|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Gorilla Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: THQ||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 24, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
You've Ever Seen
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
When I think of cheerleading games, I immediately think of 2006's all-male cheer fest, Elite Beat Agents. This title featured cool tunes, wacky cheer-inspired storylines, and was one of the more original titles of the year. Needless to say, the bar is definitely high in my eyes when it comes to cheer-inspired games.
Although All-Star Cheer Squad on the DS attempts to channel the spirit of cheer movies like "Bring it on" with a friends-focused story. However, its lack of memorable gameplay, bland characters, and even weaker graphics make this title a little less than cheer-worthy.
When you first start up the game, it is fairly obvious who the developers were trying to target with this title. You can only play as a female and are able to moderately customize your features. You then learn that your character is going away to cheer camp for the first time, and she must prove herself as the new rookie in town. The story covers all the basics in a very formulaic manner, from your caring coach captain, to rival "frenemies" who will try and hold you back. Consequently, the various characters run together with the different "types" you've seen in other tween-focused media. In the end, the story is probably what will draw young girls too this title, but if you've ever seen a cheerleading movie, you probably know what is going to happen already.
The game mechanics are tied very strongly to story events, and after talking with different characters, you will have to put together a daily schedule of events. This schedule includes cheer practice, workout time, and time to talk with others. It will also eventually allow you to take part in competitions and challenges. The cheer schedule will need to be created fresh every day and will feature several pre-scheduled events, as well as user-added events you can manually add in to increase certain cheerleading stats. You can also leave certain spots in your daily schedule free to talk to your fellow cheerleaders and earn "reputation" points around the camp.
This main structural element allows you to progress through each day relatively easily. Each "activity" you will complete is represented by a different tap-based mini-game. The mini-games here have a nice amount of variety, but the main issue I have is that some of these mini-games are just not all that interesting. For instance, a "leg training" mini-game attempts to simulate jumping rope by displaying a floating star icon that you will have to tap in time. The mini-game is mindless and boring. Even though there are plenty of other mini-games, all of them seem to suffer from the same issue.
Aside from fitness mini-games, however, the main cheerleading mechanic works well. The different cheer steps are represented on the bottom screen as little "spirit beads" that all flow towards a giant circle. Once the beads enter the circle, you will have a few seconds to touch them with your stylus to activate them. The structure looks a lot like the circular structure used in Samba de Amigo, except with an inverted flow of notes. The main cheer mechanic works very well across all difficulty levels. Once you reach higher levels, there are even some special moves you can pull off by touching different parts of the screen.
Even though the cheering itself is not all that bad, the music in this title really is. Instead of popular music tunes, the game opts for repetitive beats that hardly inspire any kind of cheering. The music is so poor you may find yourself turning the sound off, which is not a good sign in a rhythm-based cheering title. As for other sound effects and voiceover, those elements are minimal at best, and the sound scheme is very meager overall.