Michael Jackson: The Experience was a pretty good attempt at bringing the King of Pop to the living room, but the Black Eyed Peas are a totally different undertaking: whereas the MJ game put you in Michael's shoes in his legendary live shows and music videos, in The Black Eyed Peas Experience you don't play as Will.i.am, Fergie or the other two. Instead you play a dance tutor, facing the Peas rather than backing them up, in a game that feels at once familiar and subtly innovative.
One thing clear from the off is that this isn't just a BEP reskin of the Michael Jackson game: it has a totally different graphical style, resembling Dance Central's stylised dancers instead of MJ's video footage. Even at this early stage it's very well-presented, with a slick interface that has you pulling back and pushing towards the screen to select options. Animation are art direction are both impressive, and the off-kilter camera angles bring a pleasing sense of being close to the group.
Of course all this counts for nothing if the actual gameplay isn't up to par, and so far it's a mixed bag. Two singers and two dancers can play at once, not quite as impressive as Just Dance 3's simultaneous four-player party mode, with drop-in multiplayer activated with a wave. Animated versions of the next move along scroll across the top, letting you get a handle on the next step, with names for each move too. There's also a full tutorial mode that takes you through each step, letting you practise in your own time.
There are some issues to sort out though: if the game loses track of you, your player reverts to a rigid stance, and more than once we saw active players lost despite their most animated efforts. This was early code though, as witnessed by the extremely lengthy loading times, and Ubisoft will want to work on these before the game's release this Christmas.
The real question of course is whether the game has enough to go up against Ubisoft's own Kinect party offering, Just Dance 3. It's certainly a slick package, and the BEP name will shift a lot of copies, but on this early evidence we've gotta feeling there's a lot of work to do.