IGN Review of High School Musical 3: Senior Year DANCE!
The High School Musical games on the Nintendo DS seem to follow the quality of their film counterparts. The first one was an alright music game for kids with some catchy songs. The second one was repetitive and obnoxious. And now we're on to the third. High School Musical 3: Senior Year keeps the tradition alive. Like its film, the game is energetic and with a higher production value. Unlike the movie though, Griptonite Games made its product as original as possible, offering a totally different music game formula on the DS, for better or worse.
Senior Year doesn't try to retell the film's story, and let' face it, if you're playing this game you know what happens (Spoiler alert: Troy and Gabriella totally stay together! Squeal!). It's a mix of music rhythm game and interactive yearbook. In between songs players take quizzes to find out what High School Musical characters they are most like. If that sounds a bit like dumb filler material, it's because it is dumb filler material. The quizzes are pretty inane and there are only two outcomes for each one. If you pick the answers that are all about sports you'll get Chad. If you pick all the answers that are about academics you'll get Taylor.
Thankfully the actual gameplay has more to offer. Griptonite didn't copy the ever popular Elite Beat Agents style that nearly every music game uses. Instead players use their stylus to rotate a pinwheel on the bottom screen. The player's actions are represented by a smiley face emitting a triangular beam of light. The idea is to keep the beam of light over a constantly moving track to catch bars of melody. Behind the melody bar, the characters from the film dance to the songs. The game actually changes scenes, and the characters change costume and formation, throughout the song. It's a nice touch for a DS game, especially a licensed kids one. It's a limited, but not bad representation of the scenes from the film.
I like the idea of the pinwheel design. It's interesting and different, and keeps the gameplay fluid throughout the song. Unfortunately there are a few things that mess with the formula.
The touchy controls of the pinwheel make perfecting songs a difficult task. It's very easy to accidentally drift too close to the center of the screen, which causes the pinwheel to flip out. By putting the melody track on the bottom screen this problem would have been instantly solved. Being able to see what I'm doing the whole time would have been far preferable. I realize that a set up like this would mean that the top screen would rarely get a glance, and this I would miss the 3D models of the cast dancing their hearts out, but I'm sure the developers could have figured that out.
The interstitial mini-games are also not particularly exciting either, and take away from the otherwise fluid gameplay mechanics. Having to stop to tap falling green circles, or rotate a flower, really pulled me out of the song. They don't do much for the score, they're often cheap and make me lose my multiplier, and it seems like there could have been more original ways to mix the gameplay up that worked with the overall theme of the game.
©2008-11-05, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved