Review | Dance Central
Everybody dance now
Format: Xbox 360| Genre: Dance | Publisher: Microsoft | Developer: Harmonix | Release date: 10/11/2010 | Price: £39.99
Marco Fiori becomes James Brown for the day with DANCE CENTRAL.
MEN DON’T dance. It’s a fact. No matter how many scientific studies are conducted, the male race is pitiful at dancing and knowing our limitations, we refuse to shake our hips in public. Weddings and nightclubs, (naturally under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol), might be the exception, but a dancing video game on the Xbox 360? – you’ve got to be out of your mind.
Dance Central comes courtesy of Harmonix, the developer powerhouse behind the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games. With such a pedigree in rhythm based games, it’s only natural that they’ve gotten behind Kinect. Kinect offers huge potential, especially for such a visual activity as dancing. In the past (bar Let’s Dance on the Wii), we’ve been limited to dance mats where you match the corresponding foot to the arrow shown on screen. This approach as an actual recreation of dancing proves limited because of a lack of upper body movement (in fact, if we’re being obtuse, when considering the ‘man shuffle’ – move side to side in a stiff manner attempting to look blasé about dancing – it could actually be true).
Kinect blows this aged approach out of the water. As the marketing implies, you are the controller and it’s definitely true in Dance Central’s case. Basically a case of ‘monkey see, monkey do’ and depending on the difficulty of the song (of which there are a wide mix of genres), you’re tasked with copying steps in time with the music. It sounds simplistic, but in reality it’s more tricky than you’d think.
Thankfully the sensor manages to understand what you’re doing with each part of your body, scoring you according to the proficiency. You may be getting the arm movements correct, but your feet could be out of sync. If you’re not doing a component of the move correctly, a red outline around the body part in question notifies the player. A coloured circle at the foot of the player also lets you know about your overall effectiveness. It’s a system that works perfectly, ensuring you’re informed of your discrepancies while at the same time, not detracting from the fun.
Get Up, Get On Up
Did we mention how enjoyable the game is? Dance Central is by far the best launch title on Kinect (Kinect Sports comes in at a close second) and it’s because Harmonix have thought hard about what entertains people. After around five minutes of ‘breaking down’ a song (which is where a vocal tutor leads you slowly through the steps in each song), you’ll have lost your inhibitions.
There’s no single reason to explain why it’s such an enjoyable game. Throw multiple people into the mix and it’s just one long stream of laughter as you collectively mock each other’s efforts. It’s fun alone or with friends. Anyone can play it, and if you can just get them in front of the sensor, they’ll be preaching its praises to a similar degree.
It doesn’t matter if you’re even a fan of the music (which ranges from 70s Disco to Gaga-induced Pop), it’s the act of dancing which shines. With a learning curve that’s non-existent (although mastering the songs on higher difficulties is definitely a challenge), there’s no traditional gaming barriers preventing play. Sure, Kinect’s target audience is undeniably the casual player, but anyone with an ounce of fun in their body will enjoy Dance Central.
OK, so you’ll hardly look ‘cool’ doing the moves and the realisation of what you actually look like comes across when the freestyle sections crop up (Kinect takes great pleasure in photographing a montage before replaying it to you for maximum embarrassment), but its awkwardness is irrelevant. With two players taking part in a Dance Battle, the game really shows off its social nature. Sitting down, playing an FPS is all well and good, but anything that gets people moving, laughing and generally having a great time must be commended.
Throw in a workout mode to get your heart racing (which it does, even in the standard modes) and you’ve got what can be called Kinect’s flagship title. It’s but a glimpse into what the future holds and yet another example of how gaming is evolving for the better. To think how far we’ve come and it’s genuinely exciting that this is only really the beginning. Philosophical murmurs aside, Dance Central comes highly recommended, and if you’ve invested in Kinect already, it’s the must have game for your collection. You might have trouble convincing the hardcore elite, but for everyone else, it’s fantastic.