Dance Central - KinectESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Interactive Music
Requires Kinect Sensor
3MB to Game Save
Being a little bit on the larger side, dance floors and I never really got along. Sure I could hold my own for a song or two; but throw together more than just a hip shake and a finger snap and I am completely lost. Well fear no more for all those like myself who can barely cut a rug, Harmonix presents Dance Central for the Kinect to satisfy your dancing needs. Considering what Harmonix has done for the Rockband franchise, I had little doubt this game would deliver and will certainly strike a nerve with the MTV generation. But could this game take a tone deaf husky white male and make him into someone who can own the dance floor. Read on to find out.
Visually, Dance Central is a good looking game. It has a similar artistic style as Rockband but still has a look and feel all to its own. The game is vibrant, colourful and everything comes to life in the game. The on-screen dancers also look very good. Similar to Guitar Hero, the game presents several characters/dancers. All have a look and style of their own. They can be a tad over the top but they are perfectly suited for the game and will likely be around for the subsequent and inevitable sequels. I was also really impressed with how smooth all the dancers moved. Being able to follow along with the on-screen characters is critical in Dance Central. Every subtle arm and leg movement was easy to pick up and follow. Needless to say I was impressed.
The game's venues also looked good; however, I was a little disappointed with the lack of venues and variety. It seemed as though the dances would occur either in clubs, on the streets or in some obscure location like a street bridge. Do not get me wrong, what you do get is sharp, but just a little more variety would have been nice. Also, I found that the flash cards displayed at the bottom right hand side of your screen, could have been a bit more prominent in the game. They look decent albeit plain and out of place. They could have been placed perhaps underneath the dancers making them a little easier to follow. Looking back and forth from the dancer to the cards was difficult for me to say the least.
Overall, Dance Central is a good looking game. This being said, there is still plenty of room for growth. More characters, more venues and just some more visual eye candy will be something I will be looking for on the next go around.
In a Dance Rhythm based game the sound is arguably the most important aspect. Fortunately, Dance Central delivers in this department as well. All the songs are master tracks which gives the game instant credibility and authenticity. Nothing grates me more than when I am playing any music or dance based videogame and some cover band is playing my favorite song(s). Sure the music sounds good but it is not the real deal. The songs themselves all sound terrific in 5.1 surround sound. It was great to listen to some of those tracks I had not heard in years such as Young MC’s “Busta Move” and Kool & The Gang’s "Jungle Boogie."
For those of you who are curious as to the songs you get out of the box, here is Dance Central’s complete set list:
1. Audio Push – "Teach Me How To Jerk"
2. Basement Jaxx – "Rendez-vu"
3. Beastie Boys – "Body Movin' (Fatboy Slim Remix)"
4. Beenie Man – "King Of The Dancehall"
5. Bell Biv DeVoe – "Poison"
6. Benny Benassi – "Satisfaction"
7. Cascada – "Evacuate the Dancefloor"
8. Christina Milian – "Dip It Low"
9. The Commodores – "Brick House"
10. Craig Mack – "Flava In Ya Ear (Remix)"
11. Dirty Vegas – "Days Go By"
12. Eric B. & Rakim – "Don't Sweat the Technique"
13. Fannypack – "Hey Mami"
14. Jay Sean ft. Lil Wayne – "Down"
15. Kool & The Gang – "Jungle Boogie"
16. Kylie Minogue – "Can't Get You Out of My Head"
17. Lady Gaga – "Just Dance"
18. Lady Gaga – "Poker Face"
19. Lipps Inc – "Funky Town"
20. M.I.A. – "Galang '05"
21. Nelly Furtado – "Maneater"
22. Nina Sky – "Move Ya Body"
23. No Doubt – "Hella Good"
24. Pitbull – "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)"
25. Quad City DJ's – "C'mon N' Ride It (The Train)"
26. Rihanna – "Pon de Replay"
27. Salt-N-Pepa – "Push It"
28. Snoop Dogg/Pharrell – "Drop It Like It's Hot"
29. Soulja Boy Tell 'Em – "Crank That (Soulja Boy)"
30. Technotronic – "Pump Up the Jam"
31. Wreckx-n-Effect – "Rump Shaker"
32. Young MC – "Bust A Move"
As you can see, it is not a bad set list at all. All the songs get you moving and will surely appease any wannabe hip hop dancer. My only concern is with how many songs you get out of the box. Simply put, 32 tracks are not enough in my view. When games such as Rock Band or Guitar Hero come with over 80 tracks, 32 seems way to few. It only took my daughter and I a couple of hours to try nearly all the songs. Ideally I would have liked to have seen the playlist doubled to 60. Of course the game will also feature a slew of downloadable tracks via Xbox Live Marketplace, but these will certainly come at a cost.
