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We Cheer 2 Review Box Art
GENRE
Rhythm
DEVELOPER
Namco Bandai
PUBLISHER
Namco Bandai
NUMBER OF PLAYERS
1-4
WI-FI ENHANCED
No
DS COMPATIBLE
No
BUY NOW AT

We Cheer 2 Review

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard scoring criteria.

In last year's We Cheer, the girls did the dancing while the guys ran the venues the girls danced at. That all changes this year in We Cheer 2, where male cheerleaders, traditional gymnastics, more forgiving controls and a truck-load of character customization add another layer of depth and unlockables to a fun, party-friendly game, even if expert mode remains inscrutably out of reach.

Namco Bandai had a tight timeline to create a sequel to last year's title, so the team evidently made decisions on where it could make the most impact the quickest: unlockables and presentation. We Cheer 2 has, in some respects, exactly the same core offering as last year's game: the same gameplay mechanics, just over 30 songs, many of the same squad members from last year's game, and all the same cheer venues (minimally enhanced or tweaked). Seeing the old venues appear is at first disconcerting, and several of the songs may cause a doubletake since they come from artists also represented in last year's soundtrack-- Corbin Bleu, Paramore and The Go! Team all return.

Yet then the distinctly more elaborate new venues, with larger spaces, huge crowds and dancing fans, show up; traditional cheerleader pyramid-building and acrobatic flips occur in most of the new routines; and many classic cheerleader tracks previously untouched-- Toni Basil's Mickey, Avril Lavigne's Girlfriend and 2Unlimited's Get Ready for This-- get in the rotation. This, and more, combine to make the game feel fresh.

We Cheer 2: Hair Selector
"Oh, they all look good on you! Really!"

The biggest development, however, is the much deeper character customizer, which can take away a lot of time from anyone who loved making a Mii but always felt there weren't enough options. In the first We Cheer, gamers could only choose the five lead members of the squad, and could only change skin tone, hair color, and select from subtly different, yet traditional, cheerleading outfits. A year later, all fifteen members in the squad can be selected, redesigned and reorganized. The squad now includes ten girls and five boys, and every member's hair, head shape, eyes, eyebrows, and mouth can be swapped out with a vast array of choices in both genders. Plus, a default palette of colors can be applied to all of those features, including skin tone, and, as with every scrap of clothing, can also be colorized more specifically using a simple RGB color slider interface that provides plenty more colors.

As for outfits, they're no longer easily unlocked by just performing routines well in various venues. A portion of the tops, bottoms, shoes and accessories that can be selected for the squad's look do still unlock in this fashion, but much more are locked away in a cheer shop, which requires spending of "Cheer Points" that are earned via successful (and good) performances of cheer routines. Plus, many outfit collections can only be purchased once the gamer has gained enough experience to unlock recruit, senior, varsity, etc. tiers, each of which provide a new set of clothes in the cheer shop. This may seem a little harsh considering how simpler wardrobe unlocking was last year, but there are many more options-- both traditional cheer costumes as well as casual street wear options-- and the cheer point currency flows heavily and easily in the game's other modes.

That may seem a lot to say about the more superficial side of this game, but that is where a bulk of We Cheer 2's improvements lie. On the gameplay side, this year's tutorial seems to take greater care to manage expectations of how demanding and technical the game's movements will be, but, mercifully, veterans are given the option to skip forward this time if they don't want to hear the spiel. Sticking through it though does highlight a couple other gameplay tweaks with respect to "free cheer mode" and "stunts."

Most any routine or mini-game within We Cheer 2 operates on the same idea as last year: a "trace line" draws out on the screen, and after being drawn, a split second later the gamer must move her or his remote along the same path and at the same speed, with a slight yank at the end of the path to complete the move. If playing with a remote in each hand, the two remotes must be moved along two individual trace lines, often going in different directions at any given time. If two remotes seem intimidating, playing with one remote and following only one trace line is accepted, but since the remotes are, in effect, pom pom facsimiles, two remote play is more challenging and ultimately fulfilling.

