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Dance Central 2

 

Dance Central 2

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Dance/Interactive, Kinect, Rhythm
 
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Author:

Developer: Harmonix
Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Features:

Requires Kinect Sensor
Voice Enabled
Players: 1-2
Co-op: 1-2
5MB to Game Save
HDTV 720p/1080i/1080p
Leaderboards

It is hard to believe the Xbox 360 Kinect is almost one year old. Over the past year, the 360 peripheral has seen its share of ups and downs. When then Kinect initially arrived, sales were impressive, yet over the past 11 months or so the Kinect appears to have lost some of that early momentum it had at launch. It could be just me but my passion for playing games on the Kinect has somewhat dwindled but yet I know I am not the only one that feels this way. Has the Kinect lost some steam due to the lack of quality games? That could very well be the case. So in a sense Dance Central 2 may have arrived just in time and could inject some life into an otherwise sputtering peripheral. That being said, can the sequel duplicate its predecessor’s success?

Graphics

Visually, Dance Central 2 is not only just as good as its predecessor, but it looks a lot more polished this time around. Dance Central 2 stays true to the artistic and stylish look from the first game. It is vibrant, bright, colourful, and everything comes to life in the game. The on-screen dancers once again look very good. All of them have a unique look and style of their own. The dancers move with a fluidness and smoothness much like how a professional dancer moves. It is incredibly realistic looking and infectious in such a way that you cannot help but try to emulate the dancers moves. Being able to follow along with the on-screen characters is critical in Dance Central 2 and this is accomplished with relative ease as every subtle arm and leg movement was easy to pick up and follow.

The game's venues also looked sharp and perfectly suit the game. Granted it is a little over the top and leaves you shaking your head at times, but they look sweet. There appears to be a little more variety this time around as well as I noticed a few more dance venues. Additionally, I found the flash cards displayed at the right hand side of your screen more prominent this time around. I just found it a bit easier to follow and prepare for upcoming moves as the flash cards are bigger and easier to follow while concentrating on the dance moves at hand. All in all, Dance Central 2 is a game featuring plenty of eye candy and has made some steps in the right direction in the visuals department.

Sound

In a dance rhythm based game the sound is arguably the most important aspect. Fortunately, Dance Central 2 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 rhythm videogame and some cover band is playing my favourite song. 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 Haddaway’s “What is Love” and Digital Underground’s “The Humpty Dance”.

For those of you who are curious as to the songs you get out of the box, here is Dance Central 2’s complete set list:

• Atlantic Connection and Armanni Reign – Reach
• B.o.B ft. Bruno Mars – Nothin’ On You
• Bananarama – Venus
• Gnarls Barkley – Run (I’m A Natural Disaster)
• Justin Bieber – Somebody To Love
• Mary J. Blige – Real Love
• Kurtis Blow – The Breaks
• Bobby Brown – My Prerogative
• Chingy – Right Thurr
• Ciara ft. Petey Pablo – Goodies
• Daddy Yankee ft. Fergie – Impacto (remix)
• Daft Punk – Technologic
• Darude – Sandstorm
• Diddy ft. Keyshia Cole – Last Night
• Digital Underground – The Humpty Dance
• Missy Elliott – Get Ur Freak On
• EXILE – I Wish For You
• Far East Movement – Like A G6
• Flo Rida ft. David Guetta – Club Can’t Handle Me
• David Guetta ft. Akon – Sexy Chick
• Haddaway – What Is Love
• Enrique Iglesias ft. Pitbull – I Like It
• Montell Jordan – This Is How We Do It
• La Roux – Bulletproof
• Lady Gaga – Bad Romance
• Lady Gaga – Born This Way
• Lena – Satellite
• Little Boots – Meddle
• Sean Kingston – Fire Burning
• Kevin Lyttle – Turn Me On
• Bruno Mars – Grenade
• Nicki Minaj ft. Sean Garrett – Massive Attack
• New Boyz – You’re A Jerk
• O-Zone – Mai Ai Hee (Dragostea Din Tei)
• Remy Ma – Conceited (There’s Something About Remy)
• Rihanna – Rude Boy
• Sir Mix-A-Lot – Baby Got Back (Mix Mix)
• Donna Summer – Hot Stuff
• Toxic (cover version)
• Tweet ft. Missy Elliott – Oops (Oh My)
• Usher ft. Pitbull – DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love
• Usher ft. Lil’ Jon & Ludacris- Yeah!
• Willow – Whip My Hair