The other in-game sounds such as the background tunes that play when you are in the menus all sound decent. Overall, I have no complaints with the sound aspect of the game as no glaring deficiencies stand out in this area. Yet 32 tracks is simply far too skimpy in my humble opinion.
For those of you who have no idea how Dance Central works, it is essentially a dance rhythm game that plays out in similar fashion to Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution games. The main difference is Dance Central requires you to use your entire body as opposed to merely frantic foot stepping. Dance Central utilizes the Xbox 360 Kinect motion peripheral to read the player’s full body as you follow a series of ‘flash cards’ that depict a dance routine. Your goal is to mimic the moves of the dancers on the screen. Some of the moves can involve a simple side step or arm wave but others can involve much more complex moves involving upper and lower body motions. That is Dance Central in a nutshell and at its core is great game. This being said, it has some issues and I cannot help but feel the game might have been rushed a tad just in time for the Kinect launch.
For starters, Dance Central does not feature a single player progression mode. Dance Central is all about jumping into a song and dancing away. The lack of a single player story progression mode was a bit of let down as this is something Guitar Hero and Rockband fans have become accustomed to. It is certainly not a deal-breaker by any means but I felt this game was more like a SingStar game as opposed to a Rockband game.
Once you fire up the game navigating the menus is very cool. By holding your arm out to the side you can highlight menu items. The height of your hand will determine which item you have highlighted in the menu. Swiping your arm across your body horizontally selects your item. Much to my surprise selecting menu items worked quite well and was incredibly responsive. It can be finicky for the little ones with less coordination but mature folks should have no problem navigating the game's slick menus.
Once you select a song, it is recommended dancers begin learning various dance moves of the given song in ‘Break it Down.’ This acts as a tutorial of sorts before you commence each song. Each song has its own dance routine, so learning all the ins and outs is key to pulling off a decent score. You can jump into a song and start dancing away without going through the tutorial; however, you will struggle. In fact, I was very surprised with how difficult some of the dance routines were. Even after completing the ‘Break it Down’ portion of the song, putting it all together can be daunting and difficult. There are three main difficulty levels and each difficulty level builds on the previous routine. You have to ultimately unlock the most difficult levels and unfortunately I was never able to progress to the point where I would unlock those advanced dance routines. Each song earns you points and the better the dance routines the more points you earn.
As I suggested, ‘Break it Down’ is absolutely essential in order to master some of those complex songs. ‘Break it Down’ displays each move one by one and you can perform each move at your own speed in order to master them. There is also an announcer who cheers you on and never gets down on you for repeatedly fumbling up the moves as I did. The announcer tends to rush you through the moves, which can be a good or a bad thing. On one hand, who wants to spend too much time in a tutorial? On the other hand, when you do not have a few moves down pat, it can make for a difficult dance routine.
Once I jumped into a song and start jigging away, I was simply amazed at how responsive the game was to my body motions. Sure, every so often I would feel like I nailed a particular move only for the game to not recognize it. These instances however were not all that common and did not take much away from the gameplay experience. Performing a dance routine is not all about following the given dance cues either. In the middle of each song, you get a chance to show off your moves in Freestyle. After the brief part of the song where you are freestyling, the game quickly shows you a 5 second vignette of your various moves. My daughter absolutely loved the freestyle aspect of the game and it was great for a few laughs as well. I sure hope some of my video vignette’s don’t end up on Youtube.
In addition to dancing away to any given song, Dance Central also features a Workout mode. This mode acts as an extension to regular dancing mode in which the number of calories burned are also tracked, along with the workout time. I can see this certainly appealing to many more mature gamers out there, including those like myself who need to shed a few pounds.
In terms of other modes, Dance Central includes a Dance Battle mode where two players compete in a head-to head dance routine battle. The person with the highest score is the winner. In the rare event there is a tie in the score, the player who passed more moves wins. In Challenge mode, once four songs in each category have at least four stars on each one, a challenge based on the difficulty is unlocked. This mode increases the difficulty of the game by having four songs combined into one, thus mixing up the dance moves. Overall, the additional modes are great but similar to the game's set list, it is a tad skimpy. When other music games have a plethora of modes and options, Dance Central seems a little bit light in this department.
Another disappointing aspect with the game is the limited online functionality. In fact there is no online ability to dance with or against a buddy or stranger from another city. Dance Central does post your friends scores on the side of the screen after you have played a song. Otherwise, the lack of online modes in the game is quite a letdown.
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