Despite a title indicating it’s based on the new film, Disney’s “High School Musical 3: Senior Year Dance” is more a “best of” collection of songs from all three tuners, with no coherent story and awkward gameplay. Target kiddie aud will enjoy mixing-and-matching characters in ways never seen onscreen, as well as creating their own East High Wildcat, but will quickly get frustrated with the game’s core “dancing” mechanic that’s really just flailing with the Wii’s wireless controller. Still, as with anything that’s got Zac Efron and pals on the cover, boffo sales are assured.
The core gameplay can only loosely be called dancing, at least on the Wii version that’s launching in conjunction with the film. With the Wii-mote in one’s left hand and the nunchuk attachment in the right, players simply jerk one or both controllers in the direction indicated by a large dot that drift across a wheel onscreen, loosely correlating to the beat of the selected song. (Versions for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360 that use a dance pad, as well as a PC version, come out in November.)
Although players are occasionally asked to clap, spin, twirl or hold stage poses, the result isn’t very dancelike. The game seems to require especially sharp movements of the motion controls to register, which means that play feels not only jerky but irritating (if not outright dangerous); self-smacking with the cord that connects the Wii-mote to the nunchuk is inevitable. Despite these annoyances, it’s still not challenging to succeed, making the game appropriate for a young and less-precise player.
During the selected song, a scene from the appropriate “High School Musical” film plays in the background, featuring decent animated versions of the movie characters crooning. However, their dance moves never resemble what the player’s being asked to do, and there’s no visual feedback if the player makes a mistake. Sharpay and Ryan may be holding hands and waltzing blithely to “Bop to the Top,” but the player’s stuck doing the elbow-jerk.
There are opportunities to influence the onscreen scenes, however. Players pick two characters, a boy and a girl, for each song, even if the number doesn’t belong to them in the film. Kids are sure to love creating unlikely mashups, especially with a friend along for two-player collaborative and competitive modes.
There’s also a “Create a Wildcat” utility that lets players customize the existing “High School Musical” characters or build their own. Outfits, accessories and other details are continually unlocked through play. It’s easy to imagine fans making digital versions of themselves to insert into the musical numbers, especially girls who’ve always fantasized about performing a romantic duet withEfron’s Troy.