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Old 11-18-2010, 11:38 AM   #1
gzsfrk
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[360] - Dance Central Review

Dance Central Review [360]

Developed by: Harmonix Music Systems
Published by: MTV Games
You pay: $49.99
Release Date: November 4, 2010Matt 'gzsfrk' Williams


3DDR

So here we are: 2 weeks into the grand Kinect experiment. Despite a rather underwhelming launch library, the 360 add-on seems to be doing brisk sales (if early reports are to be believed), with positive momentum heading into the holiday buying rush. Personally, I attribute the success to two things: brilliant marketing and Dance Central. While it was a stroke of genius and a huge coup by Microsoft to have daytime talk juggernauts Oprah and Ellen hawking the motion control platform to their audiences, there’s a more subtle movement of buyers who have been convinced to pick up a Kinect not because it was a glorified book of the month recommendation or the “healthier” videogame alternative that responsible moms should buy for their kids, but rather because they tried or heard someone else talking about MTV Games’ Dance Central.


Keep in mind that games based around dancing have a long history of appealing to hardcore and casual gamers alike. Ever since Konami introduced the first Dance Dance Revolution cabinet to arcades in the late 90s, there’s been an eclectic mix of button stompers drawn to the games: hippies, geeks, after hours corporate types, hipsters, shy wallflowers, and even the physically challenged. The underlying theme that emerged was this: there’s a huge population of people who like to dance and will jump at a convenient opportunity to do so. DDR home console ports sold steadily for over a decade, and even I shudder to think about how much money I’ve spent on DDR titles and dance pads over the years. Then in late 2009, Ubisoft released Just Dance--a Wii exclusive which proved to be an unexpected phenom for the system. That game upped the ante over the admittedly stale DDR formula by using the Wii’s motion tracking controllers to more closely approximate actual dance moves. Even though the movement detection was laughably bad, Just Dance saw massive sales, especially in North America and Europe.

Not one to let a profitable music genre fad pass them by, developer Harmonix took notice and quickly began work on their own take of the dance genre: a game built around the technology of the recently revealed Project Natal. Fast forward to E3 2010, and their offering--Dance Central--proved to be the surprise hit of the newly-renamed Kinect’s lineup. And now that I have my own copy of the game, it’s easy to see why those at E3 were so drawn to it. With its surprisingly accurate motion detection and a nice balance of both past favorites and more modern musical fare, Dance Central offers players a leap forward to the next evolution of the dance game and a much-needed shot in the arm to the rhythm genre in general.


Let’s be frank--there’s really nothing terribly complex to describe here. You stand in front of the Kinect and dance to the music that plays, performing moves that mirror what the on-screen avatar is doing. But it’s within that same simplicity that the genius of Dance Central (and perhaps the future success of the Kinect) lies. From the Minority-Report-style swiping menu interface to the hop in/hop out gameplay, this game oozes intuitive design. Those who want to play don’t need to have the controls explained to them or deal with some convoluted sign-in process: they just walk in front of the television, choose their song, and get their groove on. It’s almost as if the game itself succeeds by doing its best to simply stay out of the way and facilitate a good time while hanging about the periphery. Absolutely brilliant.

As I mentioned, there’s a good mix of music that represents a wide variety of popular dances from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, as well as from the modern pop music scene. Whether you’re in the mood to Push It with Salt-n-Pepa or you feel like putting on your meat dress and getting your Gaga on, chances are you’ll see something in the song list you can dance to (as well as likely bring back some embarrassing memories). The dances accompanying the tracks were scripted using choreographers and professional dancers, so you can pretty much assume that if you saw the moves in the music video or at the club, Dance Central will have you doing the same in front of your TV.


Harmonix has also struck a good balance with the difficulty. In addition to having songs with dances that, by the nature of their moves, range from simple and easy to complex and difficult, you can also select either Easy, Medium, or Hard difficulty. The latter setting determines not only the complexity and speed of the dance moves you’re fed, but also how stringently the game will judge you. On Easy mode, sure--you can get away with a half-hearted Double Dig’em in “Evacuate the Dance Floor”. But crank the difficulty up to Medium or Hard, and you’d better dip that head like a ladle if you want the points.

One nice feature of the game that goes hand-in-hand with the scalable difficulty is the in-game feedback you receive to let you know how you’re doing. Hit all your marks and the ground will light up around your avatar. But start missing moves or be a little too unenthusiastic, and the limbs of your in-game dancer will glow red letting you know which of your real-world appendages isn’t grooving up to snuff. It’s this same mechanism that lets you know right off the bat that, unlike Just Dance, you can’t get away with simply twitching through the motions and expect a 5- or even 4-star performance. No, your whole body’s going to have to pitch in for this one. My advice? Stretch before playing.


The game offers a psuedo-multiplayer mode called “Dance Battle”, but it’s really lackluster. It involves two players engaging in hot-seat dancing over the course of a song. Essentially, you take turns until the round is over. My wife and I didn’t really get much enjoyment from this game type, as it really breaks you out of your groove when you’re in the middle of a song only to have it stop you at several points so the other player can jump in. Harmonix has indicated that they weren’t able to implement true multiplayer in Dance Central because of time constraints in the development cycle for the title, which does give hope that we will see it added later either in the form of an update for the current game or, at the very least, as a play mode in the inevitable sequel. Still, it’s a solid ding against their first dance offering that they were unable to replicate one of DDR and Just Dance’s strongest features.

