Since 1998, when the first Dance Dance Revolution game was introduced in Japan, dancing games have always had a niche audience. Hitting those 4 arrows with perfect timing, while difficult, can’t really be considered dancing, but it is fun to watch and is definitely a workout. With the introduction of the Kinect, a full-body dancing game makes perfect sense; now you can track everything the player is doing and not just their feet.
The first thing that I noticed after booting up the game is the menu system. It is incredibly well done, and Microsoft would do well to take a few cues from the Dance Central interface. Holding your arm out to the right, you just raise or lower your hand to change your selection, and then swipe to the left to select. It’s much quicker and precise than the Kinect Hub, which often has me selecting the wrong thing or frustrated because I twitched right before the selection was going through. While the menu isn’t essential to the actual gameplay, it just goes to show the thought and polish that Harmonix put into this game.
As for the actual gameplay of Dance Central, it’s fun. The overall progression of the game is much like Rock Band, unlocking new songs, venues, and dancers as you beat sets. Each song has 3 modes: Break it Down, Perform It, and Dance Battle. Break it Down is a training mode, where the game introduces you to the individual moves needed to beat the song. You have to perform each move correctly 3 times, and then move on to the next one.
Perform It is the actual dance performance, where you put the moves from Break it Down together and actually do a routine. Flash cards of the moves you need to do flow by on the right side of the screen, and you follow along with your dancer on-screen. You get points for how well you perform each move, and it adds up to a total score, much like in Rock Band. There is even a star system which looks exactly like Rock Band’s. Perform It isn’t just following the pre-defined moves, however. There are also ‘freestyle’ sections where you can go nuts with your own version of the dance. The camera snaps rapid-fire photos of you, and plays them back at the end of the song strobe-style. It definitely makes you look goofy.
Dance Battles are the multiplayer aspect of Dance Central, allowing two dancers to face off against each other. It’s basically the same as Perform It, but the songs are split and scored for two players. Dance Central as a whole works well as a party game, and a good Dance Battle is great for a party.
Overall, the game is highly polished and works quite well with the Kinect hardware. You have to really move to hit the moves right, doing things halway won’t register very well. The game’s definitely a workout if you play for more than a song or two. You WILL feel like an idiot playing, especially if people are watching, but the game makes a great party game. Harmonix put a lot of polish and thought into the design to keep the replay value high, and there’s a lot involved to unlocking all the songs. The game will probably get the most use with friends around, but for the hardcore, the solo play is still robust. If you’re looking for a solid Kinect title and don’t mind looking a little silly, then this is definitely a game to pick up.
Here’s The Rundown:
-Solid Visuals and Motion Tracking
-Robust feature set and song list
-Takes goofy pictures
-Not nearly as much fun by yourself