Monday, 2 January 2012

Dance Central Review

Dance Central is the first "proper" dance game I have ever played. Whilst there have been plenty before it-think of the Dance Dance Revolution/Dancing Stage series for instance, but for me, this is the first time in which I've actually had to use my full body, rather than just the feet movements that the DDR series adopted with the dance mat. 

It takes a bit of courage to play a title like this in front of others, but once you've got over the embarrassment of dancing energetically to fully chroregraphed routines, this can actually be turned into a fun, and addictive party title. However, dancing along solo and completing the challenges along the way packs plenty of fun also. 

Created by Harmonix, the brains behind the Rockband series, Dance Central uses the Kinect to record the players complete body movements. Whilst the "Easy" difficulty may be rather forgiving in most dance moves, the later, more complex routines in the harder settings can provide a demanding, but still surprisingly fun, challenge. The player follows large on-screen "flash card" prompts, which range from simple side steps to much more complicated movements that require the use of both his or her legs and arms at the same time. 

Dance Central's track list includes more than 30 songs, which range from a variety of different genres, and provide a funky blend of modern and old songs. For instance, players will find themselves grooving along to "Jungle Boogie" by Kool and the Gang, or hip-swinging to the rhythm of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face". 
As you progress through Dance Central, you'll realise just how incredibly difficult this game can get. The hard difficulty holds some true challenges, which even I, who exercises pretty much daily, struggled with at times. Unfortunately it's a little too tricky to get a 4 or 5 star rating on some of the trickier songs on this difficulty, which tarnished my enjoyment, but only slight. It's the same with Rockband-I could only get so far before the difficulty started to get the better of me. However, some people may find this an absolute cakewalk. I guess it depends on your gaming expertise. 

Thankfully though, Dance Central does have a "Break It Down" mode which helps those who are struggling master the moves one move at a time. Players also have the option to slow down the routine until they feel they have mastered the steps. An instructor talks you through each move as you try it out, which is also incredibly helpful. After working through a "Break It Down" version of your chosen song, it's time to try out the proper performance. Nine times out of ten I found that the tutorial mode was beneficial, and I was able to get a better score than I had on the previous try. 
For those wanting to use Dance Central as a fitness tool, the game comes complete with a Workout Mode. In this mode, players will enter their weight, and then the game will record how many calories they have burned during their dance session. This mode is simply activated by ticking the "workout mode" box, which I always include during my sessions. It's surprising to see that you actually manage to burn a significant amount of calories during dancing. For instance, on my last playthrough, I burned 240 calories in just 35 minutes. Not bad for someone who has been known to have two left feet in the past. As well as actually giving you a workout, Dance Central will leave you covered in sweat by the end. Of course, the more effort you throw into the routines, the sweatier you will become, but some of the faster, more complex songs are incredibly demanding in this respect. You'll definitely appreciate that shower once your dancing session has been completed for the day. 

Unlike my other recent dance game purchase, Just Dance 3, I actually feel that I can follow the routines on screen. There are not any particularly unfair moves, but there are definitely moves that require a considerable amount of practice. I found the routines incredibly fun, and quite easy to pick up on at times, especially after practising it in the "Break It Down" mode. Menu navigation, which is done entirely by waving your hand over your desired option, may seem a little tricky at first, but it soon becomes second nature. 
The only aspects of the game which disappointed me slightly is that I wish there was more variety in the styles of music. Dance Central is filled with plenty of R&B, Hip-Hop and dance tracks, but it would of been nice if some rock, or even some more pop tracks were included in the mix. The cheesier tracks, like "Jungle Boogie", held some funky disco dance moves, which I found some of the funniest and most enjoyable routines in the game. It seems a shame that more of this wasn't included, as they'd definitely go down well if used as a party game. 

The game caters for the party audience in it's "Dance Battle" mode, where two players take it in turns to make it through a song. Whilst their score is combined to create an overall star rating, there is also an element of competition added where players scores are shown separately at the end. I have had plenty of laughs trying out this mode with friends and family, so I highly recommend grabbing a dancing partner to try this out. 

Overall, Dancing Central is an excellent Kinect title. It's great fun, it gets you fit, and makes for a perfect party game. There's some great songs on offer here, and even if you're not a fan of the music, the routines are a joy to complete. The game manages to combine video gaming with dancing superbly, and definitely deserves a positive mention.

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