Grease Dance (or just Grease) has clearly been designed with parties in mind and, as the summer nights fade to make way for the festive season, it’s come at the right time. With a host of famous songs from the 1978 musical at its command, plus plenty of past experience developing music games of varying nature, developer Zoë Mode has taken full advantage. Grease Dance is not, as the title might suggest, just a dancing game, incorporating singing and a smattering of mini-games too.
The included songs are cover versions that aren't always particularly pretty vocally, but they do the job and are not unrecognisable as the hits that Grease fans know and love. The karaoke mode is easy to use: the lyrics pop up well in time, the next words are lit up ably and the markers clearly indicate the desired pitch. The 20 songs can be trilled through with any USB microphone, including the wireless SingStar accessories. As a singing title, Grease Dance is a success.
Greased lightning doesn’t strike twice for the titular dancing mode, which contains five fewer songs than the karaoke mode. Irregular motion recognition can be a problem, the game often failing to register successful performances of simpler moves while concurrently throwing out high scores for more complex manoeuvres; it’s discouraging to see the word ‘poor’ thrown around so often. We’re not going to lie: we can’t hold a candle to 70’s Travolta on the dance floor, but it’s infeasible that so many of our moves were going misread when we were at least in the general ball park the majority of the time. Either there are tracking issues or the game’s requirements are more rigid than they should be for a party title.
The instruction cards for each move certainly don't help matters. The static images that appear on the left hand side of the screen seem hopelessly devoted to confusing you rather than anything else, as the moves danced out by the avatars that you’re expected to follow are usually far more complicated than the pictorial guides suggest. While the drawings show off a single pose each dance step actually features two or three stages, so when the full extent of what is expecting is revealed it’s a bit befuddling until you’ve had the chance to rote learn the moves.
Each song challenges you to show your own moves off in freestyle segments. To add to your embarrassment, the PlayStation Eye will take photographs of your performance at regular intervals. The snaps — often taken when you’re looking your most hideous and hilarious in the middle of a difficult or energetic move — are displayed at the end of each song for everybody to have a good laugh at.
Though the dance detection seems flawed, as with most similar titles you’re still going to find enjoyment in Grease Dance if you play in a party setting. To this end a co-op mode has been included, allowing a maximum of four players to go together; up to two singers and two dancers. There are also numerous party modes covering karaoke, dancing and the extra mini-games, mixed up for all manner of Rydell High-jinks. If you’re short of some microphones, don’t worry — you can also let the PlayStation Eye pick up the slack with its built-in microphone powers. Like summer loving, unlocking happens so fast that party guests aren’t going to be left bored with the same songs for the entire night, either.
The mini-games that have been enrolled into Grease Dance vary in quality. Further musical approaches, such as a light version of Guitar Hero played by strumming Move while holding down the Move and T buttons and a Dance Dance Revolution-style distraction where Move must be swung in various directions to meet approaching arrows, are simplistic but worth a go. Other extra games portraying sports competitions and car construction hum flat notes, however, not really progressing beyond waggling Move indistinctly and hitting the odd button. They’re unlikely to take much attention away from the core dancing and karaoke modes. Clips from the movie are also included as extras, albeit without sound; presumably, the film’s audio cost too much to licence, which would explain why the songs are covers too.
Despite its — significant — flaws, Grease Dance is enjoyable in an enthusiastic social situation, and it even squeezes in the odd fun Easter egg. Dancing may be frustrating if you’re dead set on getting a good score, but the singing works rather well, and with the intended group of friends warbling and jigging along the dodgy recognition is more easily ignorable.