Hands On: Dance Central

Dance Central seems to have gotten more love from the gaming press than other Kinect titles, and after just one song it’s clear why. If you’re not familiar with the title imagine games like Dance Dance Revolution and Just Dance taken to the next level. The game was playable on the floor at this year’s Eurogamer Expo, in fact it was on its own stage. Pushing past the fear of the crowd that was permanently gathered around the stage, I stepped up to get my first experience of Kinect and strut my funky stuff for the good of TSA.

Before we touch on the process of busting a virtual move, it needs to be made clear that this isn’t primarily about Kinect. As well as Dance Central both Kinect Adventures and Joyride were at the show, and a dedicated Kinect post with impressions of those games and the system in general will follow soon. For now let’s just talk about Dance Central.

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In a world of increasing realism there are a few games that shine out as being pure, simple fun. For a lot of people rhythm games have always fallen into this category and Dance Central takes them to a new level. We’ve had dancing rhythm games before, in fact Just Dance 2 was playable at the show.

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Just to get a good feel for what else is out there we took Just Dance for a quick spin and compared to the Kinect title it was painful. In fact even without the comparison it was just horrible to play. As the Wii game is just tracking where the Wiimote is you’re left with the feeling that you’re just attempting to put the controller where the game thinks it should be.

There’s not a shred of this in Dance Central. Both games have you following an on screen dancer, but in Dance Central you feel that you’re actually following the dancer. You do have a list that shows you the current move as well as upcoming moves, but at the most basic level you can completely ignore it if you want to. It will help with you to know when a change of move is coming, but you can just follow whatever the dancer does and the game will comfortably recognise your movement.

It’s incredibly easy to start picking up what you need to be doing. The nicest trick that Harmonix has applied is that the on screen dancer isn’t actually tied to your movement. There is a small box that shows you in silhouette so you can see what the camera is seeing, but the dancers seem to happily continue no matter what you do. Whilst this might sound a little disappointing, it’s pretty much what makes the game work. If you were just following along with the prompts it would be pretty difficult to play, in fact that was one of the issues we found when trying to play Just Dance 2.

You’re not left completely in the dark about your performance though, visual feedback is provided through a series of coloured ripples around your dancer’s feet, changing in colour and intensity until you complete a move to the flash of a ‘Flawless’ or, more often, merely ‘Ok’.

As we’ve come to expect from Harmonix the songs shine. The songs do seem to be rooted in hip-hop and R ‘n’ B, but they work pretty well in the game. The gameplay would get a little dull if you were just bopping your head to indie music; or a little too chaotic if it was asking you to mosh to heavy metal.

Dance Central won’t teach you to be any good at dancing, in the same way that Guitar Hero and Rock Band don’t make you any good at playing guitar (new modes aside). However, it will make you feel like you can dance. More importantly you’ll have fun playing it, and that’s really what it all should be about. You may look a little bit daft when you’re playing it, just check out the video below, but if you’re playing at home rather than in front of an audience of strangers who cares?

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31 Comments

  1. No offence, but S.H.A.M.E :p

  2. Oooh, spot the MS rep in the white t-shirt. He knew the moves off by heart and a few times started the next move without looking at the screen. I love the false applause he gives right at the end.

    This looks as energetic as ‘aqua aerobics’ out of water. Still, if it gets some xbox’ers off their backsides it can’t be a bad thing.

    • Thing I enjoyed about it was that he was borrowing Nathan Drake’s “Half Tuck” t-shirt style.

      “zer, is a traitor in our ranks!” :P

    • Have to say it’s actually a pretty good work out, even in an airconditioned room. If you did it for an hour you’d probably be knackered

  3. firstly: LOL.
    Now…
    I have zero interest in rhythm games and I have zero interest in dancing but I can get behind anything that plays GaGa repeatedly.
    In fact, I’m currently singing about poking her in the face. Or something.

    • I heard Pokerface more over those two days than I ever have before. One of the Criterion guys who was at the NFS stand almost next to Dance Central was starting to go a little bit crazy by the Sunday.

    • Funny that, i was watching some cracking lady gaga parody songs on youtube this morning. Couple of really good ones. She really is just one of the biggest Dicks on the planet, and her music is just plain shit. I really don’t get what people see in her, she’s ugly, she’s got saggy Tits like spaniel’s ears, and she’s an arrogant toss pot. I wouldn’t mind all of that if her music was any good, sadly that’s shit too.

      • Seriously, dude, this is just weird. Is it pop music you don’t like? Or women without big tits? Genuinely curious.

      • Mostly because I have a litmus test – much like whenever an American preacher bangs on about the evils of homosexuality, I place money on him eventually being caught knee-deep in meth and rent boys, whenever I meet someone who doesn’t like pop, I place money on them never getting laid.

  4. Do I need to warn Britain’s Got Talent about you?

  5. It had the biggest crowd by far…but then as soon as the rep was like “who’s next” it was like a stampede to get away! In all fairness it did look great fun…just at home.

    • Everyone loves to see people looking silly, but inherently dislike looking silly themselves… Odd that.

  6. What a brave person to show that video!:D

    • Not only that, but to then go and test Just Dance 2 – he’s a true pro!!

      • God I hate Just Dance 2 so much.

      • Yes your face was a picture of disgust (and fear from the Nintendo guy basically giving you a lapdance).

      • That was one creepy Nintendo rep

      • tuffcub was there in a Nintendo t-shirt, you say? He always does that to give free lap-dances.

      • TC would probably have been less creepy

      • Wait until he starts trying to play you his mixes!

      • You are all bitches and I hate you. And I’m certainly not going to the Just Dance 2 launch party this Thursday.

      • Hahahaha!!! We love you, tuffcub! Come back!

    • I though that! I was in stitches watching, though I know I would be far worse! Good show sir!

  7. Again, firstly LOL
    Secondly this would probably be the most played game in my household this Christmas apart from the fact I don’t have Kinect or even a 360

    Looking forward to the forthcoming Kinect article

  8. So crap! That’s all.

    • Well, that was nice and balanced..

      It’s definitely not my kind of game, but I can appreciate that Harmonix know what they’re doing within the music genre, and that if you’ve got over 17 million people that have bought Singstar (across PS2 and PS3), then there’s no shortage of people who would play this at home.

      So, an accomplished execution catering to a market that definitely exists? Yup, that sounds pretty good.

  9. so, the best Kinect game yet makes you do something that you shouldn’t need a game for in the first place? :-D

    • Yeah but by the same token, what do we ‘need’ a game for? If it gets more people being active (who would otherwise be sat playing games, not dancing) then I’m all for it.

    • That’s the sporting genre defunct. Thanks for the input. :-p

  10. xmas could see kids loving this & well done for giving it a go.

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