previews\ Sep 15, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Dance Central Hands-on Impressions


During my hands-on preview session of Dance Central, I had a surreal moment when I found myself dancing to Poker Face by Lady Gaga with two other game journalists, all of us doing the same moves in sync like a pop band from some awkward alternate universe. It made me see why Dance Central is already winning awards. It’s so fun and engaging that you forget how you look.

Just Dance The biggest difference between Dance Central and most other music or rhythm games out there is authenticity. You actually have to dance. Playing guitar in Guitar Hero essentially comes down to pressing buttons at the right time. “Dancing” in Dance Dance Revolution is also pressing buttons at the right time, but with your feet.

In Dance Central, there are no notes to hit or columns to follow. You just have to do the dance moves at the right time. It’s simpler, probably more challenging and actually teaches you authentic dance moves. Put a Dance Dance Revolution champ in a dance club and people will think the poor guy is having a seizure.

Hips Don't Lie Harmonix said upon seeing Kinect’s motion-sensing technology that they finally saw an opportunity to make a good dancing game. They didn’t think holding a motion controller and standing on a pad would be enough because there was no way to sense how your hips were moving.

And like Shakira says, “hips don’t lie.” Translation: If you can’t move your hips, you can’t dance.

Dance Central’s motion sensing abilities are impressive. Kinect takes your entire body in -- arms, legs and hips -- to see if you’re moving them correctly. If anything is out of place during a dance move, it gets highlighted in a death-red hue on the in-game dancing avatar.

How it all Works As you dance, little dance moves on pictures scroll upward on a wheel, showing you what move you are to do next. But I usually danced in coordination with the onscreen avatar since it seemed a bit hard to know what move the picture indicates if you haven’t practiced the dance before. And you’ll probably need to practice, especially for the tougher dances, because each dance seems to have unique moves. The included tutorial is helpful, and will break down moves you struggle with into their component parts. Your combo multiplier, which you earn for stringing successful moves together, and your star rating is displayed on a stereo that rests in on the left of the screen. If you start to string combos together, the street scene will fade away and club lights will appear, indicating that you’re in the zone.

Jungle Boogey

All the different styles of dancing are included and they correspond with the type of music that you’re dancing to. So you’re going to get different looking moves dancing to early 90’s hip hop than you are dancing to Lady Gaga. Songs from the genres of Reggaeton, Funk, Hip Hop, Pop and Disco (The Hustle anyone?) are all included. I’d especially like to see some of my more overweight male friends tackle the sexy and seductive moves of the Jennifer Lopez songs.

Do well enough and you go into freestyle mode, where you can do any dance moves you want (that means “the sprinkler” for you, white boy) and Dance Central will take snapshots of you and show it in an instant mini slideshow. It’s a fun little interlude between dancing segments that will prove to be a sure-fire party favorite.

The Final Countdown

But here’s the magic of the game: Just like Rock Band has the ability to make you forget your holding a plastic instrument, and convince you that you’re a rock star, Dance Central has the ability to make you feel like you’re dance moves are smoother than Usher’s. It’s too fast and fun to think.

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