Space Channel 5

Year: 2000
Platform: Dreamcast, PlayStation 2
Developer: Sega
Genre: Rhythm/Dancing
Rating: ***

Possibly the simplest game ever - and also one of the most infuriating. Earth has been invaded by space aliens who are zapping people with a ray that makes them dance. The heroine of the story is a cute and spunky news reporter named Ulala, and it's her job to "out-dance" the alien invaders in order to boost the ratings of her TV show. Yeah, it's really surreal. Visually, the game is very attractive and oozing with style, and the music is extremely catchy. Ulala is quite sexy in her next to nothing outfit, platform go-go boots, and funky space blaster. She's a total blast to watch. The English voice talent is excellent, and in particular Ulala who is performed by an appropriately exuberant Apollo Smile.

Unfortunately, where the game falls apart is in the gameplay. Until you figure out how the timing works and get yourself in sync with the game, it's utterly maddening. There's a slight lag in Ulala's responses, which has the tendency to affect the way you input your commands. Unfortunately, this causes your timing to get messed up and you're left wondering what in the world you're doing wrong. Once you get past that psychological barrier, the game becomes much easier and more enjoyable. The negative reinforcement when you're performing poorly is another psychological hurdle that you have to overcome, because no one likes being told that they suck.

One of the most curious aspects of the game (and it has a LOT of curiosities), is the inclusion of Space Michael. That's right, Michael Jackson has been revived from his cryogenic sleep after 500 years and has been forced to dance by the Morolians. It's bizarre to say the least, and it's quite amusing to see Ulala and her posse emulating his signature dance moves. If nothing else, once you master the controls it's nearly impossible not to smile and laugh while playing the game.