A dancing game that utilizes Microsoft's hands-free Kinect device seems like the sort of thing that would be a natural fit. It also, predictably, seems like one of the things that people are quickest to write off as soon as they see it. Either they're above it or they're so convinced that they're unable to dance that they're unwilling to give it a shot. Since I'll try just about anything once, I fell more into the latter camp.
Maybe I should have considered Harmonix's track record a bit more. With the Rock Band series, the company's done well at providing something that's fun across multiple levels of difficulty. That philosophy appears to carry over into Dance Central, the company's new Kinect dancing game. I danced to Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" in front of a television, and it worked out just fine.
Of course, I was playing on easy. At the lowest of its three difficulty settings, Dance Central focuses more on basic rhythm by giving you easier steps to perform. Maybe "steps" is a bit of a misnomer, because stepping back and forth quickly gives way to stepping back and forth with claps, rocking your arms above your head, and other simple, but effective full-body stuff. By the end of the first verse, I had it down, pulling off the simplified moves with "flawless" timing. Perhaps I've been a hidden dancer for all of these years? Well, probably not. Easy is, well, easy. But it still felt pretty satisfying and it felt like the Kinect hardware was accurately seeing what I was doing. Though you're barely represented on the screen (a small window shows your outline), the game gives you feedback by having the body parts you aren't using properly flash red on the on-screen dancer, who serves as a guide for you to match movements with.
Though the game won't offer two-player simultaneous play, the game does feature a multiplayer mode called "dance battle." Though Harmonix isn't ready to share details on that mode, it sounds like the sort of mode where one could serve or perhaps... get served.
It sounds like the game's developers have similar plans for downloadable add-ons as it has for its Rock Band series, and the songs in the demo so far include Bell Biv DeVoe's "Poison," No Doubt's "Hella Good," M.I.A's "Galang '05," and a couple of others. With a collection of music that might actually be worth dancing to, Dance Central is the first game that has me thinking there might be something to this whole Kinect thing, after all.
The game is currently scheduled to release later this year, whenever Microsoft's fancy robot camera/radioactive X-ray murder device goes on sale.