Aside from the lackluster multiplayer, my only other real complaint against the game is that the menus can sometimes be a bit under-responsive, occasionally requiring you to full on slap rather than swipe your intended selection. Still, my overall impression of Dance Central remains extremely positive. It is far and away the first killer app for the Kinect, a platform that would have otherwise been sorely in need of purchase justification without such a quality title included among its initial offerings. After all, even Oprah can only get you so far.


  • The technology just works; uses Kinect to do an effective job of capturing body movements
  • Great selection of music featuring a wide array of trendy dance tracks from both the modern day and bygone eras
  • Visual feedback during songs tells you which part of your body is missing the step
  • Wide range of difficulty settings and dance move complexity means even the most rhythm-deprived can find their song and join in
  • The “one at a time” dance battles are no substitute for true simultaneous multiplayer
  • The menu system can occasionally be a bit under-responsive
  • Adult males in their mid-30s and Lady Gaga dance moves--never the two should meet
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Old 11-18-2010, 11:39 AM   #2
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Old 11-18-2010, 11:52 AM   #3
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needs gzsfrk dancing video or the review never happend
thanks as always for the read ;-)
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Old 11-18-2010, 11:59 AM   #4
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needs gzsfrk dancing video or the review never happend
thanks as always for the read ;-)
Actually, you can get a brief glimpse of me dancing in-game if you watch closely during the intro of my Def Jam Rapstar video review.

That being said, I'm trying to get the wife to let me film her dancing to Funky Town and post it in this thread. For a woman who grew up in the 90s, she's amazingly adept at disco moves.
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Old 11-18-2010, 12:30 PM   #5
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Those tags are spot on. Great review gzsfrk.
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Old 11-18-2010, 02:08 PM   #6
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For a woman who grew up in the 90s, she's amazingly adept at disco moves.

We'll be the judge of that
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Old 11-18-2010, 02:57 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GZSFRK
Those who want to play donít need to have the controls explained to them or deal with some convoluted sign-in process: they just walk in front of the television, choose their song, and get their groove on. Itís almost as if the game itself succeeds by doing its best to simply stay out of the way and facilitate a good time while hanging about the periphery. Absolutely brilliant.
That quote is just one of the strong bullet points for Dance Central. The game is great, great enough that I dare say I would buy a Kinect just to play Dance Central. Yes it is that good.

It's really not that far fetched to make this claim. How many of us have spent $100, $200, or dare I say maybe even $300 on Rock Band?

The motion controls are fairly spot on, I even tried to fake it out and be lazy on some moves. I would say gut feeling is that 95% of the time the camera noticed I was being lazy or falling behind with the moves.

Best reason to own Dance Central? Watching your significant other dance in less than full clothing... No this will not end up on youtube you wolves!
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Old 11-18-2010, 03:22 PM   #8
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...MS records you via Kinect...it's ALWAYS WATCHING you. Your girlfriend is being watched by Bill Gates...Ooooooooooooooooh! :P
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Old 11-18-2010, 03:22 PM   #9
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Watching your significant other dance in less than full clothing... No this will not end up on youtube you wolves!

For ole times sake...


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Old 11-18-2010, 03:23 PM   #10
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I personally like the dance battle mode because its better for allowing you to taunt and also laugh at your opponent attempt moves.
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Old 11-18-2010, 03:54 PM   #11
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For ole times sake...


You're just chomping at the bit, aren't you bjc?
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Old 11-18-2010, 04:46 PM   #12
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Great review, gzsfrk.
Totally spot-on. Me and the gf have invited other couples over to 'drink and dance'.
This is THE game for the kinect. I just wish there was a story mode. Like maybe a ridiculous "stomp the yard" pseudo-story.
Just remember, as my gf told me when I tried to play 2 songs in a row without giving her a turn:
"nobody puts bebe in the corner".
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Old 11-19-2010, 01:34 AM   #13
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Someone needs to create a strip-Dance-Central party game >_>
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Old 11-20-2010, 01:22 PM   #14
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Is it all strictly "American" music? Is there an option for $DLC? My daughters(13 and 16) are really into j-pop. I mean they'd like it for just the dancing but any j-pop and it would become a must have for christmas.
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Old 11-20-2010, 02:18 PM   #15
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Is it all strictly "American" music? Is there an option for $DLC? My daughters(13 and 16) are really into j-pop. I mean they'd like it for just the dancing but any j-pop and it would become a must have for christmas.
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Old 11-20-2010, 09:39 PM   #16
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Is it all strictly "American" music? Is there an option for $DLC? My daughters(13 and 16) are really into j-pop. I mean they'd like it for just the dancing but any j-pop and it would become a must have for christmas.
There is DLC, but no J-Pop that I've noticed. Sorry.
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Old 11-21-2010, 06:34 AM   #17
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I really didnt expect them to have it. I just thought I'd ask because it seems to be a growing trend among teenage girls. But apparently not mainstream enough yet.
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