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High School Musical DVD Game Review

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High School Musical DVD Game:
Sing • Dance • Act • Play


1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (1.33:1 Fullscreen on 4:3 TVs)
Dolby Stereo (English); Not Subtitled, Not Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: November 18, 2008
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
White Keepcase with Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Producer: MusicAndBrands

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By Aaron Wallace

I typically detest virtual games on DVD. On the other hand, I typically enjoy High School Musical. That paradox left me
neither looking forward to nor dreading High School Musical DVD Game, something I would never have purchased but am glad to have played.

Finding yet another avenue of expansion for the High School Musical franchise, the new DVD Game is the first free-standing release of its kind for the popular tween-targeting series. Unlike Mattel's three similarly-titled but varyingly-classified games, there are no boards, no tokens, and no dice -- just the same kind of DVD you'd find on any movie shelf. The only content, here, however, is of the gaming variety. What would normally be a bonus feature for a movie is offered in abundance and with a little more effort at player satisfaction.

The games begin with a quick overview and a menu that allows you to either access detailed instructions or jump in with "Quick Start" (these games aren't too complicated, so "Quick Start" should suffice). After choosing the number of players you have with you, you'll be prompted to choose an avatar and name for each person (choices: Chad, Gabriella, Ryan, Sharpay, Taylor, and Troy) and will then be given all of the games available for the given number of players.

High School Musical DVD Game is subtitled "Sing • Dance • Act • Play". If you make it through the disc, you'll do all of those things, which apparently make for a more marketable slogan than "Draw • Clap • Guess • Receive Misguided Career Advice" (you'll do all of those things too). I'm not sure that a Polaroid was the best choice for a frame to put around Vanessa Ann Hudgens, but nevertheless, that's what you'll see if you select her as your avatar. An example of one of the more random trivia questions you'll find in High School Musical DVD Game's "East High Graduation Challenge."

There are nine games in total, most of them available regardless of how many people are playing. A few, however, require a group of a certain size. All of the games are fairly fun and none of them are especially easy or especially challenging. There's certainly some repeat value and if you happen to have a lot of friends who love High School Musical, I imagine you'll get some mileage out of this. The steep SRP and slight discounting, however, makes this a difficult purchase to justify. Sure, it's enjoyable, but so are many movies that would be more worth the price. But then how can one put a price on the kinship of HSM fanatics?

The first game is simply titled "Main Game" (1-4 players) but subsequently called the "East High Graduation Challenge". This is a standard trivia game, drawing mostly from the first two films but also occasionally High School Musical 3: Senior Year.
Many of the questions feature movie clips just beforehand, making this like an abridged version of the popular Scene It? game series. Your answers are hidden from your competitors but unfortunately, if you all get it wrong, the correct answer is never revealed. Along the way, there are status updates on the players' relative positions. At the end, each player gets a report card with a letter grade. There are twenty questions in all.

"Center Stage" (1-4 players) isn't much of a game at all -- it's just a sing-along to select songs from the three movies. The songs feature the original audio but play only in part and rather than the original movie clip, you see just a microphone on a stage and moving lyrics on your screen. The available songs are: "Now or Never", "Bop to the Top", "Humuhumunukunukuapua'a", "The Boys are Back", "Fabulous", "Breaking Free", and "Bet On It". I'm not sure why this isn't made available for more than 4 players.

What's the going SAG rate for silhouetted dancers? Apparently less than whatever KayCee Stroh's agent demanded. In "Wildcasts Try Outs", you take a stab in the dark about when to hit the enter button -- if you're close enough, you'll make the basket (and, I guess, the team). "Where is Kelsi?" might just be part of a memory game now but I'll bet it's a more pertinent question a few more years into Olesya Rulin's career.

"Prom Night" (1-4 players) offers easy-to-follow dance instructions. Two songs are offered in Beginner's Level: "Breaking Free" and "Work This Out". Intermediate Level supplies "Fabulous", "Bet On It", and "What I've Been Looking For". Advanced Level gives us "I Don't Dance", "Bop to the Top", and "Get'cha Head in the Game". The design is similar to that of Dance Dance Revolution, with an on-screen pattern of colored squares to guide your feet.

"Wildcats Try Outs" (1-4 players) puts the ball in your hand with a moving basketball goal as your target. When you think you have the right angle, use your remote to shoot the ball and see if you can score points.

"Yearbook Memory Game" (1-4 players) is a standard "Memory" game featuring pictures of the HSM cast. Easy it may be, but I've always liked "Memory" and it's as neat here as anywhere else. There's no scoring here; single players are given three tries at the game while multi-players take turns but lose after a single error.

Answer whatever you wish; your end result will be unrelated! You're right, DVD, someone did mess up... this "Pep Rally" game is utterly useless. The "BFF" game will let you know if you and your co-player are really best friends forever or just kind of friends for now.

