B-Boy (PSP) review
"Usually, a title in the music genre churns out a set routine, and you dutifully follow along as best you can. But breakdancing is about creativity and expression, so it's no surprise that a game featuring this art steps out of the typical music mold. B-Boy lets you dictate the performance, delivering an opportunity to develop your own style. And it does it all with a sharp appearance and streetwise attitude. "
Usually, a title in the music genre churns out a set routine, and you dutifully follow along as best you can. But breakdancing is about creativity and expression, so it's no surprise that a game featuring this art steps out of the typical music mold. B-Boy lets you dictate the performance, delivering an opportunity to develop your own style. And it does it all with a sharp appearance and streetwise attitude.
Here's how the game works. Each of the face buttons is mapped to one of breakdancing's four basic elements: toprock, footwork, power moves, and freezes. Eventually you'll have dozens of moves at your disposal, though only twenty-four can be dynamically allocated between three of these categories at any one time (excluding toprock, which is static). With different combinations of the d-pad and base button, you can transition out of a simple move into more difficult maneuvers. Like, say, a windmill into a headspin or six-step into a helicopter. Technically, you can perform these actions at any time, but the first goal here is to be in tune with the music. There's a rhythm circle constantly swirling around the feet of your b-boy or b-girl. Ideally, you'll hit a move on the primary beats, which are specially colored. During the intermediate beats, you can hit the left and right shoulder triggers to prolong the current move, or sometimes hit a little freeze to really pad your score.
Actually, talking about a flat score is too simplistic. In the career mode, you're working your way up the b-boy respect ladder by throwing down against rivals, and the winner is determined by who collects the most medals in battle. Rhythm and flow, the number of moves you can chain together, are always an influential pair. The foundation medal is awarded for accurately hitting basic moves and holding them as long as possible. The creativity category stresses keeping it fresh; any repetition is punished harshly. Last is the 'blow up', which tests the mastery of advanced freeze and power techniques. For the initial throwdowns, only a couple of these criteria will be in play, but more are added as you advance upward and gain more skills. Battles are short; they start at under a minute. The onus is entirely upon you to craft a crisp routine that registers in the relevant areas.
That's how B-Boy puts you in the Pumas of a performer. Execution and ability are important, but choreography really expresses your individual style. Most of your time is going to be spent experimenting in the practice lab, leveling up your repertoire and unlocking new, more flexible transitions. It's realistic in other ways, too. The entire arsenal of moves were clearly motion-captured. The animation of spinning limbs is perfectly smooth, and there's an authentic, precarious balance during contorted freezes.
The game even presents a decent lineup of hip-hop and funky tunes. Freestyle to samples of The Black Eyed Peas, Tha Alkoholiks, Cypress Hill, The Beatnuts, the Jackson 5... the list goes on to thirty-five licensed tracks. You'll wear out these songs climbing up from the grafitti-laden streets to high profile tournaments. But if you need a break from the stressful career, you can always jump into a quick jam, where you'll play as and against a roster of real-life b-boys. Take control of Benny to survive a gauntlet of battles. Stare down an open circle of Hong 10, Lilou, and Physicx, where the lowest scorer each round inches towards elimination. And the ultimate challenge, standing atop it all, is Crazy Legs, an original b-boy pioneer.
But the game's certainly not perfect. There are some issues with the controls, as a single button is capable of ordering multiple actions. For example, while the shoulder triggers keep rhythm, they also manage balance on freezes. The directional keys dictate combos, but they also move your performer around the floor. Plus, while you customize your look, you can't change your character's name, a complete diss in a culture where the handle is an important expression of individual identity. Still, you have to give this game credit for placing the choreography in the player's hands. Letting them experiment and pull together their own routines provides a real freedom of expression, and you have to acquire knowledge of the moves and transitions to achieve success. (I just wish all the moves could be in play at once.) For breaking enthusiasts, B-Boy may be as close as you'll come to the real thing in a hands-only game.
Featured community review by woodhouse (January 12, 2009)
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