Dancing in front of the TV, with a purpose.
Let’s face it, Harmonix certainly know how to make a music game. But this time we are not dealing with any plastic guitars. In fact, the only instrument is the players body and they won’t be making sweet music with it, but dancing around their living room to a selection of club-like beats. Seems like a totally different kettle of fish to me – Can they pull it off?
Much like the rise of the music game, dancing games seem to be increasing in favour just lately, mostly off the back of Ubisoft’s Just Dance. So, with the launch of the Kinect full-body motion control system, it seems only fitting that a dance game should be amongst the launch day line-up. The Kinect’s ability to recreate the players moves on the screen and compare them with what they should be doing seems perfectly suited to getting ones boogie on.
So, basically the player simply follows the moves that are shown on screen by the hip and trendy looking dancer. The moves that the player must perform are broken down into little bite-size chunks, each with their own name, and are displayed along the right-hand side on a conveyor belt, with the next move visible so that the player can prepare. Combining all of these moves successfully will result in a dance routine to be proud of, although in my case it resulted more often than not in a flailing of limbs and much hilarity for the people watching me. Before playing this game it is best to leave dignity at the door.
There are three main modes in Dance Central: Break It Down, Perform It! and Dance Battle. For the fitness fanatics out there, they can also access the Workout mode which will track the number of calories burnt whilst performing routines, which is a nice addition and is infinitely more fun than the majority of exercise games out there. Starting out, for the players who don’t do dancing, the Break It Down mode will gradually introduce the player to each of the separate moves, having them perform the move to perfection, for a given routine. The main meat of the Dance Central package is the Perform It! mode with the player performing each routine in an attempt to earn stars, similar to Rock Band, and progress within the game. The Dance Battle is as you would expect, a chance to compete with a friend to see who the best dancer is. Ideal for parties where an excess of alcohol has been consumed, players compete for the highest scores and bragging rights.
At times the player will have the opportunity to use their imagination and insert some freestyle moves into their routine. As appears to be customary in a lot of Kinect games, it is at this point that the camera will take daft photos of the player at their most stupid looking. Let’s face it, if you are playing this game to start with then you obviously are not worried about looking stupid, so the pictures should provide a decent amount of hilarity to any random bystanders.
Much like games such as DJ Hero or DefJam Rapstar, Dance Central has a music collection that will appeal only to certain people, specifically those who enjoy clubbing, featuring songs from such artists as Lady Gaga, M.I.A., Cascada and Basement Jaxx. Whilst not everyone will enjoy this type of music, after a few drinks no-one will really care, and this is when the game performs best. It is a social game and will be most enjoyed when playing with other people and a lack of inhibition.
The overall presentation is very colourful and trendy, with all of the on-screen characters looking very cool and like they live on the dancefloor.Â The backdrops are all good looking as well, fitting in with the atmosphere built by the game, with bright neons and urban styling.
As already mentioned in some of my other Kinect game reviews, the playing area in which I have Kinect is limited to the bare minimum. Some of the games have performed quite well in this small space, whilst others have just refused to work. The thing with Dance Central is that it performs okay, with the sensor picking up the vast majority of my moves (I’ll be honest, it can be difficult to tell in this game which moves are not picked up and which I just performed incorrectly). But, with a game that is all about letting loose and getting your groove on, and limitation on the room that the player has is going to hinder their performance. So, with that in mind, even though the game performs adequately in limited space, it is vastly more enjoyable in an unhindered area where the player can flail to their hearts content.
I am no dancer, which I am sure is evident to anyone that watched me playing this game, and I am not a big fan of this style of music. But Dance Central was still a lot of fun, and damn hard work at times. It will be enjoyed most when playing with other people in a party atmosphere, but works quite well for a single player who just wants to dance. The player will look ridiculous and likely come away feeling embarrassed, at least until the next player steps up to the dancefloor. But that is where all of the fun is, on the dance floor in what is the best dancing video game so far.