reviews\ Nov 8, 2002 at 7:00 pm

DDRMAX Dance Dance Revolution Max - PS2 - Review

DDRMAX is the latest console installment based on the popular Dance Dance Revolution series that provides gamers equipped with a simple and relatively inexpensive Dance Pad controller with the opportunity to burn off a few calories while simultaneously playing videogames, a feat that hasn’t been successfully pulled off since Nintendo released the double-sided “Power Pad” in the mid-80’s.  Arcade goers are, no doubt, already familiar with the addictive nature of DDR’s musical-foot-stepping method of progression and competitive multiplayer action, but PS2 fans haven’t been able to get in on the action until now: DDRMAX marks the first appearance of a DDR game developed specifically for the PS2 hardware.  It includes a 65+ set of songs, beating out the relatively recently released DDR Konamix in sheer musical variety, and even includes a component that allows you to take saved data from Konamix for use in DDRMAX.  That is the good news.  The bad news is that, unless you have somehow managed to miss all the Dance Dance Revolution PSX ports, there isn’t a whole lot to see here that is new or improved.  


One new thing that DDRMAX does bring to the table though, is “hold arrows”, which work in much the same way as traditional arrows (step in the direction on the dance pad at the precise moment that the on-screen indicator is aligned to the scrolling sets of arrows) but instead requires that you hold your foot on the correct arrow for a certain duration of time.  It is a cool addition and compliments the gameplay system nicely, but you’d think that the jump to 128-bit hardware would call for a more substantial evolution in the series.


Available gameplay modes in DDRMAX include the obligatory Game mode, which attempts to recreate the arcade experience, and for all intents and purposes, does.  And Workout mode, which keeps track of calories consumed during play, essentially an interactive workout video.  Lesson and Training mode offers newcomers to the game a chance to learn and practice various stepping-strategies.  An Edit mode is also incorporated, allowing you to create a custom dance routine, from this mode you can also download user-created data from DDR Konamix save-files assuming the song exists in both games.


The one area that this game could be drastically improved upon is its visual presentation.  While the in-game action is undeniably enhanced over the previous games on the original Playstation, they are still nowhere near impressive.  DDRMAX does away with the traditional low-polygon-count characters that dance along to the beat and replaces it with a large compilation of background animations that look like something between detailed Flash animations and WinAMP visualization plug-ins.  The lack of high-quality visuals may not be very noticeable initially on account of the almost-exclusive attention paid to the step zone indicators, but there is no real excuse for not at least attempting to take advantage of the PS2’s hardware.


Unsurprisingly, DDRMAX includes a wide assortment of musical genres and rhythm styles, dancing-fans shouldn’t have any trouble finding something to like in its catalog of songs.  Only a fraction of the included songs are exclusive to this version however, the majority of tunes are lifted straight out of past versions of the game, especially DDR Konamix.


Outside of a marginal graphical upgrade and a minor, albeit entertaining, gameplay tweak, this is basically the same game with a few new songs and features.  Depending on your level of interest in the DDR series, that may or may not be justification enough to warrant a purchase, but there is no doubt about the fact that DDRMAX is the best game yet to feature the “Dance Dance Revolution” moniker.  The improvements found in DDRMAX are minimal to be sure, but then, the solidly entertaining foundation of DDR’s easy-to-learn yet hard-to-master gameplay is in no need of any major retooling.



Gameplay: 8.3
Timing is key to DDR’s gameplay, timing and precision.  Whether you are playing with a Dual Shock or a Dance Pad, the idea is the same: tap or hold the corresponding directional arrow in sequence with the in-game indicators.  If you are playing with a Dual Shock instead of the Dance Pad, deduct two points from the overall score.


Graphics: 6.7
Clean, fluid, and interesting, though only marginally improved over its Playstation siblings.  While the visual presentation of DDRMAX certainly leaves a lot to be desired, chances are you won’t even have time to notice during heated dance sessions.


Sound: 8
With over five dozen songs to select from, it won’t be hard to find something you like.  Too many of the songs seem too similar but the sheer amount of musical selections makes DDRMAX the most fleshed out DDR port yet.


Difficulty: Medium - Hard
You want challenging gameplay?  DDRMAX delivers in spades.  Just try successfully completing ONI mode on its most intense setting and you’ll see what I mean. 


Concept: 8.2
Exercise and videogames rarely go hand-in-hand, but DDRMAX is the exception to the rule.  This concept is nothing new but Dance Dance Revolution is the only series to successfully pull it off.  Nevertheless, this is basically a minor update to the past DDR games for the original Playstation, which has been around for some time now.


Multiplayer: 8.6

If you can, playing this with two Dance Pads and two players is the way to go for maximum enjoyment.  The competitive multiplayer component in DDRMAX is nearly identical to the past games but it is still fun enough to keep you and a friend busy for hours on end, or until your legs give out, whichever comes first.


Overall: 8.1
As far as DDR games go, this here is about as good as your gonna get.  Fans of the PSX release, DDR Konamix, should also find satisfaction in the fact that this game is, to some extent, backwards compatible with it.  Any stepping data you created in Konamix can be easily transferred into DDRMAX.  Overall, there isn’t enough innovation or technical upgrades to make this title stand out from the previous DDR releases.  But don’t let that stop you, DDRMAX offers up tons of replay value and you might even shed a few pounds in the process, that is something that can’t be said for 99.9% of games out there.


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