High School Musical 3: Senior Year DANCE!
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-11-18 PS2 Music/Rhythm E (Everyone) Disney Interactive / Page 44

I don't know who the masterminds are behind developing new projects at Disney, but they definitely do their jobs well. It seems everything Disney has released in the past few years as turned to gold. Shows like Lizzie McGuire and Hannah Montana both exploded instantly (the latter more so), and no one can question the popularity of the now trio of High School Musical films. With the third film released this fall, along with a whole slew of new merchandising, it was only a matter of time before one of the HSM games fell into my lap, with the game in question being High School Musical 3: Senior Year DANCE!

High School Musical 3 (HSM3) allows players to dance along to 29 songs from the trio of movies. Being that the game comes equipped with a dance pad, it can be immediately compared to games like Dance Dance Revolution, with the one major difference coming in how the steps are presented on the screen.

Throughout the game, you can either choose to have the dancers be those that actually sing the songs within the films, or you can change things up by having Troy sing a love song to Sharpay, for instance, even though in the film he sings it to Gabriella. Luckily, you aren't allowed to choose for Ryan and Sharpay to sing such things to each other, as well, that would just be weird and grossly inappropriate (they're siblings, for those who didn't know). You can also create an entirely new character if you wish, and place yourself within the HSM experience.

Once you choose a song and a difficulty level (the lower the difficulty the fewer steps onscreen and vice versa), you are taken to an animated version of the scene in which the song takes place in the films. In order to avoid blocking the entire screen with steps scrolling from the bottom, like in various DDR games, instead the steps come from the very center point of the screen, and scroll in the four cardinal directions, towards stationary parts of a circle. Once the step reaches those stationary points, you step on the dance pad in the appropriate direction.

In the easiest difficulty, you are usually only required to step in one direction at once. However, once you move onto quicker songs, especially on higher difficulty levels, you'll eventually have to jump in two directions at once, and even hold your position until the note in the song ends, creating a real challenge in these levels. Luckily, notes are brightly colored, with green being for a standard step and neon pink representing steps that must be done simultaneously, so it's easy to distinguish between the two varieties.

As you dance, you accumulate points based on how many steps you correctly perform, and how your timing was in performing them. Just like in other rhythm games, you can either step too late or too early, which reduces the amount of points earned. However, hit multiple steps perfectly, and your score will really start to skyrocket.

The significance of your score is that it triggers the filling of a Superstar Mode star, which, once full, can be activated by jumping on the two corners of the dance mat at once. By activating this temporary mode, each point you earn is doubled, allowing for scores to reach the million mark and beyond, with the main motivation for achieving such a high score being that it unlocks new outfits and accessories for your characters within the game.

As you proceed through the game, you'll also unlock new personality tests, which is an extra section of gameplay aimed specifically at younger players that tests them on what their future career should be, what they might carry in their lunchbox, etc. based on answers they give to "either or" questions. These quizzes are completely voluntary, and are essentially useless for older players or for those who just wish to dance, but for hardcore fans of the HSM films, I suppose they could be considered a worthwhile addition.

The final set of extras comes in the form of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast during the filming of the third HSM movie.

One of the biggest draws about the game for me is the fact that you can play with either the dance pad or a regular controller. This allowed me to play the game's two-player mode with my 9-year-old niece, since she was better able to hit the X, O, triangle and square buttons on a controller (with X representing the down arrow, triangle the up arrow, and so on) rather than trying to stretch to reach the markings on the mat.

There is one thing, however, that could have made the game better, with that being the playing of actual footage from the films while you were dancing, and not just an animated replacement. While the graphics themselves are fine by PS2 standards, some of the character movements are a bit blocky and awkward, especially when two characters have to touch, but since you'll be so busy jumping around on a mat, you probably won't have that much time to spend staring at the background in the first place, so I suppose that bit of a hiccup can slide.

Being that the title is a music based game, the sound department here performs excellently. Each time you hit a step, a small chime signifies you doing so, but no one sound effect is loud enough to overpower the songs themselves, which is definitely a good thing, as even I frequently found myself turning the volume up to eleven and would have been disappointed in hearing massive sound effects at that level.

Overall, by including songs from all three of the High School Musical movies, Disney Interactive and Page 44 have created an entirely enjoyable experience from beginning to end. Even if you aren't a fan of one or more of the songs within the game, by including so many options, there will definitely be something for everyone to get into here. For example, I'm not that big of a fan of songs like "Get Cha Head in the Game"or "Fabulous", but give me a great love song like "Can I Have This Dance" or "Right Here, Right Now", and I'm golden.

And even though the game may lack in information about the movies themselves, meaning that players would have to be familiar with the films to understand what is going on, it's safe to assume that the only people who would buy the game in the first place would be established fans of the movies, and therefore wouldn't need the back-story.

In the end, High School Musical 3: Senior Year DANCE! should more than adequately fit any gamer's need for dancing within a game, and offers enough fan service and addictive music to keep most gamers up off of the couch for months to come.

Special thanks to Disney Interactive for providing a copy of this title.