Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dance Central Review - And it Goes a Little Something like this!

Score 8/10

Dance Central
Developer: Harmonix
Publisher: MTV Games
Release Date: November 4th, 2010

  • Simple, addictive gameplay
  • Difficulty can accommodate rhythmically challenged to the pop and lock specialists
  • Break-it-Down mode does a great job slowing each move down to perfect your performance
  • Great variety in track listing gives something for everyone to enjoy
  • The slight Kinect lag becomes slightly more evident on harder difficulties
  • Judging can be a bit too critical on some of the moves
  • No online battles, you are limited to two players
  • Hard to jump into Perform it mode without studying the moves
The Kinect has a good handful of titles to showcase the hardware at launch, but Dance Central acts as one of the first third-party applications. Harmonix, famous for their rhythm game Rock Band, has decided to show exactly what the Kinect is capable of with Dance Central. Ditching plastic instruments, it's now up to your own physical abilities to dance your way to the top.

Just Bust a Move

Dance Central is all about one thing, following the cue cards and avatar on screen and getting the satisfaction of pulling off a solid dance routine. There is no plot, no attempt at an upgrade system or heavy storyline, just dancing; a premise that is missed in most games these days.

Dance Central is simple enough to follow. You pick one of the 35 songs available and match the movements on screen with an avatar to guide how your moves should be performed properly. What starts out as simple child's play of sliding back and forth, soon becomes a pop and lock freestyle fest requiring timing, technique, and practice. The Kinect reads your performance by identifying your arm and leg placement. Any wrong placement, is highlighted in red on the avatar on screen, making it easy to spot and adjust.

The great thing about Dance Central is the difficulty range. If you are part of the rhythmically challenged crowd, Easy mode does a great job of repeating the same move for a good few turns to adjust you to reading the cards. As you perform more dances, you start to learn how the cards gesture and can guess what action is needed. There comes a great sense of satisfaction from successfully completing a song with 5 stars, providing incentive to keep at it.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you need additional help, there is a very handy Break-it-Down option for each difficulty. This lets you tackle each move one at a time. If you pass it flawlessly, it's given a check mark and you move on to the next one. If you perform the move sloppy, it makes you repeat the move successfully three times before moving on.

It acts as a great feature early on, but soon becomes a necessity for the tougher difficulties. You find yourself having to go through this mode before even attempting a song just to be able to do remotely good. While it would be nice to be able to fire up a song and just follow along, it sort of discourages you from just jumping right in on the latter songs.

Variety is the Spice of Life

While Dance Central has a few obvious tracks included, the variety available is impressive. There are 35 tracks available, and all are unlocked from the start. These range from Salt N Pepa's "Push It" to The Commodore's "Brick House".

With a variety of songs, comes a variety of dance moves. Rarely do you repeat the same move twice in a song, making each a unique experience. There are plenty of moves tailored directly to the song in questions, using pop and lock techniques on some of the typical hits and classic disco moves on the early 70s songs.

You will be quick to pick favorites and master their techniques to show off.

Laaaag and LAN! 

Unfortunately for Dance Central, the biggest downside lies in the Kinect's slight lag, which becomes slightly more apparent on the harder difficulties. In Break it Down mode, I found myself messing up on a few move cards. After matching it perfectly, I began to scratch my head as to what could be wrong. I tried performing it faster than the avatar on screen and ended up hitting it spot on.

For a game that measures accuracy, Dance Central seems a bit iffy. On some moves, it will be overly lenient, still accepting you hit a move even if you rotated the opposite direction. In other cases, you find it judging you far too critical; in which the slightest arm angle off will cause you to mess up a combo.

For being a game by Harmonix, I expected more in the multiplayer department. The most you can do is have a two player battle, where it stops midway through and asks Player 2 to take the stage and they compare scores. The only online component is a high score that will compare to your friends list. Considering the features Rock Band contained, I expected a lot more. Is it too much to ask for a dance troupe co-op mode?


Though the game has its share of flaws, Dance Central is a prime example of what a Kinect game should feel like. It's nice to see that through the typical software we see at launch, there is one game that truly utilizes this technology the way it needed to. Though a few additional features would be welcome, it is a great start for both Dance Central and the Kinect.

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