B-Boy is an urban break dancing game which sees you take to the streets and battle using your acrobatic dance moves as your weapons. The game is unique in that it falls into a category of its own, I would call it a trick based rhythm game - think something of a cross between Tony Hawk games and Dance Dance Revolution.
The story isn't really a huge aspect of the game - the main aim is to take on and beat all challengers and earn as much respect and land exclusive sponsorships deals.
The game features two main play modes; Livin Da Life and B Boy Jam. Livin Da Life is the basic career mode where you select a character, customise their appearance and look to take them to the top of the B-Boy ladder by facing off against a number of real life B-boy stars. B-Boy Jam is the arcade mode with 6 areas for face offs and a practice mode with a tutorial.
The game is very well presented sticking closely to its urban roots. The game features over ten real life B-boys whose motion captured moves are featured in the game. Clothing, environments and endorsements all capture the flavour of the subject matter.
Graphics are above average but in now ways jaw dropping - unlike some of the other games that are currently being churned out at the end of the PS2's lifespan. The movements when breaking are all smooth and well animated and transitioning between positions is fluid giving rise to some fantastic looking sequences when you get the timing right. All of the 20 or so locations are well varied and distinct and again in keeping with the urban feel.
During your breaking routine the camera does tend to have a mind of its own and this does adversely affect your enjoyment and performance, while it is a nice attempt to showcase the environment from multiple angles it can be frustrating and break your rhythm.
You would expect the sound/music to be key to the success of this genre of game, and it is. The audio effects are very good, from the old school tracks featured, including Cypress Hill, Kool & the Gang and James Brown, to the commentary and character effects. None of the dialogue is cheesy however the tracks can become repetitive after an extended session of play.
With this type of game, i.e. where the key to success is timing of your button inputs, it is essential that controls are not only responsive but also simple to pick up. B-Boy has taken this on board and controls are simple and effective. The four buttons activate the four basic moves; six-step manoeuvre, windmill, baby freeze and top rock. By combining these moves with d-pad directions further moves are performed. On top of this the shoulder buttons must be tapped throughout in line with the on screen indicator which surrounds your character, to keep in time with the music and the break session flowing continuously.
The game sees you facing off against a challenger and the breaker with the best routine ends up taking the spoils. As such before each battle a coin toss is made to see who goes first. The winner of the spin performs first and then the opponent responds. The aim is to outperform and 'serve' your opponent by stringing a complex routine together smoothly.
During your performance you get ranked and earn medals for rhythm, creativity, flow, blow up (pleasing the crowd) and foundation (covering the basics). If you perform well you get awarded medals however when your opponent responds they have the chance to steal medals away by outdoing you in each area. This means that medals bounce back and forth during the battle but your ultimate aim is to keep hold of more than your opponent until the battle ends. Battles vary in terms of number of rounds, challengers and length adding some variety and a level of strategy in terms of what needs to be incorporated in your routine.
I found the game a little difficult to get in to at the start as concentrating on the rhythm and different tricks takes a fair bit of coordination - this may have something to do with my lack of rhythm and the more musically inclined will pick this up without a problem.
Game play has had a lot of thought put into it and for the most part is well done however there are a few flaws which in my opinion keep it from being a truly great game; As previously mentioned the camera is not always your friend - when it jumps views keeping an eye on the rhythm indicator is difficult leading to a botched routine if you rely on sight rather that 'feeling the music'. Also, during a battle the tracks are selected randomly and there is a noticeable difference in the difficulty level, as a rule the faster the track the harder it is to score well at. These are however minor flaws, the biggest complaint I have is the format of the battles - they are turn based and as such you have to watch your computer opponent's performance. When you start the game this is worth watching and you can pick up some tips, however after a few weeks of play you will probably get up and grab a snack or take a leak during this. For me it really ruins the flow of the game.
Aside from that there are a good amount of extras and collectibles which give rise to a decent amount of replayability.
B-Boy is an interestingly unique game that is fun to play and doesn't really have any direct rivals. It focuses on a niche lifestyle/interest and I am sure fans of which will love being able to mimic their idols on the PS2. If you are not a fan or merely ambivalent there is still enough here to keep you playing for an extended period however be aware of a few flaws which detract from the experience.
Overall I give B-Boy............
7 out of 10