So you went and got EyeToy: Play
and convinced other members of your family to finally use your PlayStation 2, but the appeal of cleaning virtual windows has faded. So now what? It's time to pick up EyeToy: Groove
and get down with a more fully fleshed out party game. By taking the functionality of the Play
games and throwing in some licensed music, Groove
is providing another good reason to whip out the PS2 during a party and let the guests get goofy with it.
In case you've been hiding under a rock, the EyeToy is a little black webcam that sits on top of your TV and plugs into the USB port. By using video footage of the gamer and using the gamer's movement to interact with the graphics, people can truly get in the game. It's goofy, requires no interaction with the controller, and managed to sell over half a million copies since its North American introduction last fall.
Groove picks up where a couple of the mini-games from Play left off. Beat Freak and Disco Stars introduced the idea of hitting circles on the edge of the screen in time to the music, but those were just demos that showed off the capability where Groove is more of a complete game. While it doesn't have the in-depth gameplay of other rhythm games like DDR Max: Dance Dance Revolution, it provides a solid party experience.
In Groove there are six sensors on the side of the screen that will detect any movement. These can be activated by waving a hand in front of them. During the game, icons will move from the center of the screen to towards a sensor. Hit the sensor at the same time as the icon and you'll get points. Some of these icons will have trails behind them that show that you need to wave your hand over the sensor for as long as the trail continues on it.
The other two directions are the arc and the arrows. Sometimes an arc will form between two sensors indicating that anywhere in that space can be hit for points. This gives more leeway and lets players get a little funkier with their movements. As for the arrows, these will start on one sensor and move to another one. To get these, the player needs to follow the arrow with a hand sweep.
Getting used to this system of icons, arrows, and arcs takes only a couple songs to get used to and the movements are all appropriate for the song. There are 28 different licensed songs and each one runs for about two minutes with its own set of choreographed movements and sweeps. There are four different skill modes and where the easy mode requires a decent sense of rhythm, moving on up to the hard difficulty will take some practice in order to avoid missing any of the targets. For novices, this can be a bit overwhelming, but anyone who's played a DDR game or Samba de Amigo will feel right at home and will be able to quickly set some high scores.
Even though there is a decent selection of songs, with each song clocking in at two minutes and only the hard difficulty setting offering a challenge for any experienced rhythm gamer, the single-player experience can run out of gas pretty quickly. Beyond learning some of the more complicated movements, there's not a lot to dig into. The only way to keep the game going further is to create some super-tricky moves with the Dance Move Maker, but that's about it. The overall feeling is still more of an extension of Play than a game in and of itself. Still, just like Play, Groove excels in terms of being a party game.
There are a few different multiplayer modes and they offer enough variety to keep getting friends up off the couch to try something different. The Tournament mode lets up to four people battle it out as the grooviest gamer of them all in a variety of competitions. One of our favorites involved gamers taking turns jumping in front of the camera to shake their groove thing. By taking a photo of each gamer at the beginning, Groove lets each player know it's their turns by flashing their picture on the screen. At times, this can get fast and furious as players run back and forth to get in front of the camera and wave their arms about.
The other two modes make Groove the equivalent of a high-tech version of Twister, the old plastic mat game that made parties a whole lot friendlier. In both Team Sync mode and Battle Sync Mode, two players stand with one in front of the other. Team Sync Mode has both players working together to hit the sensors with more icons flying around than in single-player. To make things even more confusing, Battle Sync Mode has two players on screen with each trying to hit their own color-coordinated set of icons. In theory this sounds complicated and prone to get people to bump into each other. In practice, well, it's complicated and people bump into each other, but that's the point.
There are a few extra features that add a little icing to the cake such as a Chill Out Room that features 11 music videos and a mode that doesn't play any music but still applies visual effects to the video and lets people bump a couple of circles around the screen. It's an interactive screensaver and when the main game isn't in action this is what's probably going to be on during a party. Let people walk by, realize they're on the screen and there you go, instant groove time.
For the most part, the video is comprised of the feed from the webcam. This footage is low-resolution and can be a little flat in terms of colors, but seeing yourself on-screen is still a thrill. At one point in each song there's a short section where gamers can freestyle and the outer circles disappear while the player can get their groove on with a visual effect. Sometimes this makes colors shoot out from the player, distorts the image, or psychedelic colors flood the screen. During the main playtime, the video is normal except for the occasional slight distortion.
While the visual effects for the freestyle look cool, it's really the main graphical freakout in a game that should have a lot more of them. The icons in the game are fun and colorful, but the result for getting a good hit only results in seeing a yellow color on the sensor. There is no big reward for combos or even just doing a really good job. In Samba de Amigo there was a huge range of graphical changes from doing really poorly to rocking the house, but Groove barely gets excited at all about a good performance. The main indicator is a letter grade at the bottom of the screen, but there could have been a lot more.
The music is all licensed and as such it's professionally done. The range of music is mostly dance-oriented with the occasional funk song thrown in for good measure. It's a bit of an eclectic mix, but it all works perfectly for moving around to. While there's only two minutes for each song in the game, the full versions can be accessed in the bonus features.
Here's a full list of the songs:
- "Jumpin'" Liberty X
- "Deeper Underground" Jamiroquai
- "Jungle Boogie" Kool & The Gang
- "Praise You" Fatboy Slim
- "A Little Less Conversation" Elvis vs. JXL
- "We Are Family" Sister Sledge
- "I Will Survive" Gloria Gaynor
- "Move Your Feet" Junior Senior
- "Dancing in the Moonlight" Toploader
- "Forbidden Fruit" Jessica Simpson
- "Music" Madonna
- "Hooray Hooray (It's a Cheeky Holiday)" The Cheeky Girls
- "Hustler Groove (Instrumental)" Apollo 440
- "Overload" Sugarbabes
- "Let's Groove" Earth, Wind & Fire
- "Y.M.C.A." Village People
- "Canned Heat" Jamiroquai
- "Starlight" Supermen Lovers
- "Dance to the Music" Sly & The Family Stone
- "Superstylin'" Groove Armada
- "Don't Stop Movin'" Livin' Joy
- "All I Want" Mis-Teeq
- "Gotta Get through This" Daniel Bdeingfield
- "Keep On Moving" Five
- "Asereje" Las Ketchup
- "Rubberneckin" Elvis (Oakenfold Remix)
- "Addicted to Bass" Puretone
- "The Anthem" Good Charlotte
The full mix of each song can be heard at all times and although this provides a good soundtrack for a party, it shows off another area where the game could have been made more interactive. In Parappa the Rapper, the music changes in relation to how good the player is doing and there's a satisfying feeling when the full mix of the music is going on. Not only would this feature let dancers know how well they're doing without needing to look at their current grade, it would provide an extra incentive for getting a good score and keeping the beat.
©2004, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved