|System: PSP, PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: FreeStyleGames||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SouthPeak Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 16, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
Breakdancing as a game concept is a novel concept, and B-Boy for the PSP illustrates just how well that idea can be realized. It's not perfect and it doesn't have much in the way of depth; in fact, it's only a few notches above a novelty game, but it's an original concept that deserves some praise and is recommended for those looking for a fresh gaming experience.
B-Boy for the PSP is not exactly new. It was originally released in '06 in Europe, but available here only as an import, until now. It's also available for the PS2, but I find that the game translates better to the PSP, although there are some issues with the icons, which can be a little difficult to see. The hundreds of motion-captured graphics and the good variety of tunes make B-Boy a solid package. It's much easier to appreciate the production values on the PSP. But not all is sunshine and lollipops; the gameplay is somewhat shallow and redundant, the controls aren't entirely comfortable to access, the camera angles can confuse and confound, and the load times are almost unbearable.
Beginning with a blank-slate character in the Career mode, your goal is to bring him or her from obscurity in the 'hood to worldwide prominence (read: fame and fortune) through breakdancing competitions. As you rise through the ranks, you'll earn money that can be used to upgrade your lifestyle, from the bling around your neck to the crib that shelters your body from the elements. You'll also unlock more moves as you progress. These moves comprise the main structure of the gameplay. It's an amalgam of games such as Street Fighter, Tony Hawk, and Dance Dance Revolution without the floor mat. Breakdancing vicariously through a video game is a hell of a lot safer than in real life.
With the four face buttons, you'll be able execute four main moves. The D-pad will allow you to modify each of these moves and access new ones that you pick up along the way. Even the shoulder buttons get in on the act, as they are used to balance your character during a headstand or freeze. It's like a little mini-game where you have to balance a horizontal meter by pressing both shoulder buttons alternately to keep it centered. Like all the moves, if you screw up or leave too much of a gap, you'll literally fall on your face. You have 45 seconds to do your best routine, after which your opponent will have the same amount of time to perform his or her routine. There is a lot of waiting around in this game, not only the load times but having to watch the competition do their routines. There's something not quite right about watching the A.I. go through its solo performance. That's something that is better suited for multiplayer.
Main moves include the windmill, six step, top rock, and freeze. Points are awarded for the precise execution of these moves in relation to timing, as well as the way they are linked together in terms of cohesion and overall smoothness. These two categories are known as Foundation and Flow, and you'll earn medals for good performances in both. Underneath the dancer's feet is a circle with a number of grooves, similar to spokes on a wheel. You must select your moves when the grooves line up with the colored marker. A certain amount of feel is necessary to excel in this game, as is a certain amount of rhythm, but not so much to the beat of the music as to the timing of the circular spinning icon. Learning to actually ignore the beat of the music and replace it with another independent form of syncopation requires practice. But all the practice in the world won't help to keep the circular rhythm icon in view at all times thanks to the MTV-inspired camera cut-aways; you have to keep your internal metronome ticking.
You will receive information about upcoming competitions as well as pointers and other pertinent info on your laptop. Along with the new moves that you accumulate and the tricks and tips, there is a practice mode where you can take these moves out for a test drive. This is very important if you want to do well in the competition, since, as I've mentioned, there is a lot of waiting before you get to strut your stuff, so make sure you come prepared or you're going to get really frustrated really quickly.