What is the nature of a Rock Angel? What does it take to be a rocker chick in this day and age? Well, if you’re into heavy fashion accessories, top 100 corporate-approved rock music, and female caricatures named Jade, then Bratz Rock Angelz is just the title for you. On the other hand, if you don’t want your IQ knocked into the gutter, then feel free to play pretty much any other title on the market and you’ll be better off.
In the ever so humble opinion of Yours Truly, MTV lost any and all sort of “edgy cultural relevance” with one event, and one event only. That event was the 1992 premier of The Real World. From that moment forward, MTV may as well have changed the “Music” in its name to “Mainstream” because it would grow into the very sort of corporate kiddie and advertiser-friendly behemoth the early years openly scorned. How can a channel that once championed Black Sabbath, the Sex Pistols, and Devo go on to sell the latest pop princess even after they take the inevitable fall from grace? Find me one person left in the world that thinks Britney Spears is not no-talent white-trash, and I’ll eat a hat.
Or better yet, I’ll play through Bratz Rock Angelz again thus surrendering my soul to the gods of corporate America. For all the complaining “edgy” musicians and “hip” industry types do about the lack of any real danger to current music, they don’t seem to mind at all that their below average tunes are sold on iTunes and in Wal-Mart. So what do I care about whether the current state of the music industry is insultingly lame?
Because I grew up in the 1980s. I grew up in the time of one-hit wonders like a-ha, Soft Cell, and Nena. Thank God my parents were smart enough to introduce me to The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and Elvis at an early age so I would grow up knowing what true music was. Pop music has always been like cotton candy in that it’s light and airy and comes with a 60-day shelf life. I don’t begrudge people for immediately flocking to an artist who can belt out a catchy tune, but when that same artist is proven unreliable without extensive in-studio support they should rightly be ignored as a fraud. Would Lena Horne go on Saturday Night Live and screw up like Ashlee “Wannabe” Simpson did? I don’t think so.
It’s depressing then to fire up a title like Bratz Rock Angelz and actually play a physical form of corporate America’s view of modern rock music. It is as if the entity that is MTV manifested itself into video game form and landed on my PS2 accompanied by the warbling of Kevin Federline.
The 3-D world of Bratz Rock Angelz is nothing if not bland. It seemed washed out to me, except for the individual clothes and make-up, which shows where the developers’ focus was. Basic environments like an outdoor mall, a concert hall, and houses all lack vitality and punch. Tokens will routinely pop up for you to collect and later spend on outfits and such, and they do so right out in the open. You have to look in corners for more specialized tokens, but even these are in pretty obvious places.
For a game that glorifies glam, I was a more than a little surprised at the almost blatant lack of attention to basics. During cutscenes, a girl will be talking on her phone and her hand will go in and out of the graphics of her hair. Likewise it’s easy to walk into part of a wall, but the game stops short of pulling a Copperfield and letting characters go through it. This is mostly elementary stuff I’m pointing out, but it also sets the game apart as an example of what happens when a marketing department thinks it’s also a video game development studio.
The Great John Cleese once said that the worse advice he ever received regarding a script was, “Don’t worry John, you’ll make it funny.” So it falls to the Great Wendy Malick to lead the charge towards haughty comedy as the imperious ruler of Your Thing Magazine in Bratz Rock Angelz. Malick is the comedic goddess of Dream On, Just Shoot Me, and The American President and she is gold whenever she speaks in the game. She can sell a line as lame as “sweet mother of pink!” by adding such unbridled fury to her character being presented with a cheeseburger for lunch that it’s hilarious. Oh, if only she were the focus of the game instead of Punky Brewster and crew.
That’s right, none other than Soleil Moon Frye steps into the gaming world as the voice of Jade, the center of the Rock Angels. To her credit, she makes Jade sound like she has a solid head on her shoulders which is better than what someone like Sarah Jessica Parker would have done. The rest of the crew plays like a who’s-who of Young Hollywood, and if you’re really curious about them then check out Maxim or Stuff Magazine. I’m sure you’ll see them there all grown up.
It would be ironic to play a game centered on tween pop music with the sound off, but I was sorely tempted throughout. The never ending soundtrack jumps between one pop song after another based on where you go. To the game’s credit, there is always a radio near-by which lets you change to another track. To the game’s demerit, all of the available tracks, excuse me, suck.
