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.
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.
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?