American Idol

American Idol

Written by Cyril Lachel on 2/9/2004 for GBA  

There is not one thing about the American Idol television show that appeals to me. I don’t like reality shows, I don’t like the judges that rate the talent, and I hate the music these people sing. To me, a night at home listening to a bunch of twenty-something’s belt out Bette Midler ballads is comparable to shaving my skin off with a butter knife. There is not a force great enough to get me to watch American Idol, let alone vote in it!

So why am I the one reviewing the American Idol GameBoy Advance game? After all, I certainly don’t speak for the target audience of this game. I’m just about as uninterested in this genre as a human being can be. Yet, I find myself compelled to see if this could be as intolerable as the television show that bares its name.

American Idol is a rhythm game in the sense that you push the button when it tells you to. Your cursor rotates around a giant circle, and depending on the song, it will vary in difficulty. Hit the note directly and you’ll get a green smiley face, get marginally close and it’s a yellow face, miss it completely and it’s red, the only thing it’s missing is a color for when you completely lose interest and stop playing.

For the most part American Idol pulls off this split-second timing thing pretty well, offering fairly responsive that feels just as good as any rhythm game on the consoles. The problem is that you are required to push buttons off the beat, and it rarely feels like what you are pressing has any connection to what you’re looking at and listening to. In fact, there are entire sections of the song where you’re pushing buttons, but nobody is singing. The effect is a little disconcerting, but nothing you can’t work through. It seems like such a basic thing in this type of game, though.

Much like the wildly popular television show, this American Idol game let’s you start at the bottom and go through the audition phase, which saves you the time, trouble, and embarrassment of standing in line for three days to be shot down by Simon, Paula, and that other guy. If you impress the judges, it’s off to experience the week-by-week struggle of a television show. Depending on how well you play, you will eventually make it to the final few, and ultimately strive to be this year’s American Idol. And what do you get if you win? Well … nothing, but at least you know your fingers have the stuff to be a world famous artist.

Although Simon has a reputation for being brutally honest to just about everybody he meets, he’s oddly upbeat in this game. You really have to blow it for him to lash out at you, thanks to the extremely lenient difficulty. And when he is himself, sucking your soul to live, he only has a couple cliché lines that get old very quickly.

If you get bored of playing the game yourself you can actually watch your competition’s performances. Since the game itself is pretty painful to play, you can imagine how much fun it is to just watch it. I suppose this isn’t a terrible idea, but I don’t ever want to meet the kind of person that would actually watch these replays just for the fun of it.Since you are judged on your style, you will need to figure out what outfit to wear before each and every performance. You don’t have a lot of costumes, so it’s fairly easy to mix and match without running into too much trouble with the fashion police. This isn’t a bad idea, but it would have been nice if you could win new outfits or hair styles or something.

When you get bored of taking on the world, it’s off to the endurance match, which may just be the most appropriately named mode in this game. As I’m sure you already figured out, the Endurance mode throws a constant stream of songs at you, until you cannot take it anymore. Unfortunately, this and the rehearsal mode, are the only extras you get in this game.

The greatest asset of this game is the audio, and rightfully so. Though I cannot stand the music these people perform, I have to admit it’s reproduced with surprising quality, especially for a GameBoy Advance game. The songs bop along much like they do on MTV’s Total Request Live, with simple beats and actual singing. It all comes in with amazing clarity, and should be commended on actually getting something right.

There is a pretty good selection of music, as well. Unfortunately, if you’re not a fan of the music they play on the show, the chances are you’re going to hate these tunes. You’ve got everybody from Dido, Ricky Martin, and *Nsync, not to mention both Madonna and Britney Spears. Each of the songs lasts about a minute, so you only really get a portion of the songs, but for me even a minute is too long. They are definitely good for what they are, but nothing I would feel good about playing in public.

The graphics don’t fair nearly as well. It’s clear that they have attempted to make these characters look 3D, but this fails in every way possible. At a distance your character looks like a big blob of nothing, and up close it’s hard to tell just what exactly you look like. I imagine that this is what American Idol would look like if you watched it with grocery bag over your head.

I know it’s tempting for companies to attempt to bring a game to every possible game system, but sometimes you really don’t need a portable version. American Idol just didn’t need to be ported to the GameBoy Advance; I cannot imagine there is a market that’s demanding to get chewed out by Simon no matter where they are. It’s far from the worst game on Nintendo’s portable, but comes real close to being the most unnecessary. Life is too short to spend even a second playing this ugly mess of a rhythm game.
If this isn’t enough reason for them to stop making American Idol video games, I don’t know what it will take. It’s as if your worst fears have been manifested into an almost unbearable rhythm game

Rating: 3 Bad

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

It's questionable how accurate this is, but this is all that's known about Cyril Lachel: A struggling writer by trade, Cyril has been living off a diet of bad games, and a highly suspect amount of propaganda. Highly cynical, Cyril has taken to question what companies say and do, falling ever further into a form of delusional madness. With the help of quality games, and some greener pastures on the horizon, this back-to-basics newsman has returned to provide news so early in the morning that only insomniacs are awake.
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