|Title||:||Bust A Groove 2|
|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
OK, so you can't dance. You may have two left feet, but what about those two great thumbs? You can still tear up the dance floor with Bust a Groove 2, a Sony PlayStation game from Enix.
In Bust a Groove 2, two dancers stand side-by-side on the screen. As music plays, a sequence of buttons will be displayed. The buttons must be pressed in any rhythm, with the final button pressed on the fourth beat, to execute a dance move and earn points. Whichever dancer has more points when the song is over, wins! If you need to play dirty, attacks and reversals will temporarily knock your opponent out of the game.
Almost two dozen dancemasters are ready to jam, from the vivacious actress Kitty-N to the incorrigible jailbird Strike, and new members such as the roller-skating Comet and the undead Bi-O. Music styles include hip-hop, zombie dance, disco, and gangsta rap.
Some of the original BAG's neat gameplay features have been removed, while less cool ones have been added. Players are no longer presented with two moves to choose from: a single input line is displayed, hit or miss. This removes the player's decision to skip a high-scoring move for one that is simpler to execute, or vice-versa.
If a move is missed, the dancer will stumble. It's more realistic, but also less cool. As the DJ would say, "More rhythm!"
In the first BAG, the characters performed their dance moves using identical input sequences. In the sequel, each character has his or own unique input sequences, so being able to play well as Heat doesn't necessarily translate into expertise with Kitty-N or Hiro. This variety adds both replay value and challenge. Additionally, there are three play modes which decide how complicated the sequences are, by limiting which buttons are involved. This setting does not translate into AI difficulty, though, so scaling the learning curve is all that's needed to get the better of this game.
When you finally finish the final level, don't expect a custom, FMV ending sequence; each character simply busts a move for a silly-looking audience.
Different areas of graphics have improved, worsened, and changed. Using motion capture techniques, the dancer animations are smoother and more varied. The backgrounds are less static than they were before; dancers compete on floating rafts or moving factory lifts. Despite these tours, many backgrounds are also less detailed and have fewer special effects, like exploding glass or tsunamis, or are populated with 2D, Lego-looking characters. The main characters, the dancers, appear smaller in BAG2 because the camera is farther away, allowing for more of the far-less-interesting stage to be seen.
The backgrounds change when three bars, measuring the quantity of the three coolest dance moves, are aligned. But since players have little choice over which dance moves to execute, such alignment is a rare occurrence.
The slight gameplay and graphical deficiencies could be forgiven if the music was as good as the original Bust a Groove's. BAG was one of the first home dancing games, and was widely accepted due in part to its swinging soundtrack. The title track was so good, I'd swear I'd heard it on the radio before. Even the least-favored tunes were not bad so much as they were not as good as the rest.
Sadly, this is not the case in the sequel. Avex Trax, the team responsible for the original score, is nowhere to be seen, the individual songs having been assigned to various artists. These songs are generic video game music that may have the characters tapping their feet, but not the players. The tunes aren't all bad; some of them are even pretty good. But not one of them is an equal for any of the first BAG's numbers.
Bust-a-Groove 2 is a fun game with many playable characters. But when a dancing game's main feature, the music, isn't up to par, the rest doesn't mean much. By itself, BAG2 stands up pretty well, but compared to its predecessor, there's no contest over which is dance king.
This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 04-Sep-00