Ubisoft Women’s Day

It’s always fun when Fran and I get together. This time, though, we were meeting up for the love of female gaming, thanks to Ubisoft’s Women’s Day. This involved a swanky invite to the Haymarket Hotel, a place so exclusive that its sign was microscopic. We were going to be trying out a selection of dance and fitness games which were part of Ubisoft’s holiday season line-up.

When details of this event was first circulated among Team Ready Up, there were raised eyebrows. Aside from the funny remarks from the males in the team (“Where’s the men’s day? I want shooters, dammit!”) everyone in general seemed to have a strange feeling about it. A “Women’s Day” promoting only video games to do with dancing and fitness? Is that all girls are supposed to play? Looking at the interests of the females on this site for example, you’ll find a diverse range of favourite genres from karaoke right through to the first-person-shooter. Of course Fran and I personally love dance games and Fran particularly enjoys fitness games but we like other things too. The first question we raised at the event was why only include dance and fitness games and call it a women’s day? Why not just call it a dance and fitness games showcase without the gender bias or the hair and manicure stalls? Yes, you could get your hair curled and your nails done but although I had split a nail that afternoon I was so busy dancing and chatting that I completely forgot to get it fixed.

Our Ubisoft representative wanted to stress that Ubisoft are fully aware that not all girls only play dance and fitness games. As I looked around, it became clearer that the day was not necessarily aimed at games journalists who are already clued up on various genres. The majority of the people in attendance were from glossy magazines which don’t really have a focus on games. The idea behind the day was more to push games towards those who have not necessarily focused on them before, and the medium to do this was through combining easily accessible dance/fitness games with the topics and setting that these magazines usually take an interest in: exclusive hotel, free upmarket food and cocktails, hair treatments and nail treatments. Sort of making the unfamiliar more palatable, if you will. Feminist debate aside, Fran and I were there to play some games. We did so, inbetween munches of delicious food kindly provided by roving waiters and sips of peppery vodka and fruit cocktails. Mmm, zingy.

Just Dance 3 was my favourite game by far at this event. A heavy-hitter in the casual games market for the Wii, the Just Dance series is making its debut on Xbox with Kinect to boot. Having played Just Dance 1 and 2, I knew what to expect from Just Dance 3: a fun dancing experience with strikingly colourful and simple visuals as well as a friendly scoring mechanic. However, playing on the Kinect just seemed so natural. As a dance game lover, it was an absolute joy. I kept thinking why hasn’t this been done before? As in, why have I bothered holding the Wiimote and making sure my wrist is in the right position when I should have been doing the dances like this with the game checking to make sure my entire body is in the right position and scoring me accordingly? Fantastic!

Just Dance 3, as to be expected, was super fun in multiplayer. The sensor handled four players pretty well. Fran and I played as part of a trio and the problem wasn’t really with the sensor picking any of us up, but with some of us (me) getting a bit enthusiastic and bashing into or obscuring other players. You need room for this one, kids! Especially when it comes to ‘I’m so Excited’ which features a rather vigorous kicking move. The song selection is as good as ever. We enjoyed LMFAO’s ‘Party Rock Anthem’ in particular and the aforementioned ‘I’m so Excited’ but Gwen Stefani’s ‘What’cha Waiting For?’ had some adorable tick-tocking head moves and kawaii posing worthy of any Harajuku girl. Fun choreography with definite patterns which were easy to pick up and a blast to play through.

Having huffed and puffed our way through multiple rounds of Just Dance 3, we took a prolonged sit-down. I took this opportunity to cool off by sticking my feet in the pool (when in Rome…) and Fran treated herself to unlimited champagne. “How long does it take you to finish a glass?” “It’s not my fault, the guy keeps coming round to top it up!” “You don’t need to accept the top-up, you know.” “Shut up.”

