The Cleveland Show Dance Off should dance right off the App Store

With Labor Day behind us and the kids back at school, there’s only one thing left in September to look forward to: the start of the fall television season. And to go along with that new season, networks will put the names and faces of their most popular shows in every venue they can find – including the App Store. The Cleveland Show Dance Off is no exception to this marketing hype, combining a popular FOX animated show with unoriginal rhythm gameplay.

Don’t let the term “unoriginal” scare you off, though. While The Cleveland Show Dance Off may borrow an existing formula, it’s borrowed off one of the best. If I were to say Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! to you, you’d probably say “gesundheit.” But this DS classic from Japan (later reworked for the US market as Elite Beat Agents) created one of the greatest rhythm formulas any touch screen gamer could ask for. And somehow there hasn’t been a single iOS developer that’s sought to capitalize on this… until now.

Keeping in rhythm with the music, players will tap on circles as larger circles closes in on them. The closer their tap is to the two circles meeting perfectly, the higher the score. A few other elements, like arrows that you need to swipe in certain directions and rolling buttons that you need to keep your finger on as they move across the screen, all compliment the Ouendan formula perfectly. In terms of gameplay, The Cleveland Show Dance Off manages to hit all of the right notes.

It’s just the rest of the package that’s so terrible.

Outside of gameplay, music selection is the #1 thing when it comes to rhythm games, and it’s here that Dance Off falls flat on its face. Rather than using licensed music or some silly tunes sung by the cast of the show, Dance Off‘s soundtrack is comprised primarily of a funky hip-hop beat and an endless series of samples from the show. It’s the sort of thing you’d here if someone left three YouTube windows open at once, or if a morning Zoo Crew DJ had a seizure and landed on their soundboard. Worse yet, you’ll hear the same background beat in more than one of the game’s paltry nine songs.

In contrast to the noise explosion that is the game’s soundtrack, the visuals here are decidedly bland. Cleveland will perform some dance moves in front of a simple background song after song – there’s nothing more to the look of the game than that. And while Dance-Off at least sports Cleveland in four different outfits, you’ll have to unlock the three additional ones with individual 99 cent in-app purchases. Since you’re paying for the game too, it kind of feels like someone is spitting in your coffee.

The Cleveland Show Dance Off

The Cleveland Show Dance Off

But the most disappointing thing of all is what a terrible use of the license this is. As an actual viewer of The Cleveland Show, there was a fanboy inside of me that was excited by the prospect of playing a game with characters I watch every week. What I got, though, was a totally generic product that could have featured characters from any television program. Swap out Cleveland Brown for Cloris Leachman and you could have just as easily called it Raising Hope: Dance Off.

The gameplay is great, though completely devoid of originality – and the rest of the package is a total wash. Even as a fan of the show, it’s hard to recommend this one.