It would be accurate to say that whilst I don’t normally shy away from voicing my opinion, I positively hate being the focus of attention. It’s this pet hate that has caused me to shun Dance Central at events such as Gamescom and Eurogamer. Both had overenthusiastic Microsoft PR types literally dragging people up in front of dozens of sniggering onlookers to ‘get on down’ to various tracks (or Pokerface in most instances). In the comfort of my own home it is a different matter though, as hips will be dropped and bootys will be bounced with no problem at all.
To start the review rather dramatically, Dance Central is essentially the murderer of all dance mats across the globe, and a perfect example of how good Kinect can actually be when put in the right hands. The front end is incredibly slick, with the camera recognising you instantly, and a simple flick of the hand getting you from the start screen to the menu screen. From there, selecting what mode you want is as easy as raising and lowering your arm. When you come across something you want, a quick hand swipe to the left will select it for you. As a Kinect sceptic I was suitably shamed, and I really didn’t enjoy the taste of humble pie.
Each track, of which there are 32, has an easy, medium and hard level to try. Medium and hard are locked at first, and whilst some may baulk at this, it’s actually a good idea as you first have to get accustomed to the various, track specific moves that the game will be asking you to do (chest pumps for the win!). If you don’t like to jump into the unknown, you can choose to have the moves and song broken down into parts and practice them.
When your selected track starts, the aim is to mimic the onscreen avatar as closely as possible, with Kinect picking up your movements. On the right hand side of the screen is a constantly scrolling box which contains an image and name of the move you are doing, and the move that you need to do next. This method can sometimes get a little confusing though when you are trying to keep in time with the dancer whilst simultaneously checking out what’s coming next. Maybe I’m just uncoordinated though? Towards the end of every track you get a chance to ‘freestyle’, where the dance floor goes psychedelic, overlays your silhouette on the screen and allows you to dance about pulling whatever moves you wish. Be warned though, at the end of the freestyle section you’ll be treated to a sped up video clip of your dancing antics; if TV is said to add 10lbs, Kinect must add about 50…surely I don’t look that bad!
When a track finishes you will be given a score, a star rating and you’ll get to see the percentage of moves that you managed to achieve. You can also rank up, and when you hit a certain level you will be given a title. After performing a set number of tracks a challenge mode will open up, allowing you to play through certain sections of said tracks at once. These challenges get tougher as the game progresses.
For those with a friend/partner/family member who also likes to bring the boys to the yard with their milkshake, you’ll be pleased to hear that a battle mode is included. It is essentially the same as the single player mode, but at set intervals player one will have to relinquish the floor and let player two take over. This can happen several times per track. If you manage to play with a like minded person it is a tremendous amount of fun, with just the right amount of rivalry to keeps things interesting without ruining anyone’s enjoyment.
The tracks that come on the disk are a good mix of old and new, although for £40 I would have liked a lot more. I’m really hoping that any upcoming DLC is reasonably priced, because if it is I will lap it up like Bison at a watering hole. One of the main questions most people are asking is “how much space will you need?” Well the answer is a fair bit. When the manual says that you will need ‘X’ amount of free space, it really means it. I have about five feet of clear space between the TV and where I was standing and I get the impression that even that was verging on the minimum side of things.
You may have noticed that I’ve yet to compare Dance Central with similar games on rival consoles. It’s not something I generally like to do, but a lot of people commenting on CB’s Kinect hands on the other day wanted to know how big a step up the peripheral was from something like the EyeToy. Having seen TSA’s own Kris playing Just Dance 2 on the Wii I can safely say this is head and shoulders above it, and that’s putting it politely. Singstar Dance puts up a tougher fight, as the added accuracy of Move really does pick up your arm movements nicely. What it doesn’t do though, and I’m aware this sounds a bit like MS PR spiel, is track your entire body. I do prefer Singstar’s track list though.
- Brilliant fun
- Excellent single/multiplayer action
- Kinect works very well
- Excellent user interface
- Needs a lot of space
- Could have done with some more tracks
In my opinion Dance Central is the best of its genre, with the prospect of getting even better with new tracks. It’s great to see what a properly calibrated Kinect can do, and if you’re into rhythm games this is a must have. Colour me surprised.
Images from Gamespress