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Review #414

Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove: Monster Mix
Developer: Nastume
Publisher: Natsume
Genre: Rhythm/Dance
Release Date: 5/16/2011

It’s been a long time since I have reviewed a Wii game. The last one was PokePark Wii: Pikachu’s Adventure back in December of 2010. Since then, my system has just been gathering dust save for when I ported some Miis over to my 3DS. So there had to be something about Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove that made me decide to veer from my usual diet of PC and PS3 titles, right? Well, there were several reasons.

The first is that I like supporting Natsume as I keep worrying that it is going the way of Agetec. However I’ve been a bit sick of Harvest Moon and so the last game by them that I purchased was Afrika and even then I stuck with the Asian edition, Hakuna Matata…which technically meant I didn’t support Natsume at all. Whoops. The second is that this seemed like a cute little Gothie game, which meant my girlfriend would get a kick out of it. Last, but not least, the game was only five bucks and it seemed like a great deal as well as a precursor to the 3DS version, which I have been thinking about preordering. So for a picture of our 16th President, was GGG:MM an incredible under the radar deal, or it is best left buried amongst the majority of crap that makes up WiiWare titles?

Let’s Review

1. Story

Although Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove is a dance game, and each of the ten possible dances have a story segment both before and after the rhythm based gameplay. The game takes place in Monstertown, and Gabrielle is the only human that can enter there. Once day she comes to town and sees Vlad the vampire crying because all of his zombies have run away. Gabrielle suggests dancing to bring the zombies back and lo and behold, it works! Dancing appears to have super magic powers in Monstertown. After a few zombies have returned, Gabrielle and Vlad learn that the zombies ran away because they were afraid of a creature they called, “Dark Devil.” Gabrielle hopes that dancing will bring Dark Devil out for a confrontation and it does…more or less.

The entirety of single player mode took me roughly an hour to beat. There really isn’t much to the story and what’s here is definitely geared for very young children. It’s nice to see someone add a story to a dancing game and to even try and come up with characterization for the things dancing with you, but most adults will find the game’s plot a bit too simplistic, cheesy and dull. I thought it was cute, but there definitely wasn’t a lot of substance here. If you’re over single digits, you’ll probably groan more than you smile here.

Story Rating: 4/10

2. Graphics

The visuals in Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove aren’t amongst the best you’ll see for the Wii, or even amongst WiiWare titles, but they do have a look that is all their own, and the graphics do stand out. The character designs are simplistic and without a lot of detail to them, but they are distinctive and everything from Gabrielle to the mummy bears siblings do have a degree of cuteness to them. The zombies however look pretty bad, as they look more like paper dolls carved out of multicolored construction paper than anything else. It also sucks that when you earn them in a dance they tend to come onto the screen and obscure the move you are supposed to do for a second or two. If the timing is really bad, it can be a combo breaker. Still, the main characters are animated nicely, there isn’t any slowdown and unlike a lot of awful dance games out there, you can actually make out each of the dance moves easily. The background of the game never changes. It’s always Vlad’s spooky mansion with Zombies in the background. Lightning may flash, or a shooting star may fly overhead, but there isn’t a lot here. The majority of graphics is about the dancers and the movements they are making.

The graphics in GGG might not be amongst the best for the Wii, but you definitely do get your five bucks and then some out of what’s here. It’s a stylish game, even if it’s not a visually impressive one, and it’s fun to watch even if you’re not the one dancing.

Graphics Rating: 5.5/10

3. Sound

For a dancing game, the quality of the music is far more important than it is in most other genres. While there are only ten tracks in Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove: Monster Mix, all ten fit the quasi-spooky theme of the game nicely and you might even catch yourself humming along while the game is playing, or even after you’ve turned it off. None of the tracks are very fast paced, so gamers of all ages can play along without worrying about tripping up or falling behind. As well, beating each of the ten stages in single player mode unlocks the option to play a short or long version of the song, giving the game a little more variety.

There really isn’t a lot here, but each of the tracks in the game are nicely done, they fit the ambience of the game nicely and they’re a lot of fun to dance too, even if no one will be clamoring for the game’s soundtrack in CD or MP3 form anytime soon.

Sound Rating: 6.5/10

4. Control and Gameplay

I’ll be honest. When I first saw what the gameplay of Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove was like, I had horrible flashbacks to Just Dance, which remains one of the worst games I’ve ever played on the Nintendo Wii. This is because the game doesn’t actually work. It just randomly assigns points and creates the illusion of a video games going on. As I said in my review of Just Dance, we encountered numerous occasions where a person just sitting there would get more points than someone actually dancing in time with the game. My big fear was that GGG:MM would have the same problem.

Thankfully my fears were unfounded. Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove actually does respond to your Wiimote actions and you’ll score points according to the actions you do and how close to the beat they are. I had a few motions where the game seemed to miss my movements or where I couldn’t quite make out how to move at first, but I ended every dance with a B or an A and I even got three perfect scores in my first playthrough. The key is to simply watch what Gabrielle and her friend does on screen and then keep time with it. The bottom of the screen has a static visual that is supposed to show you what you need to do. However since dancing is animated and the image at the bottom of the screen is not, it is far less helpful than it is intended to be. Don’t worry though. Just play catch up and you’ll more than likely still get a good on that first motion. After a while you’ll know what the full dance step is that the picture represents and you’ll be able to start on time with Gabrielle instead of slightly behind here.