The menu

After that break it was on to the next high-profile dance game on Ubisoft’s roster. Following in the footsteps of Michael Jackson: The Experience, Black Eyed Peas: The Experience gives you the chance to dance with the coolest group this side of hip hop pop. A helpful countdown to the next move is at the top of the screen as you dance along with the Peas. While Fran was suffering from serious Fergie-outfit-envy, I was trying my very best to be all street and cool (and failing). Impressively, the game is choreographed by BEP’s actual choreographer, but with the moves toned down enough for the average player to manage them. Nice! A wonderful touch quite rare for dance games as well was the concept of ‘intermission’ is that each song has an interlude where you can catch your breath as the music continues before you move to the last leg of the routine. Some of the routines are beastly so this was a welcome gasp of air. We were told however that for the more hardcore, you can play the whole song straight through with no gap. Cough, wheeze, shuffle.

The Dance-Off

The Pros
Cinematic cut-scenes show the Peas strutting their stuff.

It’s a gorgeous-looking game with all the glitz and glam of Dance Central given extra sheen by the presence of BEP themselves. The character models look fantastic, and rather amusingly during some songs Fergie doesn’t even bother to dance along but just sort of sways in the background while the guys do their moves. The format is your characters having a kind of ‘dance-off’ with the Peas. In my case (splutter, sweat) the Peas would win hands down but Fran and I both managed to hold our own by the game’s standards. ‘C’ scores all round!

Also on offer was Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. It all looked a bit too much like exercise for our liking, though, plus we were both rather red-faced from the Black Eyed Peas game and Just Dance 3. We settled instead for watching another attendee struggling to do some fit-hop moves. It certainly looked like an appealing fitness game, especially because of Kinect being able to track your body positioning and tell you if you’re doing exercises correctly or not. “It’s okay,” Fran said as we wiped the sweat from our brows and walked to the next section. “We’ve done lots of exercising already.” She was right. I was pleased I had brought a spare t-shirt.

Off to one side was Just Dance Kids, very empty and relatively untouched by anyone. We did peer at it for a moment or two and was told that it was mainly for pre-schoolers with ‘dance’ games such as ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ taking centre stage. Not challenging enough for those of us who had street danced with the likes of the Black Eyed Peas (virtually, anyway) so we moved on to the next best thing: Abba.

Fran wasn’t convinced by this game but I was highly amused by the four Abba characters on screen. The dance for the song ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ (Fran’s only ‘tolerable’ Abba song) was incredibly cheesy with handholding, waving up and down and swaying back and forth. I was lucky enough to have Ben as a partner and we laughed and swung our arms in unison in true Abba style whereas Fran had to contest with an awkward wall ornament shaped like a giant wheel and made entirely of wire. This was a Wii game and after the luxury of free movement with Kinect, it felt like a real step backwards. It wasn’t half as fun dancing around holding a Wiimote. That’s the problem with advancing technology, it spoils us! I think though that had we played a more energetic song like, say, Voulez-Vous or, my personal favourite Abba song, Lay All Your Love on Me that it would have been more fun.

This event really won me over to Kinect. I had never really considered getting a Kinect except for dance games, and to see just how good Kinect is with dance games has finally convinced me to get one. Really, it’s because the dance games were so good with Kinect. Responsive, accurate and fun but also you could just dance instead of faffing about clutching a Wiimote, wondering whether you’re holding the gadget in the correct position, never mind what the rest of your body is doing.

Ubisoft got it right with this event: an appropriate venue, really lovely staff and fun games on offer. The only thing was that the fancy dim/soft lighting in the venue was pretty poor for taking pictures so you don’t get any snaps of our sweaty selves. The deal was sealed with a lovely goodie bag handed out at the end with copies of Your Shape: Fitness Evolved for Kinect, Michael Jackson: The Experience and Just Dance 2 for the Wii and some beauty products. Fran was pleased with the intense conditioner for coloured hair in particular. Nicely done! While men’s magazines don’t appear to need any work on their awareness of games, we look forward to a future Men’s Day counterpart event, or even another Women’s Day event with even more games. More! More! More!







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