We Cheer (Wii) review
"At the moment the mechanics finally clicked, We Cheer transformed into an invigorating challenge. I started hustling out a succession of complex, varied swirls. I had to exaggerate my direction, reaching all the way to the ceiling and down to the floor. It even felt better to add a little wrist snap to the end of my poses, just for some extra flair. The perpetual motion is a reminder that cheering takes 110%."
We Cheer possesses a nearly fatal flaw: a terrible tutorial. Sure, it covers the basics. This isn't a normal music game with simple beatmatching; the goal is to perform a virtual cheer routine with your arms. A remote held vertically in each hand simulates your pom-poms. (There is a one-handed option for those without the recommended hardware.) Lines with arrows appear on screen. These show the contour and direction required for each gesture, and there are different colors for the right and left remote. Stars then trace the guides, and you follow along at the given speed to complete the move.
For an introduction, the tutorial naturally trots out the most rudimentary maneuvers. You shift the remote straight up. Then straight down. Then straight out to the side. To add a bit of variety, it throws in a forty-five degree diagonal. For the most advanced lesson, it finally reveals some long, lazy loops. The speed is really slow, as if you'll pull a muscle under the strain of any real activity. Also, there isn't a minimal threshold of competence to be met during this instruction; it only asks if you feel ready to move to the next installment.
Armed with this false sense of ease, you'll confidently jump into a real routine. Time to meet reality. Choose any song, and the choreography immediately has you hustle out a succession of complex, varied swirls. It cues you to arc the remotes towards the screen or behind your head, not just out to the sides. It has you shaking your hands high, then shimmying low. It even wants you to spin your whole body around. The adroit arm gymnastics it lays out look amazing, but at first glance, you probably won't even be able to discern exactly what the computer wants from you. Not after training with baby steps. Even worse, the tracking star moves about a hundred times faster than in warm-ups. Without a doubt, you'll flail around aimlessly, feeling completely lost on advanced techniques and cursing spotty motion detection for fundamental misses. You will fail. And fail. And fail again.
Some people will give up here. Even people with an obligation to play their darnedest and then spread their findings to the masses. Well, not this reviewer. It took me about an hour, but the mechanics finally clicked. At that moment, We Cheer transformed from a bewildering mess to an invigorating challenge. The real key was to shift my focus away from the trace lines, and instead mimic the motions of my head cheerleader. Once she showed me the way, I could concentrate on achieving precision of movement. I had to exaggerate my directions, reaching all the way to the ceiling and clear down to the floor. It even felt better to add a little wrist snap to the end of my poses, just for some extra flair. These qualities parallel, at least a bit, the level of detail cheerleaders have to mind during a live performance.
The motion detection isn't perfect – not with two remotes to track – so you may never see a flawless routine. However, the standards are also fairly lenient, so even with the misses, I was clearing more and more songs. That included the hard mode where small transitions are present between every major move. The perpetual motion is a reminder that cheering takes 110%. The game is so active it features a workout mode to put you through the paces, but that actually feels less strenuous than a regular routine! Forget Wii Fit. Exercise with We Cheer.
If there's one thing as important to a cheerleader as athleticism, though, it's presentation. We Cheer nails that, too. The girls are anime-style cuties, the type with big eyes and negligible noses. Only one has weird-colored hair – there are a lot of blondes running around – but they all have a luminescent smile and perfectly primped eyelashes. During the performance, about fifteen girls prance about the stage. They don't make pyramids, but you might see a couple of flyers tossed into the air and caught by their teammates. You're able to hand select five members of the squad, as well as designate a leader that hogs the camera focus. (Your savior.) As you progress through the career mode, pumping up crowds and propelling teams to victory, you'll unlock more girls to rotate into your team.
You'll also unlock more uniforms. While the girls' bodies and hairstyles cannot be altered, the most important aspects of their appearance are under your control, including hair color, skin tone, and clothing. The manner in which you can adjust the skirt and shell stand out most. You can change the dye and trim of the uniform to match the colors of your favorite team, and even edit the name emblazoned across the front. I went towards the racier side, baring my squad's midriffs with teeny-tiny crop tops and hot pants. It actually looked more like body paint. Yeah, so maybe We Cheer doesn't always set forth the most wholesome role models.
Listening to the game's soundtrack, it does seem the developers were anticipating
a more mature an older audience along with the younger set. The music travels back through several decades. C+C Music Factory and EMF bring along their ubiquitous dance club tunes, Everybody Dance Now and Unbelievable, from the early 90's. Footloose and Eye of the Tiger revive the 80's. KC and the Sunshine Band represent the 70's. There are, of course, plenty of contemporary artists: Paramore, Natasha Bedingfield, and Moby. Simple Plan and Boys Like Girls contribute multiple entries. But even if neither Hilary Duff nor Aly & AJ will ever make it into your iTunes rotation, their teenybopper tenor makes perfect sense here. Most impressive, nearly all of these songs are master tracks, meaning you and your friends can move around accompanied by the genuine sound.
With only two players, there's the option of cooperative or competing play. The versus mode actually accommodates up to four, with everyone grabbing one remote. The significant point for this mode is that it presents abridged routines. Even if you end up using the single remote in the main game, it throws in extra gestures that make the choreography stand up to the double-fisted configuration. With fewer components, the simplified multiplayer version greatly increases the chance of immediate success. Considering the game's potentially long learning curve, that's an important contrast.
I understand why some people will never find the true quality behind this title. We're used to these motion-fueled games that don't actually require much motion beyond wrist action, and We Cheer does a poor initial job of demonstrating the high activity level it requires. Persevere its trials, though, and this game captures the essential spirit of cheerleading: performance and presentation. I'm all ready to “rah-rah!” for an even better sequel.
Staff review by Benjamin Woodhouse (June 30, 2009)
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