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PSP  header logo

B-Boy

For: PSP

Should you check, check, ch-check it out?

Product: B-Boy | Developer: FreeStyle Games | Publisher: Sony Europe | Format: PSP | Genre: Action, Simulation | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
 
B-Boy PSP, thumbnail 1
As rap battling's passive aggressive cousin, B-boy breakdance battling makes insulting your opponent that little bit harder. Whereas rap's intimidating, hoody-wearing freestylers compete by trading nasty spat puns and ever more convoluted putdowns disputing each other's parentage and/or sexuality, the sweatbanded breakdancer must call upon a more physical and silent vocabulary to beat their opponent into embarrassment, over the pulsing soundscape of a hip-hop metronome.

B-Boy on PSP seeks to recreate the corporeal thrills of both watching and participating in competition breakdancing, by fusing rhythm-action gameplay mechanics with some stunning motion capture and what is comfortably the coolest underground soundtrack yet heard in a video game.

On paper and, indeed, in the opening movies, this looks like one of the greatest unique PSP game ideas thus far. However, actually getting into the game and learning the basics of breakdancing is – as in real life, we'd imagine – quite an effort.

The rudimentary presentation does little to guide you through the baby steps of exploring the gameplay, thanks to its awkward practice modes being tucked away deep in unclear menus. While this wouldn't be a problem for most games, B-Boy's unique gameplay interface makes clear instruction an absolute necessity if you're to have any hope of grasping the core concept.

The initially bewildering control system consists of four base moves, each mapped to one of the PSP's face buttons. Once triggered, these enable your dancer to launch into ever more complex variations of spine-snapping contortion with the aim of pleasing the crowd and outperforming your rival.

As your character dances he's surrounded by a moving circle of coloured dashes – by hitting the right dash at the right time additional moves can be brought into the sequence, with the resulting string of actions hopefully impressing the judges. However, get the timing wrong and you character falls flat on his arse to the delight of your opponent and derision of the crowd.

During the game's main mode, Livin' Da Life (which sees you build and then take a character from novice through to champion) more moves are unlocked as you beat opponents. These moves can then be added to button configurations as you so desire, creating a unique, personalised dancer.

The huge move list ensures that no two dances are the same and, once you get the hang of the initially difficult input method, you really feel as though you can express yourself in any way you wish. This thrill is heightened by the excellent animation of the characters, all immaculately motion captured from 12 breakdancing names, including the aptly-christened Crazy Legs.

B-Boy's soundtrack is also totally excellent, featuring tracks such as  DJ Shadow's Organ Donor, Kool & the Gang's Open Sesame and Nina Simone's amazingly-titled, Funkier Than A Mosquito's Tweeter. Each track was selected by the B-Boys featured in game and, if you visit the computer in your main hub, you can play the soundtrack on your virtual 'music player'.

It's also initially fun to watch the battles, which are split into two turn-based rounds (your opponent goes first). However, it quickly becomes boring having to sit through your rival's dance before you get a chance to participate – something that the developer could not have got around due to the rigid framework of the sport, but which doesn't translate so well into video game form.

Still, the extras outside of the core dancing are bountiful, with an excellent wireless face-off mode, 40 opponents to battle your way through (they endearingly challenge you via e-mail in the main career mode) and 21 real-world locations and competitions to enjoy, including, for ardent fans, Redbull BC One, Freestyle Sessions, UK B-Boy Championships and IBE.

Unfortunately, the package is severely hampered by the unwieldy presentation and the long loading times brought on by all that motion capture. Indeed, the poor PSP drive squeals and whirs between each and every section of the game, stuttering your play experience.

In some ways it feels like a game where so much time and effort was invested in getting the core system right and enjoyable that the front end was something of an afterthought. For that reason B-Boy is a game that will appeal most to those with a good sense of rhythm, diligent and stubborn perseverance, and a love for learning tricky things in order to show off to tricky people – namely, the exact kind of people that learn to breakdance in the first place.
 
B-Boy
Reviewer photo
Simon Parkin | 4 October 2006
Despite some pacing and loading issues, this is a game with a good, solid and inventive soul that offers a unique and enjoyable take on rhythm gaming for the persevering gamer.
 
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