo breakdancing, no doubt due to some strong choreography, but everything in those dance scenes is coloured rather hazy.
Despite 4 dancing modes and the option to get 100% perfection on each song, the game is as deep as a kiddie swimming pool. There are no unlockable songs or modes, not even a Fitness one like the Just Dance games have, and playing alone soon gets boring after about 30-45 minutes.
'The Hip Hop Dance Experience' is a completely underwhelming game. Despite being easy for anyone to get into, it suffers from awkward motion controls and a mixed bag of a soundtrack. The gameplay modes available are fun initially, but I never feel like I'm achieving anything and nor am I addicted enough to play for more than half an hour even with friends present.
I would only recommend this game to hardcore fans of 'Just Dance' and/or these genres of music. Even then I feel the Xbox 360 version would be a better choice to pick up; the Kinect tracks the whole body rather than just one arm thus giving more of a workout for the player to get their moves correct, and there are a few more songs (most of which actually come under 'Hip-Hop') that the Wii version misses out on. This, on the other hand, can barely be called an experience.
You can pick up 'The Hip Hop Dance Experience' from about £16 brand new from most online retailers, but I'd recommend picking it up second-hand.