Save the All Star Cheer Squad – Save the World

Geek Culture

I often wonder where games are going. Faster, bigger, brasher and more impressive than ever before – but are they actually more fun? This often leads me to return to my bookshelf of old favorites – games like Wipeout, Super Mario World or Madden. I love to play those classics that somehow get better as they age.

But this week I was struck by the need to embrace the new as well as remember the old. Having been slightly non-plused by Samba de Amigo – as I said a few weeks back not a bad game, just nothing new. My revelation when playing All Star Cheer Squad – ahem – with my daughter. She (being five) was rather excited to see the girls dressed in matching outfits all dancing in time. While watching her I realized that this was pretty much the same dance gesture game as Samba de Amigo.

But because they could tailor their experience to the Wii’s tricky controllers the experience felt so much more natural and intended. Add in the balance board and you have a game that really plays to the technologies strengths.

While we will always have those classic video game memories it’s good to notice some new ones in the making too – even if it is in the most unlikely places. So this week, my parent’s guide is for All Star Cheer Squad:

All Star Cheer Squad is one of a new generation of dancing games on the
Wii. Like the recent Samba de Amigo Wii and Boogie: Superstar Wii, it uses gestures to get the player flinging their limbs around – although the focus here is precision rather than exuberance. It also provides support for the Wii’s balance board to add a balancing and foot placement angle to proceedings.

What Sort of Game is This?
Self improvement games tap into the popular trend in self development and therapy. Experiences as diverse as Brain Training DS and Wii-Fit have popularised the idea that games can be about more than just having fun – they can improve your brain, body and even mental outlook on life.

What Does This Game Add to the Genre?

All Star Cheerleader brings a decree of choreography to the dance rhythm genre. Whereas other games get players moving in time with the musical queues, players here learn the staccato precision required for tightly rehearsed movements that turn pom pom shaking into a real sporting pursuit.

Not only does the player have to move in time with the music – as indicated with the on screen guide – but they also need to hit specific poses. As the song plays, a series of Wii-mote/Nun-chuck positions move across the screen. This are made up of various combinations of up/down/diagonal directions. The aim is to be in position in the middle of the scoring zone. Too early or too late and you’ll miss out on precious points.

The freshness of the dance implementation is matched by some saccharine visuals and voice work. A wide variety of (what appear to the uninitiated to be) the main cheerleading troops are provided for, each with their own emblem and outfits. You can customise your own cheerleader – to an ever greater degree as you unlock clothing and accessories.

Small town American twangs abound as you make your way through the storied single player mode. Here, you can add in the Wii-Fit balance board for extra realism. This is then used to score extra points by correct foot positions, and also for the balancing moves that occur later in the game.

The single player is complemented by some co-operative and competitive multiplayer modes. The ability to ‘attack’ your opponents dance line –
making it harder for them to hit their moves – is great fun for a family to play together.

What do People Play this Game To Experience?
Players will be attracted to the game as a fun alternative to many of the more serious Dance Dance Revolution dance-mat controlled games popular in the late 90′s. And certainly, it does a great job of getting everyone up out of their feet and moving around.

Stood in the living room, moving and pausing in time with the music
(and the rest of my cheer-troupe colleagues) was more fun than I had imagined. The game’s focus on both position and timing required a lot of concentration. Pulling of a streak of perfect moves was more than enough to be punching the air in jubilation – then checking no one was watching.
How Much Free Time is Required to Play It?

The cheer sets themselves are only as long as a single music track.
Around this however there is a considerable amount or reading, listening and loading to be done. This takes what would be (at minimum)
a fifteen minute game and makes it a good twenty five. Although it never drags too badly, it does mean you will want to set aside a little time to play.

The nature of the game means you need a good bit of space in which to play. If you can add a wireless Wii-mote into the mix all the better, as it enables you to really punch out each gesture – without the tethering wire.

What Factors Impact on Suitability for Novice/Expert Young/Old Players?
Very young players will enjoy the visuals, but struggle to combine both gestures and timing. In multiplayer mode this is less of an issue –
particularly if you have one infant on each team – as experienced player’s scores can offset those of the novice.

Junior children and newer players will have great fun learning the different cheering motions and putting them together in a routine.

Intermediates may find this experience more satisfying than the similar
Samba de Amigo Wii. Here they can appreciate the greater degree of control required – something that seems to fit the sometimes oversensitive Wii controllers.

Experts and students may find the kiddy cheerleading theme a little hard to get past. There is plenty to challenge here though – in fact the precise moves and gesture require more precision than the hardcore favourite de Amigo.

WIRED Something to do with those Wii-Fit scales.

TIRED No mutli player balance board battles.

Price/maker: $39.99 (Wii)

Rating: 8/10

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