Title  : Britney's Dance Beat
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation 2, Windows
Publisher  : THQ
ESRB Rating  : Everyone
Game Rating  : 7.3
Review by  : Ken Gagne

She's young, she's beautiful, she's talented. It was only a matter of time before she became virtual, too. 

A cynical gamer may expect Britney's Dance Beat, a PlayStation 2 and PC game published by THQ, to be a lame video game with an expensive license – but it isn't. Unfortunately, it is also not a great boon to the video game library, and succeeds in providing only a short dose of fun, if shallow, gameplay. [PS2 version reviewed here] 

Dance Beat follows the tradition of other dancing games, such as Bust-a-Groove or Dance Dance Revolution. In this game, players assume the roles of dancers auditioning for Britney's dance troupe. Outperform other dancers to advance to more difficult songs and routines, and ultimately face off against Britney herself. 

Gameplay consists of watching a hand speed around a clock-like dial that's labeled with constantly-changing buttons, such as 'X' or 'Left'. When the hand crosses a label, the player must press the corresponding key on the controller. These sequences are often in rhythm with the music, rewarding familiarity with Britney's tunes. Performing ten successful button presses in a row will "attack" your opponent by changing or complicating the buttons on his dial. Each of the six dancers has unique attacks, but generally the same repertoire of dance moves and routines. 

From the above, you can gather there is little opportunity for player initiative. Whatever commands appear on the dial are what must be entered: there is no choice of dance moves to execute, nor opportunity to break out with custom routines or assaults. The gameplay becomes almost mindless (though not tedious) before too long. Given that the game's soundtrack is comprised of only five of Britney's songs, the experience becomes a short-lived one. After a few practice and two-player sessions, I could complete all eleven rounds of the one-player mode on my first attempt. Doing so took just over a half-hour. 

Yet, as with Britney herself, the game looks and sounds great. The motion capture used to animate the dancers has produced realistic movements that complement the music nicely. As with most dancing games, it's hard to notice these details while keeping an eye on the input requirements. The automated camera occasionally glimpses Britney's actual music videos in the background, though these sequences do not sync with the currently-playing audio, for which I find no excuse. 

Britney's songs, including "… Baby One More Time", "Oops!… I Did It Again", and "I'm A Slave 4 U" (but not "Crazy"), make great dancing music. Hearing them consecutively makes one realize how similar many of the tunes are, but doesn't diminish the music's ability to accompany the rhythmic gameplay. 

Extra features, such as behind-the-scenes with Britney and "immersive music videos" — live performances viewed with a manual, 3D camera — can be accessed after performing well in the one-player mode. Sufficient points to unlock all bonuses can be earned only by playing through the game with multiple dancers. 

Britney's Dance Beat rates lowly not because it's a bad game, or even because it's a Britney Spears video game, but because it lacks ambition. The dance/rhythm game genre has been growing and innovating since the release of Parappa the Rapper five years ago. Failure to understand what the genre is about caused the Spice Girls to mar not only all video games, but everything good and decent. Britney Spears, on the other hand, is a successful clone of other dancing games, but nothing more. Its limited repertoire for both music and gameplay hampers its replay value and prevents it from being a memorable addition to the musical family of games. Oops — this has been done before.


This article is copyright (c) 2002, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 02-Jun-02