With that out of the way, additional points and presentational pizazz are earned via free cheer mode and stunts, both of which are earned by perfectly executing a short segment of moves within an overall routine. These special move segments are always presented at the same point in a given song, and while every song has a free cheer opportunity, not every song has a stunt opportunity. In either case, the more moves in these segments that are successfully completed, the longer the free cheer mode or more elaborate the stunts. "Free cheer" is basically a chance to randomly shake the remotes as vigorously as possible for the amount of time earned, represented this year by a series of on-screen cards with single letters on them, spelling things like "We*Cheer" and "U*Rock." One by one, the number of cards earned by previously executing the required moves will be laid down; until all the cards are laid down, the gamer can shake the remote with abandon for easy points, skipping any of the regular moves she'd be doing during the same time period of the song.

We Cheer 2: Pyramid Scheme
Pyramids and pyrotechnics always go well together.

Stunts operate in the same fashion but are more superficial-- basically, if earned, cheerleaders in the back half of your squad will execute flips and jump on each others' shoulders to create pyramids near the end of the song. The length and complexity of these stunts depends on how many of the required stunt trace lines were completed successfully. Granted, stunts don't "make or break a routine" (in spite of what the announcer says while playing), and your execution of your trace lines while the stunts are occurring has no impact or interaction with the stunts going on. Stunts are just extra points-earning window dressing, though they do go a ways to expand the terrific, if dance-centric, routines to something even more exciting and also traditional, so far as "traditional" cheerleading is concerned.

Last year, We Cheer caught a lot of flack in the game reviewing media for being difficult to get the knack of, though this year's edition should quell some complaints. On beginner and intermediate levels, the game's far more forgiving but can still be randomly indiscriminate when evaluating your attempt at a move as "cool!" "good!" "too slow!" "too fast" or "needs more energy!" Yet once you get the gist of it down, it's like riding a bike. To point, after learning how to play We Cheer last year, getting into We Cheer 2 was a breeze. The advanced/expert mode, however, is an entirely different story. Suddenly, the way you got Cs, Bs and As for routines in the easier difficulties no longer works: the game is ultra-rigid and precise on the advanced setting, and we could hardly fill the on-screen megaphone score icon enough to pass a song with a decent grade, if complete it at all. In expert, a flood of moves that seemed to be what the game wanted were consistently rejected.

This is where the argument for MotionPlus support should come in, and it's certainly a valid question: why wasn't MotionPlus support included? MotionPlus is a bit of an annoying cure-all for Wii games right now in that an assumption is made that if MotionPlus is included, the game will miraculously function perfectly. Yet we've seen how MotionPlus can mar a game built for it, such as EA's Grand Slam Tennis. Either way, We Cheer 2 has the same amount of MotionPlus integration as balance board support: none. Officially, Namco Bandai reps have stated MotionPlus integration would have made the game even pickier than it was last year, so the developers instead made the sequel more forgiving on easier levels, and that seems alright. Nearly every unlockable-- including important stuff like squad members, songs and venues-- can be obtained by completing routines on beginner or intermediate, and since the game's still plenty fun in these modes, there's not much to complain about. Yes, the game will occasionally accuse the gamer of not executing a move correctly when the gamer's certain she did, but just as often the game may forgive a clearly incorrect move, which is very easy to do considering how elaborate and frantic the trace lines can be. Yes, perfectionists may be highly annoyed by the game's unpredictable performance evaluation, and folks who want to be the perfect cheerleader and master the expert level are bound to be frustrated and think the game's broken. Yet between the We Cheer games and more technical All Star Cheer Squad games, the former seem to better achieve the balance of fun, achievement and challenge a video game should provide.

We Cheer 2: Cheering
Girl power... boy power... all the same here.

What won't feel broken are the routines and new stages. The routines are just as entertaining and at times amusing as they were last year. The welcome inclusion of male cheerleaders, perhaps intentionally or not, also adds a thicker layer of camp than would be expected. While most routines aren't as out-and-out feminine as they were in last year's game, there are still a few hilarious moments that occur if a male cheerleader is selected as squad leader, since the choreography is the same whether playing as a male or female cheerleader. In one routine he may dramatically fall backward to let a female cheerleader catch him from behind and drag him around. In another routine he'll lay on the ground and scissor his legs in the air. As for the moment that was most laugh-out-loud, in one particular routine, he'll turn his back to the camera, slap his hands on to his butt and swivel his hips around a few times. Thank goodness for the new routine watch mode: it allows gamers to see the basic trace lines for a given song and practice, but it also can toggle a snapshot mode, which allows a gamer to take up to six pictures of the most hilarious (or, alright, visually impressive) dance moves.

