As a huge fan of musical theater (and the movies often inspired by theater), I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the prospect of a game based on the hit musical Grease. The story of Sandy and Danny’s high school romance has a certain timeless quality that has captivated audiences for years.
However, as we’ve seen from the games based on High School Musical (which, itself, was inspired by Grease), a musical romance generally makes a terrible game. I had initially hoped that Grease: The Game would be the title to break the mold, but after only playing for a few minutes, it became apparent that Grease: The Game is another failed experiment.
The game’s main story mode allows you to follow the plot events of the movie, and shows you small video clips of the movie before each song. If you are familiar with the movie, everything here will be instantly familiar, and you can blast right on through the scrolling text that explains the movie’s plotline. If you are not familiar with Grease, the text-based synopses will help tie all the songs together. I don’t see many people picking this title up without an interest in the source material, but if you are one of the odd few who check this title out without any knowledge of Grease, you should be covered.
However, once the scrolling text ends, the problems with this game begin. The story mode takes the form of a mini-game compilation that is part-rhythm game and part Mario Party. To it’s credit, this formula works some of the time. However, when it fails, the game falls completely flat. The first mini-game you’ll run into is set to the iconic “Summer Nights” and allows you to use the Wii-Mote/Balance Board (which can be used but is not necessary) to lean and shake out the rhythm of the song. This mini-game starts out fairly simply, and shaking/leaning to the beat feels easy and intuitive. However, as the pace picks up and a “special move” mechanic is introduced (where you’ll have to mimic a specific dance move to fill a meter), the controls break down substantially. If you are using the balance board, the controls still work most of the time, but if you are shaking the Wii-mote, you’ll notice quickly that the game stops responding well when the pace is quickened.
Once you blast past this initial mini-game, you’ll be treated to some other mini-games that don’t necessarily involve dancing. You’ll be able to try out for sports to try and impress Sandy, fix the T-Bird’s car, and play the guitar on American Bandstand. These mini-games can be hit and miss, and while some work well (particularly the guitar-playing mini-game), others do not work at all. The sports games are agonizing, and involve a lot of random shaking and button pressing that do not feel intuitive and more often end in frustration rather than high scores.
Fortunately, before the real frustration sets in, the game’s story mode ends. My total playtime with the game’s story mode (after unlocking all of the bonus characters and party mode options) topped out at just under an hour. While I understand that Grease: The Game is intended to be more of a party-style game, if the developers wanted to include a story mode, it would have been nicer to have one that lasts longer than an hour. Even though I was disappointed overall in the quality of the mini-games, the length of the story mode really sank any immediate replay value this title might have had. And at an MSRP of $40, justifying this title to even the most die-hard Grease fan would be challenging.
If you are thinking to yourself that the game’s multiplayer modes would mitigate the lackluster story mode, think again. Although the game has a standard multiplayer mode and a party mode, both of these are simply compilations of the mini-games “unlocked” in story mode that also include Karaoke options. While the Karaoke option may seem appealing, there is an interesting problem with the game’s soundtrack, censorship.
While I understand the need to filter out certain words, Grease: The Game takes this to an extreme. For instance, the first line of the iconic “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” ends with “Lousy with V*******.” The word “Virginity” is replaced by stars, and the music pauses while the “bad” word is passed over. Other words which don’t fall anywhere close to Carlin’s seven dirty words like “Crap,” “Lust,” and “Bed” are awkwardly edited out as well, and the whole thing comes off sounding like the sixth-grade version of the Grease musical. This wouldn’t be so bad if you could turn this amazingly sensitive censor off, but after combing through the menus, I could find no such option.
Visually, Grease: The Game actually has some good aspects, but fails to follow through. Rather than using lifelike models of the movie’s well-known stars, the game uses comic-like representations. I liked this idea, and it definitely gives the game a fresh look. However, character animations are stoic, and lip syncs are either poorly timed or not present at all. Singing along with a game where onscreen avatars have their lips shut is jarring and breaks any immersion you might have had with this game.
Although Grease: The Game has a few good moments, these are too few and far between for this title to be worth your time. The poor visuals, hit-or-miss mini-games, and short length make this a title that only the most diehard Grease fans need experience. Even if you feel you must have this game, I would still wait for the game to hit the bargain bin, as forty dollars is too high a cost for an experience that is dwarfed by a ten dollar Grease DVD, which will likely give you a longer and more rewarding few hours for your money.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.0 Graphics
The cartoon-stylized characters look good, but the lack of lip sync and limited animations make this title a bore to look at. 2.5 Control
Some mini-games (like the carnival games) are responsive, while rhythm and sports-based games are hit or miss. 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The soundtrack features good vocals from an unknown cast, but the overzealous editing really interrupts the flow. 1.2
The game’s story mode can be completed in under an hour, and the multiplayer modes don’t add much replay value.
2.1 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.