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Preview: B-Boy Beats

February 11, 2010 , Posted by App-reciation Reviews at 10:25 PM

B-Boy Beats - A Comprehensive Preview

''I can sum it up quite quickly" says Will Luton of Bristol based Mobile Pie games as he shows me upcoming iPhone title B-Boy Beats, "it's break dancing with your fingers". As the game loads up I ask him why he thinks this game has a shot in a now very crowded marketplace, dominated by the likes of Rock Band and Tap Tap Revenge 3, "It is difficult to innovate in a crowded marketplace" he admits, "the iPhone is a music playing device, it's the perfect platform for this kind of game". "If you look at something like Tap Tap it's very abstract, it's very cold" he theorises, "with B-Boy Beats there's no pretence you're creating the music, but you are participating in it".

Presented with a tongue-in-cheek, Hip Hop stylised map of a fictional 80's New York City-like environment, I'm invited to have a go at what Will himself describes as "an unusual experience". Instantly different from most rhythm action titles, BBB directs you to maintain finger contact with the screen for the duration of your play time. "Imagine that your fingers represent your hands and your legs" Will tells me. Sound advice, as playing in this manner, of recreating whole body movement within the hands is exactly what the game demands of the player, asking you to keep to the rhythm and hit circles on the "floor" of the iPhone screen. To give an indication of the timings, Elite Beat Agents style concentric circles advance towards where your feet need to be and hitting them too early, late or indeed, not at all, is an instant fail. I'm struggling somewhat to keep up with the first of the game's insanely catchy Nerdcore tracks, "does it get much harder?" I ask, "you can do the moonwalk, the splits, some of the moves are double time, even I can't do some of those on later tracks" the game's director answers, I'll take that as a yes... This game is hard and uncompromisingly so, though I can entirely understand why, this is unlike every other rhythm based game out there right now, it's simply not something that's been tried before, so the hands and mind simply aren't familiar with the co-ordination required. The control mechanic for example is incredibly fourth wall breaking, which can be a little off-putting. Likewise when you watch someone else play, you're looking as much at their hands as you are at the screen, it's certainly more of a group performance piece than Guitar Hero for example.



Similarly, the music choice and visual design comes out of left-field, it's not often you see a piece so clearly inspired by the city in which it was built, a colourful graffiti world inhabited by visually interesting characters, facing off to a dance battle to the soundtrack of an MC Frontalot tune. "It's got more personality than its rivals" claims Will, "the aesthetic is a cheeky take on Hip Hop (and) the Nerdcore thing works with that". I ask him if this approach is in an effort to distance the product from failed titles such as Sony's B-Boy and Marc Ecko's Getting Up "ultimately you're pretending your hands are break dancing, you can't really pretend that's cool" he responds.

After further time with BBB I started to force myself to play in the way that the game requires and once this, admittedly very steep, learning curve had been overcome, I started to realise the potential at what they'd created. It's a unique, challenging title and it's easy to see where B-Boy Beats might go in the future. From very simple evolutions such as DLC to more sophisticated ideas enabled by ports to other platforms, which I ask whether or not is a possibility; "the iPad... I think the interesting thing there is you have enough space for two people to go head to head" Will hints. The game is set to include OpenFeint, Facebook and Twitter integration so players will be able to keep friends up-to-date with how they're dealing with the 17 songs included in the asking price if £1.79. It'll be interesting to see how gamers react to B-Boy Beats and the game is in desperate need of a Lite version with comprehensive tutorial, but once players have wrapped their heads around the game's central mechanic they should find a solid alternative to the cookie cutter Guitar Hero clones currently on offer.

B-Boy Beats sees release on Valentines Day and will be published by Tag Games.


This article was written by Peter Willington, a freelance video games critic from the UK. Apart from writing for App-reciation Reviews on a part-time basis, Peter is currently a contributing editor for MidlifeGamer.net and runs inretrospectpodcast.com.

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