Review: Dance Central

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.

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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.

Pros

  • Brilliant fun
  • Excellent single/multiplayer action
  • Kinect works very well
  • Excellent user interface

Cons

  • 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.

Score: 9/10

Images from Gamespress

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22 Comments

  1. “You other brothers can’t deny…”

    Nice review as well…

  2. The Mrs picked this up yesterday. Despite me having two left feet (one of which was savaged by an elephant in my childhood that I don’t really want to go into right now) it is a really fun game and caters for all abilities. Was very impressed how responsive it was and it probably my favourite launch title for the Kinect with the exception of ‘sports’

    • The problem with Kinect Sports is the fact my wife battered me 158 to 108 in bowling. It’s been in the box since :op

      • “It’s been in the box since” the game that is, not the wife!

      • LOL!

      • LOL, just covered my screen in coffee

  3. Sounds good. I really didn’t expect a 9 for any Kinect game. But this is pretty promising for future Kinect games.

    • While Microsoft focus on games that don’t require complete 1:1 ratio I think they will have the upperhand when it comes to motion controlled gaming. Every game I have played has a small amount of lag, but none of which effects the game play in the slightest as they are all quite casual games. At least thats what I’ve found :) I would imagine it would be a completely different kettle-o-fish if they were to release an online FPS or something like that.

  4. I’m starting to get really interested in Kinect. However, in the opinion of people that have actually played it, is it worth the money?

    • I personally think so. Not sure if this is a ‘no-no’ on TSA or not but I’ve uploaded my full thoughts to my website should you wish to take a gander.

      • There’s no point not linking when your bloody URL is in your username…

      • Sorry. Would you rather I change it?

      • Done just to be on the safe side. Don’t wanna piss anyone off lol ;)

    • it depends what youre after. at the moment (in my opinion) the games really require a couple of people to get the most enjoyment. if youre looking for something more ‘core’ it might be best to wait.

    • Everything I’ve read from people who have actually parted with cash for it, is that’s its great. As a motion device it’s best enjoyed with local multi-player though, so depending on your ability to do that it could be worth a look

      • Or alternatively, given how much it costs, if you’ve already parted cash for it you probably:

        a) have already decided it’s right for you; and/or
        b) have a vested interest in trying to convince yourself it’s great; and/or
        c) have the space in your house to make it work; and/or
        d) are a fan of tech and won’t care if it gathers dust in a few months so long as you got to try it; and/or
        e) are one of the great unwashed ‘non-gamer’ masses, believed the hype, bought the product and most definitely don’t read TSA.

        (BTW: The same can be said for Move, but I personally believe more _existing_ gamers will buy Move)

        I’m not saying Kinect won’t be fun for a lot of people, but I am seeing a lot of people having wildly different expectations on what Kinect is supposed to deliver. Simply saying “it’s great!” without context isn’t going to help people accurately decide.

        Microsoft aren’t helping either (apart from themselves of course) as they continue to proclaim Kinect as the second coming of the Messiah, instead of promoting it for what it is – another motion controller. At least Sony have been forthright with their campaign, it’s a motion controller that is stupidly accurateand that’s it. That might be a slow burning strategy by Sony, but I think it will help improve loyalty and confidence in the product whereas I see people getting burnt and disillusioned with Kinect as time goes on.

        The more I read about Kinect, the more it confirms my existing understanding and predictions. I am looking forward to trying it out for myself of course, but I still feel strongly the following is true:

        – Wow factor is there but will be short lived for most (particularly amongst TSA readers).
        – Lag IS there, and whilst the effect can be somewhat limited through game design it will always be a limiting factor (Forza for instance).
        – Precision is average at best, holding out for software improvements is just naive, the hardware has hard and fast limitations that will preclude significant accuracy gain.
        – Space requirements are more than Wii or Move and WILL be a limiting factor for a LOT of people. Cut it which ever way you want, 8-9 feet clear of obstacles for two players is too much. Move will work with 2-3 feet less than that and it makes all the difference (imho).
        – Launch titles are largely average. Once the wow factor passes many are just tech demos. Exceptions are Kinectimals, which clearly only applies if you have small children, and Dance Central which aside from the extant limitations of Kinect (such as space required) seems like a nice title.
        – The respective Sports titles sums it up for me. Kinect = flashy bells and whistles but an over simplified control and experience for anyone more than kids or casuals. Move = Sony style sterile presentation but ultra precise controls and a rewarding and last experience for all ranges of gaming experience from newbs to pros.

        At present I would sum up Kinect as the following: Child Minder, Dance Simulator, Fitness Gimic. They are the three things it does well and if you’re stoked about that then great, go buy Kinect.

        When it comes to something that requires precision, although not mentioned here, take TSA’s review of The Fight (for Move) which faired very well, and compare it to Fighters Uncaged (for Kinect) that other sites have looked at. Fighters Uncaged was the one game I thought I thought _I_ might enjoy with Kinect… but this is the result:

        http://www.joystiq.com/2010/11/04/fighters-uncaged-review/

        “One time, I was pushing a TV around so I could watch He-Man while I ate my Cap’n Crunch in the dining room. I was four years old. I accidentally pushed the TV over, bringing it smashing down on my finger. I had to get eight stitches and I eventually lost the fingernail.

        I mention this only so you can fully appreciate the gravity of me saying that the half-hour I spent with Fighters Uncaged was the very worst TV-related thing that has ever happened to me….

        ….I’m not giving it a score because I think scoring a game after a half hour sets a bad precedent, and I’d rather eat a rain-soaked box of poison buttholes than ever play Fighters Uncaged again.”

        http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2010-11-04-fighters-uncaged-review

        “In conclusion, oh I don’t know. Some sort of metaphor about this game being a feral animal which should never have been let out of its cage, and should be hunted down, shot, skinned and turned into chess sets and umbrella stands. Or to put it another way: no.”

        Perhaps Kinect 2 with triple the resolution, onboard processing and no lag will be what Kinect so desperately should have been.

  5. With regards to the DLC price, it’s around £2.00 per extra song, it’s far from resonably priced IMO considering there is so few ondisk songs.

    I don’t really agree with your score of 9/10, while i agree it’s clearly the best dancing game ever made in terms of how you actully play it , the game is lacking in very key areas which IMO means it doesn’t deserve a high score.

    It has limited songs (with highly priced DLC), it has no online vs’s (this is frankly ludicrus), it has no dancing at the same time local play (dancemasters has this – and online) and it has no proper structured single player (this i was very surprized at).

    Without all of the above it should get a maximum of 7/10, with it all it would be a clesar 10/10, it’s a game that is clearly incomplete that was rushed out for launch day, it’s a shame we have to wait until Dance Central 2 to see what it should have been.

  6. Why were you dreading this review DanLee ?

  7. Just cant get 4 stars on the pitbull track. Too many Salsa moves for my English hips

  8. I honestly had no idea that anyone outside of a certain demographic – most probably teenage and female – would be remotely interested in this game. I am both stunned and enlightened. o.O

  9. Game is very good and great fun (my daughter loves it, though admits that Singstar Dance is more challenging in terms of the actuall choreography), best of Kinect series games so far (along with Kinect Sports), but the limited number of songs, small amount of unlockables and lack of customisation (when compared to another Harmonix series, Rock Band) plus highly priced DLC (twice the amount of RB song!) brings the overall score down a bit. I’d say it’s 8/10 at most.

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