This is DDR for your arms. Bring it on.
Have you ever had to memorize a choreographed routine? It takes dedication, plenty of practice, and mental concentration to correctly hit move after move. That's what it's like to play a fast song over and over in We Cheer, concentrating on staying on beat, performing to the best of your ability, and eventually clearing the stage. It's a great feeling.
Okay. Let's back up. We Cheer, from Namco Bandai, is a game that uses the Wii's technology to simulate cheerleading. You're not actually performing jumps, wearing a uniform, and performing fully choreographed cheer-dance routines along with an entire squad of cheerleaders, but the game's characters are (imagine Bratz dolls with cute anime faces). Your challenge is to keep up with them by moving your arms and the Wii Remote(s) according to the game's onscreen indicators.
As a Wii game, good gesture recognition is highly crucial for We Cheer. Fortunately, the gesture recognition technology works, and I never felt like the game was short-changing me when I knew that I was doing the moves correctly. This is tricky though: games like Wii Sports aren't very picky about the motions you make, but We Cheer expects you to make specific movements. For example, a downward stroke isn't lowering the Wii Remote and suddenly pointing it down at the end; in my experience the tilting of the Wii Remote to point downwards has to be gradual throughout the motion for it to register. Sure, you're moving your arm down either way, but only the latter technique will be recognized by the game.
The tutorial starts you on the right path demonstrating the moves by displaying 3D Wii Remotes performing the motions on-screen. However, the tutorials cover only the basic gestures, and you won't be warned or prepared for advanced moves, many involving moving the Wii Remotes in 3D space. Fortunately, the characters on screen perform routines that are highly analogous to your motions as a player. If ever you need to figure out exactly how to move your arms, copying the on-screen characters is your best bet.
My brother has informed me that cheerleaders do mirror each other as a way to practice. Don't ask me how he knows that.
Be warned though: this is exercise, and just like DDR can leave you winded, so too can We Cheer. It doesn't drive you as hard as DDR, Wii Boxing, or Wii Fit, but continued play in We Cheer is an exertion, especially for the joints and muscles in your shoulders and arms.
That the game requires some effort (both mental and physical) from you is a definite hurdle. Thankfully, the developers have taken steps to lessen the impact. You only need to nail about 70% of the moves during a song to complete it (though this can still be a significant challenge), and each song includes some moves, which, if you execute them all successfully, activate a high scoring bonus sequence that almost guarantees success. Songs also benefit greatly from repeated practice since you'll be much more prepared to tackle moves that you know are coming. In the case of repeated failure, it's comforting that the game is always encouraging and never lambasts you. However, there's nothing quite like the feeling of beating a song the first time you play it by virtue of sheer mental reflexes and skill.
If the challenge is too much, however, you can play with one Wii Remote instead of two since this generally makes routines more manageable, if much less engaging. Alternatively, We Cheer supports two players completing the story mode cooperatively and using one Wii Remote each. We Cheer does not use the Nunchuk controller in any form.
The game supports multiplayer, but if you want to play with three or four people everyone will only have one Wii Remote. Since everyone is displayed on screen together, having many players significantly shrinks the size of the visual indicators on smaller televisions. Additionally, only 16 songs are available for play at the beginning of the game. You'll have to progress through the story mode to unlock the hard routines for each song as well as the rest of the soundtrack.
When not doing a routine to one of the game's 30 energetic songs, We Cheer lets you choose members for your squad and change their hair color and skin tones. You can also customize your team's cheerleading uniforms with new styles gained as you progress through the game. You can't customize facial features, but you will gain additional characters for your squad as you complete levels and progress through the thin and forgettable story.
One thing that can't be overlooked given the ascent of Wii Fit is We Cheer's workout mode, where players can choose either a short or extended workout session. You play workout mode just like any other mode of We Cheer, but instead of cheerleading you're doing a full-blown, fast-paced, high-powered aerobics session. This is another way for you to earn extra costumes for your cheer squad.
Overall, We Cheer's challenging gameplay is exhilarating. However, it does shatter preconceptions about the game. We Cheer can't be played casually and it can't be played carelessly. It's plenty of fun, but whereas Wii Sports was happy to have you simply move, We Cheer challenges you to perform.
That's a good thing.