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Dance Central


DDR can take a backseat.
When I saw the videos of people playing Dance Central in the Harmonix booth at E3 this year, I couldn’t help but laugh. The ridiculousness of shaking around in front of the Kinect camera was hilarious. I couldn’t see myself actually doing the same thing without looking like a fool. Fast forward a few months and Dance Central came across my desk this week. I popped it in out of curiosity to see what all the fuss was about and found myself covered in sweat several hours later trying to master moves like the Double Rainbow, Chicken Wing and Tiger Palm. I have it on my girlfriend’s authority that I looked completely ridiculous, but I honestly stopped caring after the first 30 minutes. When she started playing, I started to get concerned that my Xbox 360 wouldn’t have any other disc other than Dance Central in the tray for the next few weeks.

dance central hot girl backup dancers

The concept of the game is simple. You work through the music in the game attempting to unlock all the difficulty levels on each song and eventually master all the dance moves in the game. The starter levels are easy enough to nail, but the difficulty ramps up quickly and it actually pays to have some dancing background to be successful. I consider myself fairly limber, but some of these dances moves in succession are amazingly tough to perform, much less perfect. Thankfully, Harmonix included the “Break It Down” mode to practice all the moves during the dance complete with audio cues when to move your appendages. They also included a fairly strenuous Workout Mode that allows you to track calorie burning; a nice addition if you don’t want to lay out the case for the other Kinect exercise titles.

The Kinect system does a spectacular job of tracking player movement, both on the upper and lower body. I love that it’s able to see the difference between your arms waving and your torso gyrating. However, I got the feeling that it was somewhat forgiving for most starting players. It wasn’t as bad as bowling from your couch with Wii bowling, but a bit simplified. As long as you “stay between the lines” while watching your silhouette being tracked, the game counts that as successful dance moves. I also loved that Kinect recognized other people in the room as background dancers, if your friends want to get in on shaking their groove thing.

dance central breakdancing

The achievements are mostly targeted at getting high ratings on specific challenges or mastering a certain set of moves. There’s also unique achievements in the mix like burning 1000 calories in workout mode or nailing the Robot dance move. It’s geared more toward a player that wants to invest the time in learning all the moves and mastering all music, definitely more for the advanced player than the casual. For those into multiplayer, there’s a Dance Battle mode included for players to compete on the same routine. It gives a bit of an advantage to the second player, especially if they are practicing the routine while you are playing the first round. However, if both players have practiced already, it can make for an interesting battle.

Graphics

If you have played any over Harmonix title, you will immediately recognize the visual flair of the character models and the smooth animations. It feels like they took the models out of Rock Band and popped them right into Dance Central with a more colorful wardrobe and wider array of movements. The on-screen indicators of your movement are also very helpful in attempting to keep track of what’s going on during the music. The lighting effects that halo most of the dancers look cool as well. I didn’t experience any framerate issues and loading times seemed fine for the genre.

dance central white hat suit dancers

Audio

Obviously, Harmonix can’t wait to start rolling out the downloadable content (they actually already have), but there’s a great selection of well-known licensed music included in the game. You will hear musicians like Snoop, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Nelly Furtado, No Doubt, Beastie Boys, Kylie Minogue and Young MC in the mix. I actually preferred the classics over the newer tracks, numbers like 'Jungle Boogie' and 'Brick House'. The majority of the music is fairly up-tempo and easy to dance to. Similar to DDR, the voices of the on-screen dancers offer encouragement when you are nailing the moves. Some would call it grating over time, but the enthusiasm did keep me going when I continually failed.

Conclusion

Dance Central is clearly designed to attract a different demographic of gamers than the core Xbox 360 audience; bluntly put, women. My girlfriend has never wanted to play any game on my 360 until I popped some of the latest Kinect releases in, like Dance Central and Kinectimals>. That being said, Dance Central is a well built, phenomenal launch title for the Kinect platform for all types of gamers. Plus, there’s a slightly steep difficulty curve involved for those lifetime couch potatoes. This isn’t a game that you can excel at easily, especially in the latter stages of the game.

Harmonix did an excellent job marketing and positioning Dance Central as the must own Kinect title as it’s going to sell more Kinect systems than any other Kinect title currently available. If you have a Kinect and are looking for a fantastic party game, don’t hesitate to pick up Dance Central and start shaking your booty! I just hope they dedicate more effort into including a robust career mode in the next go-around.



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