Sound effects are limited to the sounds of coins jingling as you pick up tokens, footsteps and other similar things. That THX Surround setup you’re so proud of will in no way be taxed by this, so if you’re looking for reference quality then please check out something else. As it stands, the sound is just bland. Other than the Great Wendy Malick and some of the other voices, there’s little in the way of quality work here. Everything else screams of Saturday morning cartoons, right down to the loud noises when a character does a double-take. As a final note, if you find the lingo of modern tweens to be a completely foreign dialect, know that this is the only language Bratz Rock Angelz speaks. I’m reaching for the Advil as I type this.
The controls are actually the high point of the game, because not only are they simple to pick up, but they make sense too. Walking around is controlled by the left thumbstick, the right controls the camera, and the X button activates items and non-player characters throughout the game world. Hitting triangle will bring up the Bratz cell phone, which is the center of each character’s universe. All information goes through the phone, and it is here where the map, contacts, controls, options, and more are found. Imagine if Solid Snake’s codec was designed by Liberace, and you’ll have an idea of everything the phone does. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice whether or not T-Mobile was the carrier.
As previously stated, the X button does most of the work through the game. It activates your selections, changes which character you control, talks to NPCs and so forth. The triangle button activates your cell phone, and also exits the selected screens. Hitting the circle button will activate camera mode or brake should you be on a pair of rollerskates. The square button is reserved for zooming in while in camera mode, or boosting your speed while on skates. The L1 button snaps the third-person camera back behind your character, while the R1 button puts on or takes off rollerskates. The control scheme is very simple and easy to pick up. The game would have been infinitely better if it were as tight and easy to use as the controls themselves. Oh wait, it already is that. I guess it was just missing the fun quotient.
How much fun is it to try on different outfits and put on different shades of blush and lipstick? If the answer was “not very” then welcome to my club. The player takes control of the different girls and moves them from one place to the next, where they participate in an event, then switch to another girl and repeat the process - for the whole game. This is not an old school strategy game like Maniac Mansion where one character was better suited to picking a lock or disarming a thermo-nuclear device than the others. Each of the characters have a shadow of a personality right from the start, and their individual differences seem limited to what challenges they face. Of course, since such challenges are whether or not to go with the argyle stockings or the pink top, gamers might not find much in the way of difficulty. If only the developer had included a harder difficulty, then they could have thrown in price clearance fights so the girls would have to quickly pick outfits before they went on clearance and became *gasp* outdated. The girls would have to, ahem, clothesline their way through swarms of equally frantic shoppers to get to the hottest fashion accessories and get out before the price dropped to Wal-Mart standards.
Hilarity would thus ensue.
As it stands, Bratz Rock Angelz is all about a group of modern teenage girls having fun with shopping, accessorizing, putting together their own band, and striking back at their mortal foes. All well and good by itself, but either I’m too old at 28 to see this as entertainment instead of torture, or it was a bad idea to make a game based on shopping and hanging out. The little mini-games scattered throughout are pretty much button-mashing fests that fail to have a larger affect on the world surrounding the characters. I accept that mini-games in titles like God of War might appeal more to someone like me, but those at least were both creative and rewarding to accomplish. Players can’t get no satisfaction from the mini-games here because they all seem to have been included just for the sake of being included. It also doesn’t help that the only other game with a higher ratio of in-game video to actual game play time is Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. It seems that for every 10 minutes of game time, there is a five minute cut scene just waiting to pop out of the shadows. All of which adds up to one boring game.
Don’t. If you’re a parent looking for a distraction for your little girl, then I could see Bratz Rock Angelz as a possible Christmas present. But if they are over the age of 10, then it’s more than likely they’re not interested in games of this sort anyway because they’re smart enough to know pandering when they see it. My advice is to suffer through the next Lindsey Lohan movie instead because then you have the option for a matinee, and you’ll be in and out in 90 minutes and get the same effect.
Bratz Rock Angelz is lame, even for a game aimed squarely at teenage girls. I don’t have kids of my own, so I feel fortunate that between now and when I do have kids I’ll have found suitable trade material for this. I can’t imagine how we as a society will have evolved in the next 200 years if the younger generation is able to text message with such lightning speed as they can now. Hopefully, true musical artists will have emerged from the shadows of globalization and proven that music is more than selling 1 million singles of a disposable pop hit. Bratz Rock Angelz could be considered a snap-shot of the teen generation of 2005, and all that that implies. I don’t know about you, but I’m on the verge of weeping for the future.