Since GGG:MM was a dance game that actually worked without the need of a DDR pad, I really enjoyed playing it. It did seem like there could have been more to it, and that the game would have responded to the occasional wrist flick instead of the dance motion, but I had fun with the full hour it took to beat single player mode and if you liked games like Just Dance, you’ll probably love this…if only because it’s an actual game and not a snake oil style con.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 6.5/10

5. Replayability

Besides the single player mode, you can play each of the ten stages with friends in multi-player mode. It doesn’t sound like a big difference but the fact you have either option in a five dollar game is a pretty nice deal to me. As well, you can always replay previous stages in either mode to earn any zombies you might have missed, along with any of the thirty collectables you might still need to earn as well. These collectibles can change Gabrielle’s clothing, hair style and more. Gamers will derive a variable amount of amusement from customizing Gabrielle. Although the collectibles are just window dressing, it’s another nice extra in a five dollar game that could have been easily a bare bones title. Instead there’s a lot of content in GGG:MM compared to what you pay for it and even if you only spend a few hours with the game before unlocking everything, it’s still pretty good compared to most other WiiWare titles.

Replayability Rating: 6/10

6. Balance

There’s isn’t a lot to say here for balance. Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove only has ten stages, each of which are rating with a difficulty of one to three stars, with three being the hardest. My worst score was on one of the one-star songs and yet I scored a perfect on one of the three-star ones, so difficulty is pretty relative here. None of the songs will give long time bemani gamers any trouble as the game really is geared for small children. Still, the dances are fun and the game picks up movement nicely, so if you think of Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove: Monster Mix as both an intro to rhythm based gaming and the GGG world, you’re getting a well done taste of both. When a five dollar game performs better than a lot of full priced Wii disc based games, you know you have something special, even if it is quite short.

Balance Rating: 7/10

7. Originality

There are a lot of dance based games out there, some of which feature exactly the same style gameplay that GGG offers. However Monster Mix is the only one with a story, the only one with goth kids and monsters, and the only one that can be downloaded via Wiiware. I’ve pretty sure it’s the only one for five dollars too, unless you go to a pawn shop. However, that doesn’t changed the fact that the game is basically the same as many other dance games, just with less tracks and a different look. Let’s call it a thumb’s in the middle here.

Originality Rating: 5/10

8. Addictiveness

I knew the game was going to be short before I started playing because of both the price and the little candelabra that acts as the level guide. However, when it was all said and done, I wanted more tracks and do more dancing, and that’s the sign of not only a fun game, but a well made one. I would love to see a sequel on WiiWare in addition to the upcoming 3DS one, if only because you won’t actually dance around in the portable version. The characters were cute even if the story for primarily for single digit aged gamers, the gameplay was fun, and Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove proved to be one of the best budget games of the year. It may be short, but GGG:MM was a game I played straight through from beginning to end and even now I want to play it again.

Addictiveness Rating: 7/10

9. Appeal Factor

Just Dance proved to be one of the most successful games of 2009 and it barely worked. With that in mind, Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove: Monster Mix has similar gameplay, but it actually works so it should be even more successful, right? Well, not really. First Just Dance had advertising and mainstream dance music. GGG:MM has neither. As well, GGG can only be purchased through WiiWare and even though it’s five dollars, all of these combine together to make GGG a game that few will hear about save word of mouth unless they follow Natsume religiously. GGG:MM will no doubt turn off gamers who lack either a sense of whimsy or the ability to appreciate games geared towards kids, but most of the people that pick this up will have a lot of fun with it in the hour or two they spend with it. You’ll get your money’s worth with this five dollar game, and that’s all that matters.

Appeal Factor Rating: 6.5/10

10. Miscellaneous

For five dollars, you get an hour long single player mode, a multi player mode, collectibles and the ability to customize your Gabrielle. That’s pretty impressive for what you are paying. The game might feel short, but there’s actually a lot of content here and that is not only well made, but also a lot of fun. Here’s hoping Natsume makes either more content for this WiiWare title, a sequel, or a full blown Wii game in addition to the upcoming 3DS game as there is a lot of potential in this little franchise. If you have a Wii and five bucks to spare, you really should download this title. It’s proven to be one of the best Wii releases this year, be it disc based or WiiWare. The title is only going to succeed by word of mouth, so play it, have fun with it, and spread the word about it.

Miscellaneous Rating: 7/10

The Scores
Story: 4/10
Graphics: 5.5/10
Sound: 6.5/10
Control and Gameplay: 6.5/10
Replayability: 6/10
Balance: 7/10
Originality: 5/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal Factor: 6.5/10
Miscellaneous: 7/10
Total Score: 61
FINAL SCORE: 6.0 (ABOVE AVERAGE GAME!)

Short Attention Span Summary
With a price tag of only five dollars, Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove: Monster Mix is a hard game to say no to. You get ten stages of dance based gaming in single player mode, another ten for multi-player, along with the ability to unlock zombie background dancers and collectibles that you can use to customize how your own personal Gabrielle looks. The gameplay is far better than comparable full budget releases like Just Dance and manages to be a lot of fun. The game is obviously geared for younger gamers and is pretty light hearted for a game with monsters, but it’s a great start to the GGG franchise and hopefully a sign of things to come for the 3DS game of the same name being released later in 2011.

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