All Star Cheer Squad
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-12-04 Nintendo DS Music/Rhythm E (Everyone) THQ / Gorilla Systems

I wasn't too impressed with All Star Cheer Squad for the Wii, so I don't know what possessed me to play it on the DS. Basically, I thought it would make a better rhythm game, since the touch screen would allow for more precise movements. And again, after a while, I was even more unimpressed with it that its Wii counterpart.

The story on the DS takes place at Camp Spirit, a cheerleading camp that you and your cousin (who apparently doesn't want to be seen with a newbie, family or not) go to for the summer. You start by customizing your character with a skin tone, a hair style and color. That's all. Clothing options won't be available from the start and you can't choose facial features like in the Wii version (even if all the faces looked pretty similar).

The touch screen will contain your menus and will be where you play the mini-games, as well as give you a map of the camp and facilities. The movement through the areas, dialogs and performances appear on the top screen.

After an exchange of words with your cousin, you get the attention of a nearby cheerleader who is so offended by your words that she decides to challenge you to a duel. Of sorts. Here you get a glimpse of how the actual cheers work. The touch screen will show a circle with six smaller circles around it. Bubbles will be coming in from both sides, and you must tap them when they hit the small circles, in time with the music. This wouldn't actually be so bad if the hand that holds the stylus wasn't in the way and partially blocking the screen most of the time.

After your first challenge, you will be assigned to one of the cheerleading squads and receive your "camp kit", a way to show you how the interface will work while roaming around the camp and doing tasks. Your interface will include a Map, which you can scroll vertically and horizontally, and tapping any area will instantly take you there. You also have a Journal that records your relationship with the girls in the other squads. Your Cheer Profile will show you your progress and stats: respect, fitness and spirit. Last but not least, there is the Spirit Wheel, which represents your schedule and activities for a day at the camp. Cheer events will be marked as green, practice in purple, fitness training in blue and free time or tasks in orange. What you do to progress is always dictated by the Spirit Wheel. Free time is used to do small tasks for others, getting to know people, challenging others or just doing some extra practice or exercises.

The training portion has four different activities to do. Arm strength is a weight routine where you do curls by pressing the left and right triggers at the right time.

Balance shows your character standing on a fitness ball holding two small weights. On the top screen there are four targets, and two of them will light up green. You must keep your character's hands over the green (tap the respective targets on the touch screen) and use the left and right triggers to balance. It does come across as awkward when you look at it as a whole, since the legs don't move and it seems like she leans left or right from the thighs up.

Agility training is much like the cheer challenge mechanics. You tap the circles as the note appears in them. If there is a number on the notes, you must tap it as many times as the number says. Again, the hand holding the stylus will get in the way and block your vision.

Leg strength is done by jumping rope. You tap the star as it reaches the bottom of the circle. Now and again, stunt icons appear and travel around the circle along with the stars. When the icon reaches the control pad area, press the direction that is highlighted on it. Once again, the hand gets in the way and it's hard to see the right portion of the screen as the icon travels to the target area for the stunt.

The game does offer multiplayer local and wireless features, but each player requires their own copy of the game.

The overall look of the game is similar to any Sims title on the DS, but with even less definition on the characters. The backgrounds and environments are quite nice though, and have enough detail. The music is the same as in the Wii version, but the sound effects are barely there. There is no voice acting to be heard either, but enough text and instructions to go through.

I've already mentioned how my hand kept blocking portions of the screen during some of the mini-games, but there were other annoyances. What first began to get on my nerves was actually the "bleep" sound that happens every time you approach someone and press A to talk to them. Is this supposed to be there? Is it a glitch? Whatever it is, it's annoying.

Somehow, I had an issue with the horizontal scrolling of the area map, so I figured I'd re-calibrate my DS and it would be ok. I did it several times, and tested it against a puzzle game for precision of the touch screen. It was fine for the puzzle, but it still wouldn't reach the right side scrolling arrow on the map in All Star Cheer Squad. I had to adjust the calibration to the left so I could actually scroll. Except this ended up interfering with the timely tapping during the rhythm games...

And then there was the awkwardness in the girls' movements. Although you're never really paying attention to the top screen during a challenge, I managed to sneak a peek on some occasions at the start of random performances, only to find the cheerleaders taking their positions on the stage without even moving their legs. Talk about weird.

I'll be completely honest: I really didn't want to write this review. However, I felt that I had to, simply because there doesn't seem to be a single review about it out there (only for the Wii version of the game), and because everyone should know that this is definitely not worth the purchase. All Star Cheer Squad for DS is bad enough that in comparison, the Wii version seems a lot better than it actually is.

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