"Career Finder Quiz" (1-4 players) is a loose
and highly unreliable take on a standard career aptitude test with an HSM spin. This is easily the most amusing feature on the disc, only because of the wild disconnect between the responses you give and the career that's suggested for you. I deliberately gave music-related answers to every question on one of the quizzes and was told I'd make a great pastry chef. Go figure. There are four quizzes, each seeming to have a few pre-set career outcomes. With multiple players, you'll need to take one quiz per player at a time.

"Pep Rally" (2-4 players) is nothing more than the common "Categories" party game, which has always been a favorite of mine. Here, the DVD keeps time and tells you when to clap... but of course, a DVD isn't needed for that at all. I'd much rather play the game myself than use the random categories provided to you here (ex: Things you do during summer vacation). Three different speeds are available.

"BFF's" (2-4 players) is actually pretty cool, and while not at all original, it isn't the kind of thing you probably play very often. The idea is that you secretly answer questions about a friend who is playing with you and then your friend answers those same questions about him or herself. At the end, you find out how well you really know your friend. The DVD keeps score.

When you have four players or more, you can access a separate menu called "Party Play", which contains three new games. Each is played in two teams (The Brainiacs and The Jocks) and allows you to select 5, 10, or 15 rounds and intervals of 20, 30, or 45 seconds (the shorter the time, the harder the game). There's no avatar selection if you have 5 or more players. Note: these are the only three games set up for groups of five or more.

"Art Class" (4 or more players) is basically a game of Pictionary with loosely HSM-related themes. One person is given an object to draw in secret and then the other players have a given amount of time to guess what the object is while the chosen player draws.

"Vocab Test" (4 or more players) is essentially Taboo, but with HSM-related terms. Here, one is given a word and must try to lead the other players to answer it without using any of three pre-determined prohibited words.

The Game Selection screen is what you can safely think of as the High School Musical DVD Game's main menu, or at least your portal to all of the activities. "Vocab Test" is only for 4 or more players and works just like "Taboo"... here, you try to describe the word "Backpack" without using any of the forbidden vocabulary. There are not, in fact, 16 minutes left in this song... you'll only get a little more than half before the main menu puts an end to your sing-along.

Finally, "Drama Class" (4 or more players) is a game of charades, pure and simple.

The Party Play menu also offers a "Mix It Up" option,
High School Musical 3 - Vanessa Ann Hudgens as Gabriella poster Official High School Musical 3 poster High School Musical 3 - Corbin Bleu as Chad poster
Life-size standup: Zac Efron as Troy Life-size standup: Vanessa Hudgens as Gabriella Life-size standup: Ashley Tisdale as Sharpay Life-size standup: Corbin Bleu as Chad Life-size standup: Lucas Grabeel as Ryan
High School Musical cast squares discount movie poster High School Musical arty discount movie poster High School Musical collage discount movie poster
Browse through more available High
School Musical posters and memorabilia
which chooses from the games within that section at random.

VIDEO, AUDIO, MENUS & PACKAGING

All of the menu screens, games, and video clips are in 16x9 anamorphic widescreen, making this the first time that the US has gotten to see the original High School Musical in the wide format that it was simultaneously framed for and the first time High School Musical 2 is seen in widescreen on DVD, the 16x9 presentation having been reserved for Blu-ray. Too bad the full movies didn't get the same treatment. The picture quality is very pleasing and the game screens are dazzlingly bright and colorful.

In addition to "Quick Start" and "How to Play" instructions, the main menu also offers DVD credits and a sub-menu of sneak peeks. Some of these previews play when the disc starts up: Bolt, Pinocchio: Platinum Edition, this Disney DVD Game and the "Hannah Montana" one, The Cheetah Girls: One World, "Hannah Montana": The Complete First Season, and the Disney Movie Rewards program. Other previews on the disc are: High School Musical 2, The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea: Special Edition, Space Buddies, "Wizards of Waverly Place", and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The "Only one Disney..." promo also plays upon disc start-up but that one's not accessible from the main menu.

The disc is packaged like any other; there's a standard white keepcase inside a glossy, partly holographic cardboard slipcover. Inside is a very good guide to the disc's games, a Disney Blu-ray flyer, and a small booklet of advertisements. There's also a Magic Code for the Disney Movie Rewards program. There is an ESRB rating of "E" for "Everyone" on the cover.

The intro to the disc's "Main Game", alternatively known as "East High Graduation Challenge", and more accurately described as "High School Musical Trivia." High School Musical 2 in widescreen! And it's not even a Blu-ray!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

High School Musical DVD Game serves up a fun time by stealing from lots of other time-tested games and putting them in a home video format and giving a High School Musical overlay to each. If you like all three movies and know at least one other person who does too -- and if that person likes you enough to come over and play this disc with you for an hour -- then you might want to pick it up. I'd wait for a sale or a price drop, though... for a few dollars more, your money is better spent on a game of Scene It, some other High School Musical DVD, or a completely different and likely better movie.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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High School Musical on DVD:
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High School Musical on CD:
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Reviewed December 5, 2008.