Friday, October 28, 2011

Dance Central 2 Review - Pump Up the Jams

Score:  8.25 / 10

Dance Central 2
Xbox 360 Kinect
Developer: Harmonix
Publisher: Harmonix
Release Date: October 25th, 2011

  • New options in Break it Down mode help in perfecting moves
  • Choreography is both challenging and welcoming to newcomers
  • Ability to jump in or out of a song at any time for two players
  • Voice recognition makes navigation much easier
  • Online still very much absent besides leaderboards
  • Slight cost to transfer DC1 songs over
  • Campaign mode seems tacked on
Dance Central is one of those guilty pleasure games. The one you swear you only play with your little nephews, when in actuality you five starred every song on Hard....alright well that's more centered toward my experience. Love it or hate it, Dance Central is the best running franchise on the Kinect, and possibly the best use of the hardware. With the influx of dance games on the market, the first installment stood above the rest with its stellar choreography, set list, and simplicity to get even the most rhythmically challenged individual on their feet. The second installment is a slight improvement, providing the familiar "one more song" feel.

Dance, Sucka!

Dance Central is easy to understand, and simpler to get into. You simply mimic the avatar on screen, using flashcards that highlight key parts of the body involved with a move. These are strung together to form a routine, which you are evaluated on by your body placement. Red highlights over certain areas allow the game to give active feedback and for you to adjust accordingly. It's the same system the first game used, and it still holds up fairly well. Though the Kinect hardware reads the moves well enough, the game is a little too lenient on awarding some moves. There were times when the avatar would go crazy, and I would move an arm or leg two inches and still have it count. Mind you, these are seldom occurrences, and the routines are much more enjoyable to perform this time around, even on Easy mode.

For the single player mode, there is a "crew challenge". Essentially it is you trying to prove yourself to local crews, but in reality it is simply the same play list you can go through if you just hop into dance mode. There is no real story, no character customization, no real incentive at all. This seems like a disappointment, considering this is the same company that provided the enjoyable single player for Rock Band.
The set list this time around contains various artists that range from Nikki Minaj, to Rihanna, to Daft Punk. There is something for everyone on the list, and the variety insures you will find a favorite track among the ones presented. While the diversity of tracks is a little more modern this time around, it's enough to satisfy. Luckily, all of them come unlocked if you wish to hop right into the routine of your favorite on the list.

It Takes Two

The focus of two players is very obviously shoved in your face as each avatar crew consists of two people, but it is an area that is greatly improved. Two people can now do the same routine at the same time, whether competitive or co-operative. A new interesting feature is the ability of the second person to hop in or out at any time, so if one person suffers a hernia they can leave and not affect your performance further.

While the cooperative just allows two to dance at once, it is the competitive mode that truly shines. Battle mode pits player against player, tallying scores and moves. The infamous "freestyle" breaks have been replaced with a lottery wheel of moves plucked from the song. The first to perform the shuffle of moves on screen will get additional points. This makes it any one's game, as some are worth more points than others and its first come, first serve. There are also breaks in the song where the game focuses on one person's performance for a certain section. It is a refined mode that promises hours of comebacks and spotlight steals.

Break it Down for Me

Practicing for a routine is key on the later songs as Hard mode has some more complicated choreography, granting the purpose of Break it Down mode. This allows you to take the routine move by move and perfect the look. You have the ability to slow the move down to really make sure you are hitting it correctly, and the game will actually test you three times to make sure you have it down.

The new features to Break it Down are incredibly helpful. You have the ability to record yourself performing the move and compare it to the avatar on screen, possibly the best use ever to compare leg and arm placement. There is also voice integration that makes it easy to replay, speed up, or slow down a move to practice. Before you even begin, you can concentrate on a certain set of moves and create a playlist of the ones giving you trouble to practice.

It is the most useful mode to improve your performance, and the best upgrade the game has gotten.
I Got a Fever

Besides the basics of Break it Down, there are other additional options at your disposal. Playlists allow you to conjure together your favorite songs of the bunch to play in succession. Capping out at 20, you no longer need to navigate the menus as often to search for the ones you enjoy dancing to the most. Voice recognition even allows everything to be hands free if you simply want to jump right in, by saying the song title, difficulty, and play mode instantly.

There is even the return of Fitness mode. This healthy-minded option will count how many calories you burn while playing the game. This way, you can push yourself to pass out on "Baby Got Back" and feel good about yourself afterword.
With the improvements also come the disappointments. Once you play through the Crew Challenge, that is the extent of unlockable crews. The possibility of dance crew creation and an in-game economy could have extended single player immensely. You can transfer your songs from the first game to the second game, though the small five buck fee is a slight irritation. Though the flash cards describe the movements decent enough for the lower difficulties, Hard mode still requires frequent visits to Break it Down mode.


While the overall game is a blast, there was not enough new content to truly blow me away. Sure the new improvements make it superior to the first, but that's where it stops. There are plenty of songs to perfect and with DLC on the way, the library can only get bigger. In the never ending line of dance games that are flooding the market, Dance Central 2 still stands out among the rest as the most enjoyable experience.

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