Have you ever been to a bar or a club and saw people dancing and decided to become a wallflower rather than join in on the festivities? Perhaps you have witnessed entertaining dance sequences at a wedding, but only opted to join in on the slow dances or the terrible “Y.M.C.A.” by the Village People. Maybe you have attempted to dance and relegated to a few fist pumps and hip thrusts while you nervously laughed in prayer that the song would end soon. If these sound like the story of your life, then Dance Central isn’t the game to fix your woes, but it can be of great benefit to help body coordination.
Dance Central utilizes the Microsoft Kinect to the best of gaming peripheral’s ability at launch when stacked side-to-side to the other releases. Asking players to mirror the cues of flash cards on the right of the screen and a dancing avatar on the left that provides insight on how to the moves look in action, Dance Central is a simple title to play by your lonesome or with a group of friends.
It’s an inviting game that is a logical next step in improving the atmosphere of a gaming party with less plastic accessories and more space to freely interact with one another. And space is an integral key to playing Dance Central as a 3”x3” area is essential to keeping up the body-moving, knee-jerking, arm-twisting, and hip-swaying moves.
To better learn the moves, which aren’t too hard to learn after a few playthroughs, Dance Central provides a training mode in the form of Break it Down. It slows down each song to a snail pace so the maneuvers are easier to learn and comprehend. If players continue to fail, the game will slow it down even more to allow the player to catch up. After moving off easy and onto the medium and hard difficulties, the game ramps up by throwing in several new dance steps that require a higher degree of lateral movement. It’s essential to go through the steps to learn the moves, especially if your body or cardio isn’t in the best of shape.
The downside of Dance Central as a party game is that it only allows one player at a time to participate in the festivities when it comes to point-tracking. Sure, other players can dance alongside the main player – achievement points are rewarded for a cooperative freestyle dance – but there’s no real motivation to do so within the game. Instead, players must take turns to compete. While the in-between breather may help those who can’t keep up, it does create a lull in competitive action.
What Harmonix needs to bring with a sequel if they can’t provide true 1v1 gameplay is a purposeful freestyle segments and customizable avatars. As of right now, the freestyle sections are there for giggles, but provide little reason to not just stand there and wave arms back and forth to achieve the flawless rating. As for the avatars, they do the game justice in terms of visuals, but there’s no connection or attachment to them outside of making sure their movements are followed.
Of the songs provided on the disc, “Teach Me How To Jerk” by Audio Push, “Drop It Like It’s Hot” by Snopp Dogg and “Satisfaction” by Benny Benassi have turned out to be my personal favorites. Each of them offer new maneuvers that are thrilling to attempt and aren’t found in many of the tracks. Whether it’s attempting to accomplish a “UFO” or “the Robot”, they delivered excitement while tracks such as “Hey Mami” from FannyPack or “Galang ‘05” from M.I.A. didn’t get my adrenaline pumping.
Requiring no dance pad and only a good set of two feet that don’t stumble over one another, Dance Central is by large a success. It would’ve benefited with a longer set list and simultaneous two-player modes to provide longer lasting entertainment value. But alas, what we have set before us is an excellent starting point that contains a 32-song setlist with a good variety of dance moves to perform.
*Note, for those invested in Harmonix’s stellar track record of releasing downloadable content, here is a quick look of what is available for 240 Microsoft Points ($2.99) per track:
“Control” – Janet Jackson
“Temperature” – Sean Paul
“I Got You Dancing” – Lady Sovereign
“Because of You” – Ne-Yo
“I Gotta Feeling” – Black Eyed Peas (Releases November 23)
“Word Up” – Cameo (Releases November 23)
“Whoomp There It Is” – Tag Team (Releases November 23)