Some would say we've already had too many dancing games on Kinect, and certainly with Dance Central 2 and Just Dance 3 now on the sensor there's not much of a gap left for another title to make an impression unless it's of a competitively high quality, and that's where The Black Eyed Peas Experience comes in.
Developed by iNiS — the team behind 360 karaoke classic Lips, not to mention barmy rhythm action game Elite Beat Agents on DS — BEP captures the group's party energy right from the get-go: instead of raising your hand to advance from the start screen, you mirror a simple side-step, getting into the rhythm and party vibe immediately. It's such a simple idea that starts the movement before you've even taken to the dance floor.
Once past the intro you're faced with two options: Dance Party is, as you would expect, the game's multiplayer mode, where you're free to pick any song and sing or dance with your friends to claim supremacy. The meat and drink, however, is the Deluxe Experience mode, which sees you create a rookie dancer and work through a series of clubs, gaining followers to unlock fashions and extra stages.
Even if you're not much of a dancer, Deluxe Experience takes things very slowly: you can choose any song — all rated in difficulty, from casual to legendary — and the game breaks it down into three sections of three steps each before putting you through the full song. The on-screen dancer performs the steps a few times before you jump in and try to mirror them, and you have three passes at each step before you get to the final showdown against the Peas. It's a slow way to introduce the steps and build them up, but as you're graded on your performance it should keep things a bit more interesting for more talented dancers.
Whereas you practise your steps with other nobody dancers, the full performance puts you against the BEP themselves, but unlike previous Ubisoft game Michael Jackson: The Experience the band aren't treated so reverentially: they're caricatures, superheroes in their own game with stacks of energy and charisma that could even convince a naysayer of their talents.
Every now and again when choosing a song, one of the Peas will issue you a challenge — gain 40 "incredible" ratings, nail the final pose and so on — for you to accept or refuse. Completing the challenge nets you a new item for your wardrobe; failure has no consequence. It's a wonder iNiS gave you the option to deny the challenge, but as they change when you revisit earlier songs they go some way to keeping things fresh.
Progression through the career mode unlocks extra venues and customisation options for your character, but as all the songs are available from the beginning some may feel there's not enough incentive to keep playing. Granted, some tracks will be way out of any beginner's abilities, but being given a song to learn might have been preferable to choosing one yourself each time.
Your other big option in the Deluxe Experience mode is the ability to create your own choreography to any song and send it to a friend. You can choose any song's steps and combine them in any way: a scrolling bar down the left selects a song, then a grid in the centre contains the steps which, once selected, move to another bar on the right. It's a neat and tidy way of doing things, though we can't help but feel pad support would have streamlined the process. If you don't know what your move's called you're supposed to be able to perform it and the game will recognise it, but we weren't able to get this to function with any reliability.
Despite some flaws, The Black Eyed Peas Experience is still an exciting and very enjoyable dance title; even those not too fond of the Peas will find themselves infected with the game's energy and stylish presentation. Campaign mode might be a little simplistic for some, but it nails the party atmosphere and makes this a title to consider for those end of year get-togethers.