As for stages, there are numerous stand-outs in the new choices. The simplest new stages at the squad's school are enlivened with throngs of dancing, clapping and jumping audience members. Then, there are dramatic settings such as an ice rink with giant inflatable figures, a rooftop terrace that seems to rise and drop with a helicopter in the background, and an aquarium with dolphins leaping into the air or swimming by in the alternate underground viewing area. For hardcore video game fans, the Namco Bandai arcade stage is most thrilling, in that the squad is performing in a glossy, black-walled and -floored room, while a giant projection of old school Pac-Man plays out on the wall behind the squad in Lite Brite-esque glory. As before, there are both "day" and "night" versions of all stages, with night stages requiring great performances to unlock. Also, all stages get busier and more pyrotechnic-infused with good performances, though this year those pyrotechnics seem to go off with noticeably less effort than they did before.

Single players can choose to journey through the significantly down-scaled story (aka squad challenge) mode (five stages, three or more characters unlocked per stage), or just perform one song at a time at a venue of choice in the championship mode. With no on-screen rivals and next to no story to speak of, We Cheer 2 is a much more arcade-styled affair than either All Star Cheer Squad title and even last year's We Cheer, which made more effort to establish at least one distinguishing trait in each of the unlocked squad members.

We Cheer 2: Swing It
Who's bringing more boys to the yard?

Beyond that, two to four players can play at once, in either cooperative or competitive cheer routines or mini-games, and multiplayer is also supported in the workout mode. If two players are cheering, both can individually elect to play with one or two remotes; three or more players requires each player to play with only one remote. Cooperative mode, like last year, allows two gamers to take one half of a routine: essentially player one is the "right pom" and player two the "left pom," both of which would be accommodated in single player mode with two remotes. Competitive modes are concerned with everyone doing the same routine but whoever performs most accurately wins.

In the new minigames, there's a version of hot potato in which each cheerleader takes turns holding an ever-inflating balloon. While holding the balloon, executing a set number of moves correctly moves the balloon to the next person. Missing a move causes the balloon to inflate faster. Whoever the balloon pops on loses. The other mode also uses balloons, though in that case each cheerleader has his or her own balloon, and again, successfully performing moves keeps the balloon from over-inflating and popping, with the last cheerleader standing winning.

Workout mode is the same as last year-- a vigorous set of exercises that implies success by showing your avatar, who starts out overweight, shrinking down to stick-thin by the end of the routine. A calories-expended number is shown on screen during this mode, but the manual goes out of its way to assert that this readout is not an accurate representation of how many calories were burned, which isn't surprising given an intense session on an elliptical at a real gym usually only measures 20 calories burned, while We Cheer 2 throws numbers in the hundreds and thousands around. That's not to suggest that the game doesn't get your heart racing-- the game's best played with big movements and a lot of gusto, which can leave you a little winded if you're not the exercising type.

Given the beating We Cheer took at some game media outlets last year, we weren't sure a sequel would be made, and definitely not this quickly. Yet market forces and determined gamers without a chip on their shoulders prevailed, and here We Cheer 2 is, with a healthy dose of "more" on all accounts: more forgiving controls, more diversity in squad appearance and gender, more multiplayer modes, more impressive stages and choreography, and scads more customization, stopping short of stage- or routine-creation. The one- to five-second load time in between nearly every menu selection is a bit annoying, and the difficulty in pulling off expert mode will be discouraging for over-achievers, but what is here is just as much fun and addictive as last year's title. Best of all, the game's even more party-friendly, and skeptical male gamers who weren't willing to try a cheerleading game can no longer use the excuse that there aren't any male characters to play as. Just don't let them know about that one move in the Cheetah Girls song.



final score 7.5/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar M. Noah Ward
Staff Profile | Email
"Death narrowly avoided, thanks to another friendly NPC."


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