All Star Cheer Squad
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-11-18 Wii Music/Rhythm E (Everyone) THQ

Cheerleaders... why do they always seem to be the mean ones on TV shows and movies? Well, the girls in the game aren't all that nice either, insisting on calling you Newdles. But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.

All Star Cheer Squad is a cheerleading simulation for the Wii. You begin by creating your avatar, male or female, customizing hair style and colors, face features and shape, a top and bottom for your cheerleading uniform... and strategic product placement in the form of CoverGirl makeup. Tsc, tsc... personally, I found my character to look better without it.

The core of the game is Career Mode. In Career, there's a bit of a storyline. You are the new girl, filling in for a member of the Fox Squad who has sustained an injury. As the replacement, you will first go through a series of tutorials and practice sessions plus some tryouts, before you actually join the team.

To perform a move you must repeat the gesture indicated on the screen as the gesture bead hits the hit area. They will scroll right to left, with the blue arrow representing the Nunchuk and the pink arrow representing the Wii-Mote. In the practice sessions, you learn the name and gesture for each move, so you're getting a terminology lesson as well. There's the Clasp, the V, inverted V, Ls, Ts, diagonals, punches... combine the gestures with A button presses to change the "foundation" (the position of your legs) and you have quite the challenge in the fast-paced tunes.

Once the training is over, you will be participating in competitions. To pass each practice, competition or challenge, you must obtain a grade of C or higher to pass and move on. But for competitions, that doesn't mean you will automatically win, score is important too. You can replay competitions to try for a higher score. You must also pay attention to your team spirit, since if it depletes, the routine will end.

Challenges are a bit different, since you are competing against another cheerleader doing the same moves. The purpose is to do as many perfects as possible, so you can attack your opponent, a bit like Guitar Hero III duels. For every three perfect moves you earn a Call Out, which is used to either attack, defend or charge your cheer line to make you earn double points. Beating your other squad members through challenges awards you with a better position within the squad. If you become the team's captain, you will be able to create your own routines.

To create a routine you can pick moves from the six categories: Dance, Flair, Foundation, Jump, Stunt and Combo. But you must have already unlocked these in the practice sessions to be able to use them.

Quick Play stages and more customization options for your character also unlock as you play through Career.

At the end of each practice, competition or challenge, you can press the camcorder icon to see a replay of how you did during the routine. And this is how I actually found out that the animation isn't all that great. I had noticed during practice that when the other cheerleader leaves the scene, she walks like a robot, stiff joints and all. But other than that, I was too busy looking at the gesture beads to notice the rest. Then the replay showed me how everyone seems to move like a stick figure, from one position to the next, without any real flow in between movements, which makes everyone look extremely mechanical and unnatural.

The presentation isn't nothing to brag about. Or, as your squad members like to say, "don't get all bragadocious" (what are these girls, aspiring Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?). The character models are fairly simple, the textures are plain and the stages are very bland, painted in a series of bright and flat colors.

The voice acting isn't too bad, though this teen lingo thing annoys me quite a bit. I also found the stapled fake smiles on everyone's faces and lack of lip movement to be very, very creepy. music really isn't my cup of tea, and you'll hear the same tunes a bit too often.

The major fault with the game is definitely the movement recognition. Similar titles such as Dancing With the Stars seem to respond better to the movements, maybe because in All Star Cheer Squad many of them are very similar. Quick transitions between movements become nearly impossible to achieve in faster beats. I also found that the cable connecting Wii-Mote and Nunchuk hindered me in some of them, with me ending up in weird positions when I should have been extending my arms in whatever direction it told me to.

The addition of the Balance Board is interesting and makes the gameplay more challenging with feet positions. However, having the Balance Board active means that if you have a fourth player, he or she will have to put their controllers down.

After my experience, I have to say that All Star Cheer Squad lacks the pleasant feeling of cheer that cheerleaders are supposed to convey, replacing it with more frustration over the controls than anything else. With some more polish, maybe it would have actually been fun.

Special thanks to Kristina Kirk and THQ for providing a copy of this title.