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Nintendo Wii Review: Grease

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Some films are just crying to be made into videogames, and not just new films, old ones.  Look at Star Wars, even before the film franchise was expanded, there were incredibly successful – and some very good – videogames made based on it.  Other films, however, don’t seem to be quite as obvious choices to be videogame-ified.  Case in point, Grease.  Although the movie shows significant staying power – it was just rereleased to theaters as a sing-along this past summer – it doesn’t feel like a natural fit for home consoles.

The good folks over at 505 Games, however, would beg to differ.  Not only, apparently, did they feel as though Grease could be made into a videogame, they went ahead and did it.  Now, owners of the Nintendo Wii (and DS) can rock out to Danny and Sandy at home (and not just on DVD or Blu-ray or one of the myriad of times its shown on basic cable). 

So, you can play Grease at home, but should you?

That depends.  Are you a massive fan of the film who wants nothing more than to relive the songs over and over again in a multitude of forms?  If you are, then unquestionably you’re going to love this, no need to read further.  Are you someone who hates the film, wants absolutely nothing to do with it, any of the characters from it, and walks away just because someone says to you “tell me more?”  If you answered yes to that, then no, you’re not going to like the game, you have no need to read further either.  On the third hand, are you someone who could go either way with the film?  Do you like it but still find yourself wary of other products with the name attached, thinking that said ancillary products may not live up to the film?  You ought to read on.

People who follow videogames will tell you that there is a general sentiment that games made from movies are, almost without exception, disappointing.  This videogame version of Grease will do little to convince those folks that they are wrong.  Balance board, microphone, and Wii remote playable it may be, but it simply isn’t a lot of fun.

The Story Mode unfolds as a series of minigames.  A quick little montage of clips from the film (but with no words) plays out before a level as you read an introduction on the bottom.  Then you have to go ahead and play a short level themed upon whatever song they sing in that portion of the film.  Lots of levels require you, if you have a Wii remote, to move it up, down, left or right as instructed by cues on the screen (if you have a balance board you lean).  Other levels require you to bang out dents in a car (it could be greased lightning), race your car with incredibly simplistic controls, or even try your hand at various sports (also with pretty simple controls).

This is all to say that the game, in very basic fashion, gets you involved in various songs from the film, and that all sounds like a good deal of fun.  Problems do creep in however.  First up, the graphics are none too sharp.  If you didn’t know you were playing Grease, you probably wouldn’t think that the main guy was Danny and the main girl Sandy, they’d just be a brown-haired guy and a blonde girl.  That may be forgivable, but it’s harder to accept the fact that when using the Wii remote the game doesn’t always seem to register your moves and that the Story Mode clocks in at well under one hour.  If you can get past those problems, it’s probably safe to say that you’re a massive Grease fan and consequently you’re going to be more disappointed than others (although everyone will find this disappointing) to learn that the game doesn’t sing certain lyrics and even refuses to spell them out on the little sing-along section at the bottom of the screen.  Some of the lyrics may be a little colorful (the description of what girls will do when they see the car in “Greased Lightnin'”), but other words (like cigarette and virginity) don’t seem all that harsh.  Whether or not the lyrics are family friendly is beside the point, if you’re not just making a game based on a musical, but specifically building the game around the songs surely when you choose to include a song you should include all of it. 

The only reasonable explanation of why that wasn’t done was to hit a specific rating for the game, one that would include kids.  Grease not only still ends up with an E10+ (Everyone 10+) anyway, but is also a based on a movie more than 30 years old.  That means that it would be reasonable to expect only an older crowd to buy it, a crowd that wouldn’t be scared away by a T (Teen) rating.  Beyond that though, as certain modes (there is also a Quick Play and Party Mode) allow singing of the songs with microphone support, not writing down the full lyric feels kind of cheeky. 

Party Mode allows for up to eight players going through the various levels (plus those you can unlock in Story Mode), and definitely seems to be where people will get the most mileage of the title.  That being said, as none of the minigames are too invigorating in general, there are probably better (although not Grease-related) options.

I think that in today’s age of karaoke and rhythm games there is almost certainly a place for a title based on Grease (even if it doesn’t feel like an obvious choice).  With a mat allowing for more control of moves than a Balance Board; an emphasis on singing in Story Mode (none is required); or maybe even a Rock Band/Guitar Hero style full-on, play the songs yourself thing, Grease could be a great game.  This release is not that and will almost assuredly leave those who are not hopelessly devoted to the franchise feeling as though they’ve ended up with a beauty school drop out and not the one that they want.

Grease is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Comic Mischief and Mild Lyrics. This game can also be found on Nintendo DS.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
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