Title  : Bust a Groove
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation
Publisher  : 989 Studios
Game Rating  : 9.1
Review by  : Ken Gagne

Tackles, fireballs, karate kicks, and shotguns. This is the standard fare of today's multiplayer games. Why not take a breather and settle your dispute with a dance contest? It's possible — and fun — with to Bust-A-Groove, a PlayStation game of "pure dance action", courtesy Sony's 989 Studios, and developed by Enix. 

Players can choose one of ten dancers, from an Italian playboy to a mad scientist to a fortune teller, and four hidden characters, including twin alien brothers and a three-story tall robot. Each character has over three dozen unique dance moves, most of which can be attained only by successfully chaining the basic moves together and working up. 

Two players dance simultaneously, competing for camera time and high-scoring, difficult dance moves. Hilarious attacks between the players are possible and require perfect timing to execute and evade, and add factors of unpredictability, competition, and enjoyment to the game. 

As the battle rages on, dance commands are displayed on-screen as combinations of button presses. The string of commands must be punched in quickly, with the final button pressed exactly on the fourth beat. Rhythm is kept by a flashing background light. Many players will keep the rhythm themselves naturally, though this is difficult with some songs. 

An option to change the menu displays and the announcer's voice from English to Spanish is available, but song lyrics remain in English and Japanese. 

The songs range from techno to Japanese pop to Seventies disco, and on the whole are fun to listen and dance to. Sound effects take a back seat to the great soundtrack, though various hops and claps are present. Since the command display requires full attention, sound effects are often the best and only warning of an impending attack. 

The graphics are colorful, portraying well the diversity of dancers and settings. Characters flow from one move to the next flawlessly. Camera movement is automatic, swinging around and sometimes focusing on whoever is doing better or is performing a solo, but sometimes the view becomes obstructed by stage props. 

With a wide selection of characters and dance moves, Bust-a-Groove is easy to play over and over. One downside is that the commands for each character are the same, though this makes it easy to become proficient with more than one dancer at once. Also, unlike PaRappa the Rapper, there is little room for improvisation. 

Anybody who liked Parappa will love the more realistic Bust-a-Groove. It has great tunes, showy graphics, and simple-yet-addicting gameplay for one or two players. And, best of all, it's so much harder to embarrass yourself on the dance floor!


This article is copyright (c) 1998, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 28-Dec-98