Way of the Dogg, despite not being from Japan, is still one of the strangest games I’ve ever reviewed from a conceptual standpoint. In terms of cosmetic appearances, it’s a fighting game. In terms of actual gameplay, it’s a rhythm game. Add the involvement and in-game appearance of Snoop Dogg/Snoop Lion, and you’ve got several layers of bizarre to work your way through. It’s a shame that the final product isn’t as captivatingly crazy as one might hope.
The plot follows America Jones, an up-and-coming urban fighter who finds himself losing an important match and having his girlfriend get shot in the course of one night. Not that the latter is easy to tell, though, as the first shot after the fight is him holding the corpse in grief with no explanation. Jones consults Snoop, who in this world is a sort of mystical guru and fighting teacher, to help get revenge on those who killed his beloved.
The story, told through mostly static drawings and voiceover, isn’t very interesting. Though the voice acting used in these cutscenes is fine, plot and characterization are both extremely basic. It isn’t until halfway through that things abruptly take a turn for the weird, as a time travel component is introduced. A more comedic and over-the-top narrative approach might have suited this better, but things are so straghtforward that it feels out of place when done here.
Each level showcases Jones automatically fighting a designated opponent, but don’t expect any direct character control here. Instead, various songs by Snoop are played as the fight progresses, and players are meant to focus their eyes not on the fight, but the foreground, where lines of button presses appear.
These inputs range from standard button presses to simple movements of the left joystick, sometimes at the same time. Other types include holding or mashing a button for a certain length of time. Each fight is divided into a number of brief rounds, during which players need to make enough correct button inputs to build a meter up. If the meter has reached its maximum level at the end of a round, a quick time event of sorts appears, prompting players to input several button presses within a brief time limit. If they succeed, Jones successfully pulls off a super-strong move and gets a chunk of the life bar at the top of the screen.
Winning each level revolves around this bar, as failing to pull off the end-of-round inputs or not having enough meter power results in the opponent attacking and gaining some of the bar themselves in a tug-of-war of sorts. One thing to note is that players have to reach the end of each song to win, while their opponents can beat them midway by dominating the bar before each track finishes. This might seem unfair at first, but it would probably make the already-short game even shorter if you could beat each song early.
The button and joystick inputs seem generally responsive, but I often found myself missing beats when I was fairly sure I had them timed right. Even after using the game’s calibration option, things always seemed a little off.
On a side note, I’ve heard comparisons between this game and the classic DS title Elite Beat Agents, and I’d say that’s a bit unfair. Not only did Agents have a more appealing presentation, but hitting notes at the right time would result in additional sound effects being played that added to the overall experience of the song. It might have been interesting and more immersive to map the audio for the lyrics to your button presses, so that Snoop’s rhyming would be reliant on your timing. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Another notable issue is the repetition in the soundtrack and settings. It seems that a good half of the game is spent sparring against Snoop in the same environment, with no unique cutscenes to set things up. And while there are some good choices from his discography (Naturally, “What’s My Name?” is included), some are used more than once, which gives off a feeling of laziness.
Timing issues aside, Way of the Dogg is technically sound, but it’s also aggressively bland. An uninteresting plot and presentation and overly basic gameplay hold back the game from fulfilling any potential it might have had in the conceptual stage. I admire Snoop for trying something new with his work, but he might need to try again if he wants his game to get the same reception his top songs have received.
This review is based on an Xbox 360 copy of the game that was provided to us.
Basic to a fault and an overall boring experience, Way of the Dogg is far from a classic of rhythm gaming.