Giant Bomb Review

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Dance Central Review

4
  • X360

Dance Central is a lot of fun, but the game surrounding the dancing feels really basic.


 The boombox keeps track of your score. The boombox sees all.
Dance Central is successful both as a rhythm game and as a good bit of proof that the brand-new Kinect sensor for the Xbox 360 is a functional piece of cool technology. The game does a fine job of detecting your body, using that data to judge your ability to mimic on-screen dancers through a variety of songs and routines. Though it's a little thin on modes and options other than picking a song and dancing, the baseline gameplay is good enough to make Dance Central the game to have if you buy a Kinect.

That baseline gameplay has you moving your body around to match a pre-set routine. The routine is made up of many different types of moves, each of which is broken down and listed on a "flash card" that appears on the right side of the screen. Almost like the "next" box in a Tetris game, you can also see the next couple of flashcards, giving you time to get ready for a transition when you're done with the current step. These individual moves range from incredibly simple stuff, like stepping side-to-side in time with the music all the way up to full spins, jazz squares, and so on. The closer you are to the game's expectations, the better you score. If you're off, limbs on the game's on-screen dancer begin to glow red, quickly letting you know what you're getting wrong. This feedback system is great and the whole thing feels like a big step forward for the dance game genre, largely because the game is actually looking at your entire body instead of your actions on a floor mat or how you can move a motion controller. You feel like you're actually up there dancing, and the game is accurate enough to judge you on your full-body performance, rather than just extrapolating your moves from whatever limited input it can gather.

While it's possible to correct your mistakes on the fly, your best bet at success is to prepare for the dance ahead of time. For that, there's a mode called "Break It Down," where you're taken through a song's specific steps, one at a time, and are given the chance to practice them a few times. If you nail them on the first try, the practice mode moves on, but if you're having trouble, it'll slow down and spend a little time with you on those moves. This is available for the easy, medium, and hard settings on each song.

Though every individual song is open to you right from the beginning of the game, Dance Central does lock away some of its content behind a very basic progression. At the outset, you'll only be able to dance the easy version of a song. If you get at least three of the five stars available for that song, you'll unlock medium. Doing that on medium gets you the hard version of the dance. The difference in difficulty is mostly that the easy dances have you repeating the easier parts of a routine instead of getting into the trickier steps. As you move up, basic sidesteps and claps are replaced with more elaborate moves. Difficulty is definitely relative, though, as some songs are just inherently more difficult than others. I suspect it'll be a case where some players are better at some songs and worse at others, depending on your individual dance weakness. My coordination lapses occur when I have to cross things up, like using my right arm and my left leg simultaneously. If I break the moves down in the practice mode, though, it's usually something I can warm up to. Overall, most of the dances seem doable, but it'll probably help if you already have at least a basic sense of rhythm to know when to expect changes and such.

Some of the steps are a lot easier than others, but practice makes perfect. 
The other modes include the ability to turn off flashcards, a basic workout mode that gives you a quick and dirty calorie counter as you play, and a two-player mode that doesn't actually let two players dance at the same time. Instead, it's a dance battle, where one player dances a sequence, then changes out with the other player during a freestyle section. Then the other player dances the same sequence, and the song continues. It's not a great substitute for a proper simultaneous mode, but considering how much movement you're doing while you're up there, it's easy to see how dancing alongside someone else could be very, very dangerous.

Dance Central also has one of the best interfaces of any of the Kinect launch games. Instead of forcing you to hold your hand over a button and leave it there for way too long, you move your hands up and down to move through the menus, and then "slap" at the screen from right to left to select an item. It's a much faster solution... though even nicer is the way the game just lets you pick up a controller and make the selections normally, if you'd like.

There's a nice variety of danceable music in the game, though like all things, it begins and ends with Lady Gaga. "Poker Face" is the easiest, first song on the list while "Just Dance" is the last. Different types of hip-hop, electronic, dance, and R&B music can be found here alongside a handful of straight-up pop songs. Even the songs that I found personally distasteful--Soulja Boy's "Crank Dat" comes to mind--were still fun in-game. The game also launched with some downloadable additions, which just integrate themselves into the song list and sort by difficulty, just like the rest. Each difficulty tier culminates in a bit of a mash-up, where you'll perform steps from all of the songs in one session. It's a neat idea, but the way the songs grind together isn't especially graceful, so these mixes sort of jerk from one song to the next. Also, a lot of the songs have been edited for length.

The game offers different backgrounds and different dancers, and these look pretty good, but you aren't going to be blown away by how the game presents itself. Watching and copying the dancer is core to the gameplay, so the camera is locked down during the game, and there aren't any particularly flashy effects. Overall, it has a functional look with some nice dancer designs and animation.

Dance Central feels very basic and leaves a lot of room for future expansion, but it's also a lot of fun in its current state. It's also one of the best Kinect games out there, so if you've got one of those, make sure you pick up one of these, as well. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
57 Comments
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Posted by Venatio

DANCE!

Posted by Lukeweizer

CENTRAL!

Posted by cap123

IS!

Edited by Claude

The first two comments are pure gold.
EDIT
And I fucked it up. Sorry.

Posted by cap123

haha :(

Posted by MattDementous

:P 

Posted by Bobdaman18

ugg, why didn't i stay logged in
Posted by SuperSambo
@Bobdaman18 said:
" ugg, why didn't i stay logged in "
Why would you log out :S
Posted by shinluis
@Claude said:
" The first two comments are pure gold. EDIT And I fucked it up. Sorry. "
QFT
Online
Posted by gla55jAw

Main page, why do you tempt me with 0 comments when there clearly are comments!