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. Last year, Dance Central featured 32-songs out of the box but this year you get over 40-songs which is a significant jump. Additionally, Dance Central 2’s song library supports all songs from the original Dance Central. Previously downloaded songs will import automatically, but you are looking to import the on-disk songs from the original Dance Central it will cost you 400 Microsoft points. There is no doubt this is a nice little option for those looking for a complete Dance Central experience all in one place. Spending 400 points is a bit of concern but perhaps it is money well spent for those looking to get rid of or trade in the old Dance Central game.

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.

Gameplay

For those of you who have no idea how Dance Central 2 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 2 requires you to use your entire body as opposed to merely frantic foot stepping. Dance Central 2 utilizes the Xbox 360 Kinect to read your 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. The Dance Central franchise has addressed some issues from the previous game and has made some significant leaps since last year.

One of my main gripes with the original Dance Central for the Kinect was the lack of a single player story progression mode as this is something Guitar Hero and Rock Band fans have become somewhat accustomed to. With Dance Central 2 you can now participate in “Crew Challenge” which acts as a single player progression mode. While Crew Challenge is nothing incredibly deep, as it doesn’t feature any riveting storyline or plot twists, it manages to at least offer up a progression system as opposed to just randomly choosing songs and dancing away. In Crew Challenge you dance against different crews. After each song you are awarded stars that unlock new crews, dancers, and outfits. As I mentioned, it is fairly basic but it gives dancers something to work towards as they trudge through each song in the game.

For those of you who have no desire to play any sort of single player campaign, Dance Central 2 allows you and other friends to jump into a song and start dancing away without delay. That said, for those of you who have not played any dancing games on the Kinect, I do recommend that you begin learning various dance moves of each song in ‘Break it Down.’ This acts as a tutorial of sorts and each song has its own dance routine, so learning all the ins and outs is the 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 if you have never had any time with other Kinect dance games.

Much like the original game, Dance Central 2 at its core plays the same as the previous Dance Central game. Once again the dance moves are much more advanced than you would expect. 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.

Once I jumped into a song and started dancing away, I was impressed 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, but these instances 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 five 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 vignettes don’t end up on You Tube.

Much like the original Dance Central game, navigating the menus is easy and seems a little more refined this time around. 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. It can still be finicky for the little ones with less coordination but mature folks should have no problem navigating the game's slick menus. It is interesting how over the past year many have copied Dance Central menu selection system.

Another new feature added to the mix this year is voice commands. Yes, Dance Central 2 utilizes the technology of the Kinect to allow gamers to use voice commands to do things such as selecting a song, mode, difficulty, etc. There are only a few things you can say, but it is very cool nonetheless and surprisingly responsive. For instance, when I hollered "song", the game selected the song selection menu. You just have to make sure the microphone icon is up on the lower right hand corner of the screen otherwise the voice commands do not work. By stating “Xbox Dance” the voice command icon will appear. It would have been nice if the game could have recognized more specific statements, but much like the games set list it is a step in the right direction and leaves room for growth.

In addition to dancing away to any given song, Dance Central 2 also features a Workout mode. This mode acts as an extension to regular dancing mode in which the number of calories burned is 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 2 includes a Dance Battle mode where two players compete in a head-to head dance routine battle. In this mode you and friend can also select a crew to represent. Some crews however are locked until you earn the right to represent them. As expected the person or crew with the highest score is the winner.

One of the few disappointing aspects 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 2 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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