There weren’t a lot of games on show at Mobile World Congress 09 but hidden away at the back of Nokia’s stand was Dance Fabulous, its big hope in terms of attracting a more casual and feminine audience to N-Gage.
Strangely, though, the developer in charge of the project is Barcelona-based Digital Legends, which is best known for hardcore brawlers ONE (N-Gage) and Kroll (iPhone).
Our hands on with the game suggests the studio’s nimble on its feet, however, as there’s definitely a spark of disco fever about Dance Fabulous.
Still, the most exciting element of the game - as well as one of the most challenging parts of the design we’d imagine - is the way you can import any track that’s saved on your phone.
Of course, Dance Fabulous will ship with plenty of well known pre-loaded tracks, but to fulfill its goal of offering a truly personal experience, the ability of the software to do real-time beat detection on any track you throw at it - we’re planning everything from Labradford and Avro Pärt to Metallica and Sepultura - will be vital.
Of course, we couldn’t test this feature at MWC. Instead the two available tracks were Jamiroquai’s Cosmic Girl and AC/DC’s Highway to Hell.
The basic gameplay sees you controlling a cute manga-style 3D avatar who moves around a dancefloor as you hit the phone’s main four-way button (we were playing on an N95).
Getting your character to move in time to the music sees you gain onscreen encouragements such ‘Cool moves,’ or ‘Boring’ if you’re not varying your moves enough.
There’s also a Guitar Hero-style Challenge mode, where you have to hit the button at the right time in the right direction as arrows fall down the screen.
When the track ends, your score of gold and silver stars is added up with these allowing you to unlock customisation options for your avatar - everything from body shape, skin colour, hairstyle plus clothes and accessories.
Other options include background objects, which drop into the background of your dancefloor as you strut your funky stuff.
The other big part of the game will be how it will link into N-Gage’s Arena online system, in terms of sharing and ranking your character and performances with other people. We didn’t see anything of that in this demo, but noticed a vast amount of performance statistics are stored for each avatar you use so we’d imagine Nokia and Digital Legends have big plans.
Still, when it came to the basic gameplay, Dance Fabulous seems to be shaping up to be a title that will appeal to plenty of people who have N-Gage on their phones but perhaps who haven’t found the majority hardcore games offered to date very interesting.
Dance Fabulous is due for release some time during summer 2009.