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High School Musical: Making the Cut Package Art
Artificial Mind and Movement
Disney Interactive Studios

High School Musical: Making the Cut

I'll admit, I didn't know the slightest about High School Musical. Then I began my review and couldn't help but find CDs on store endcaps, TV commercials on Disney and Zac Efron on every teen magazine cover at the supermarket checkout line. So itís a hit. As for the game? Fine for the kids, alright for the teens, not so good for everyone else.


The game plays out on the bottom screen, where everything is clear and clean, as it should be. The top screen features 3D models of the characters performing the dance moves in conjunction with your tapping performance. While they will react to your misses by tripping or falling on their face, it is mostly a predetermined set of moves. They look decent and move realistically, although with a little less detail than the character models in Lost in Blue. But they look nothing like their real life counterparts, whose faces are seen in story advancing dialog sections. Players can unlock new outfits for Troy and the gang to give a little more style, but High School Musical is mostly for the ears.


The heart of most music games is the soundtrack, an obvious advantage of a game based on a television musical. The movie and its sequel were hits for the Disney Channel, and a feature movie is in the works. Live musicals are on tour, ice shows are hitting arenas. The music has a following and the DS speakers reproduce the 12 included songs impressively. All are performed by cover artists, and your opinion of their imitations will depend on your familiarity of the originals.

It' likely you won't touch this game if you're not already a High School Musical aficionado, but for those new to the music, the songs are mostly upbeat and high energy tunes. It's nothing you would want to admit to enjoying, but quite a few will end up lost in your head (Bop to the Top, please get out!). The slower stuff doesn't play as fun, but rounds out the selection and should please the fans. The disappointing sounds are the effects of the touch screen taps. The claps and snaps are actually a distraction, especially since they do not always follow the beat as well as they should. Itís a minor complaint, however, as the audio is of high enough quality to make the listening experience decent on its own.


The gameplay formula is heavily influenced by the highly acclaimed Elite Beat Agents. Circles on the touch screen change from red to green. When they turn completely green, players tap them in the order they appeared, mostly matching up with the beat of the music. In some stages, players can select different instruments during the song, which produce different sounds when tapped. Other sections have players drag a basketball through a hoop, drag a slider across the screen or draw shapes with the stylus.

The inherent problem with the formula is that concentration must be kept squarely on the bottom gameplay screen. In Elite Beat Agents, the issue was minor thanks to an art style and sense of humor that demanded attention. Between levels, cut scenes became the reward for success as they are must-watch material. This is where High School Musical suffers. The only action that may be worth watching is the dancing 3D models on the top screen during the song. The between play text that advances the story is mostly insignificant; there just isn't a whole lot of story going on here.

The best attempt to expand the action and add a little flare is in the recorded videos. After completing a song, players can replay the dance movie of the top screen, but alter the camera angles and add firework and lighting effects to create a custom video. It's limited in what it can do, but adds some enjoyment as to what can be had from the music, especially for younger players.


Local multi-card play lets two owners battle for the best performance, while sending distractions to the other player. Two game owners can also trade the recorded videos to each other, another nice touch for younger players.


For most people, High School Musical: Making the Cut will feel like a sandwich with no meat. The gameplay mechanic is solid but there's not much to back it up. It's a shame, too, that with a decent library of movies and plays to draw upon, it didn't do more to enhance the experience and create some type of emotional connection. It leaves the game to basically a 12-song MP3 playlist with a little tap-tap-tap in between. It may be enough for younger fans, but they may be better served by purchasing the actual soundtrack.

final score 6.0/10

Staff Avatar Dave Magliano
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"Tiger uppercut!!"

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