Posted by one_2nd
@Claude said:
" The first two comments are pure gold. EDIT And I fucked it up. Sorry. "
good job...
Posted by Bloodgraiv3

Looking forward to seeing the dance masters review :P
Posted by Lilyvalley

This is one of the few Kinect games that would make me buy Kinect. All the other stuff I've seen so far for it seems pretty...well, shit.

Posted by Gav47

My Fight Money!! (Quest Xp) 

Posted by IamTerics

Nice review. Good thing I bet it all on ici.

Posted by InfiniteGeass

I kind of think Dance Masters would appeal to me more with it's song selection, but I can see how people would like this more.

Posted by Keen_12

Gonna pick this up and learn some moves in my living room.. then im going downtown to show em off and, hopefully, pick up chicks! Thanks Jeff

Posted by ape_dosmil
@Branthog: But here you are posting on yet another Dance Central related article Branthog. For someone who "couldn't possibly care less" about the game you're always there with your comment. Also since when have core gamers been middle aged? Sure a lot of middle aged guys play games but I'm pretty sure the core gamer crowd is still pretty much late teens and twenty-somethings.
Posted by TheH1ppo
@Branthog:  Except for the fact that people at clubs "dancing" are just swaying or grinding, not much actual dancing taking place. I've never danced before in my life but I took a risk on dance central and have enjoyed the heck out of it.
Posted by Lukeweizer
@TheH1ppo said:
" @Branthog:  Except for the fact that people at clubs "dancing" are just swaying or grinding, not much actual dancing taking place. I've never danced before in my life but I took a risk on dance central and have enjoyed the heck out of it. "
Are you implying they should make a Club Dancing game called "Grind Central"?
Posted by RiotBananas

YES I GET LOTS OF MONEYS NOW.

Posted by drag

Not for me, but I can appreciate that they've actually thought about the game some before making it. That much was apparent even from how the menus work ... any developers who didn't think 'wow holding your hand over something to select it is pretty shitty, there's gotta be a better way to do that' I have no confidence in. 

Posted by kagekage

CURSE YOU JEFF YOU COST ME 1000 QP!!!!!!!

Posted by Lobst
@Branthog: I absolutely cannot wait to see how your armchair demography works out for Dance Central in sales.
 
 PS: People rarely "sit" while playing a dance game. (Unless they're playing Just Dance, I mean~)

Posted by kitsune_conundrum

I feel that if they put the hand tracking stuff from the konami dance game thing, it'd be great.

Posted by handlas

my mom asked me to buy her a kinect and this game for Christmas.
 
Microsoft wins.

Posted by dangeRUSS04

makes me wanna dance

Posted by RecSpec

I am tempted to go out and buy this with Kinect.
 
I actually had fun with DDR back in the day.

Posted by ParaParaKing

Effing called it.

Posted by NickNorman

Based on Vignocchi logic (the best kind), THIS GAME IS AS GOOD AS BLACK OPS

Posted by Brendan

I love that Branthog has commented on every possible article relating to Dance Central that he can, while every single time saying that he couldn't care less about it.  It's pretty pathetic.
Posted by lokilaufey
@Branthog said:
core gamer audience of straight middle aged males
 
@Branthog said: 
The average gamer is 35 years old.  
35 is middle aged now and I just missed the memo? Here I've learned all my life that it was 40+. 
 
Guess my feelings of starting to feel old already make sense now.
Posted by Bouke

I would like to play this before i make my decision on buying it or not...
Posted by niamahai

is it just me or the cover is depicting the lady trying to knee the dude in the crotch.

Posted by damswedon

I called it and won sweet xps.

Posted by baladec

It sounds silly, but this game might sell me on finally getting a 360. 
 
What would really put me over the edge is if the songsmith version of "Crank That" was available in the game. For those who have no idea what I'm talking about:  http://www.digyourowngrave.com/soulja-boy-crank-that-songsmith-version/ 

Posted by blalala
@NickNorman said:
" Based on Vignocchi logic (the best kind), THIS GAME IS AS GOOD AS BLACK OPS "
High five!
Posted by SuperSambo
@Branthog said:
" I've never understood the audience for this game. The core gamer audience of straight middle aged males couldn't possibly care less and everyone else who actually gives a shit about dancing is . . . you know, out at the club dancing. "
I guess people who want to have fun and dont sweat while trolling on something they hate.
Posted by RagingLion

Damn me and my optimism - my poor lost points.      /meta nonsense
 
This still seems really cool.  I'd love to try this game out at some point but I don't know if anyone I know will be getting a Kinect and if the opportunity will arise.  Hopefully one day.

Posted by Mrskidders
@niamahai: It's just you.
Posted by blaakmawf

This alone isn't gonna sell me on kinect.

Posted by Wuddel

I am a almost 32 year old single guy and I am enjoying it very much. 
 
Also the core gamer usually needs a workout. At least west of the big pond, I guess ;)

Posted by Napalm

I am so weirdly interested in this game. I've been getting into electronic and hip hop way more than I ever normally would, so seeing this beat-driven dancing game has me curious.

Posted by gabeq224
@Claude said:
" The first two comments are pure gold. EDIT And I fucked it up. Sorry. "
C-C-C-C-Combo breaker
Posted by humbug

My back feels all contorted and out of wack.  Thanks Kinect.

Posted by PK_Koopa

Called it! 
Sweet EXP should be coming my way.

Posted by moomoney

This game is a pretty serious workout without feeling like it. It's also one of the few where I feel like my meager 6.5' of space is good enough to play it in.

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