|MtAMinutes to Action||3|
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The PlayStation Move’s release came and went without a single person I know picking a package up. Kinect was released, and again, nobody I know actually bought one. Well, except for one of my coworkers, who excitedly bought it on launch weekend and then held a LAN party this last weekend. The two events are completely independent of each other, however. His friends at the LAN party were more interested in playing Warzone 2100 and setting up EVE Online servers than moving their bodies in the living room, but knowing he owned a Kinect actually got me really excited.
Kinect isn’t something I actually want, or it wasn’t, at least. I like lounging about when playing games and the thought of relaxing after a day of work by running and jumping around sounds awful. But from the moment I saw Harmonix’s Dance Central back at E3, I’ll admit I was curious. As the games of Red Alert 3 broke up, I wandered upstairs with a few other guys to try out Kinect. They immediately popped in Kinect Sports, which turned out exactly as I had expected: a ripoff of Wii Sports, Wii Play, and Wii Sports Resort. Not that this was a bad thing, and while some of the mini-games were pretty fun, the whole experience just screamed “gimmicky!”
And then we put in Dance Central, and everything changed. Harmonix is the best music game developer out there, so I had confidence that if anyone could pull off a dancing game, it would be them. This is not a traditional first hour review with minute-by-minute updates, but I hope you still find it informative and entertaining.
Dance Central will be very familiar to fans of Rock Band: pick a song, pick a difficulty, select an avatar, select the venue, practice the song, they’re all there. We started off in Break it Down mode, which is the game’s practice mode for each song. A Dance Central song is composed of a series of dance moves such as sliding to the left or performing the disco point. Break it Down teaches you each move you’ll encounter in a particular song one at a time.
Of course, tutorials are boring. Tutorials during a party are death, so after about three minutes of this we quit out of Break it Down. Being a reasonably outgoing guy among a group of people I hadn’t met before earlier that afternoon, I was prodded to step up and perform first. I stepped in front of the Kinect device, waved my hand around and selected the first song in the list: Lady Gaga’s Poker Face. I like the song, so why not? A few minutes later and a bit of sweat, I had five-starred the first song I ever played on Dance Central. And had fun doing it too.
Receiving five stars had built up my ego a bit, and made me question whether this whole “dancing” thing was really that difficult. I performed all the slides like master, freestyled like a fool, and made my mysterious transformation from the dock to the club quite smoothly. As the night wore on and we took turns, I quickly realized that 1. that was the easiest song in the game 2. the difficulty was set to easy 3. I was still a white boy trying to dance.
The Kinect sensor does an impressive job keeping up with your movements. I never felt once that it had missed one of my actions. There were, of course, plenty of dance movements where I felt like I had pulled it off, but was missing one or more pieces of the move. Whether this was Kinect, me, or a combination of us messing up, it wasn’t clear. But for now I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
One of the coolest features of Dance Central is the feedback it gives you when you’re performing. Since the sensor can pick up individual limbs, if you’re doing a slide clap and not bringing your arms up high enough, it will highlight the on-screen avatar’s arms in red. If you’re supposed to be crossing your feet and you’re not, it will highlight their feet in red. It’s a great system that provides near instant feedback on how you’re performing.
Another aspect I really liked was how when you’re on a roll with a few combos under your belt, you will be transported into this neon-lit club. It’s a great transition and is another way for the developers to tell you you’re doing well without numbers or words. And as soon as you mess up again, you’re transported back to your original location on the pier or rooftop.
Near the end of each song is a freestyle section where you just go crazy for a few seconds and then the game replays back to you a series of pictures of you going all out. It’s an interesting interlude, doesn’t seem to affect the score at all, and reminds me more of one of those group photo booths where you make faces. This replay looks pretty weak though, the resolution is low and there’s this crappy looking Microsoft Word-generated “FREESTYLE” WordArt that flies by. Weird.
As I mentioned earlier, there were four of us playing, taking turns. During one of the freestyle sections, one of the guys sitting jumped into Kinect’s viewing area and started dancing with the main dancer. All of a sudden the Booth Buddies achievement pops up for having two or more people in frame and it was like something dawned on us all at once: this is real party game! From then on, all four of us were in every frame doing crazy things. Before that afternoon I didn’t know any of them and here I was throwing my dignity out the window for a dancing video game.
There is also a dance battle mode, but two people never dance at the same time, which is a bit disappointing. But I suppose in all those dance-off movies like You Got Served, each team takes turns to try to show each other up.
Finally, Dance Central will give you a work out too. While the game never moves as fast as DDR on its higher difficulties, the dance moves can be pretty demanding. If I owned this game I would definitely be playing its workout mode.
Minutes to Action: 3
What I loved: Just about everything Dance Central has to offer. The dancing is challenging but rewarding, and the game’s presentation is top notch. The Kinect does a great job recognizing your moves consistently and accurately.
What I liked: Not entirely sure on the track list as I’m not too familiar with the genres. I really wish there had been some Michael Jackson songs: Thriller or Beat It would be incredible. Though I suppose there’s that Michael Jackson: The Experience game coming out for the Kinect too, the problem is it isn’t developed by Harmonix!
What I didn't like: Hoping for simultaneous multiplayer in the future!
Would I Keep Playing? Oh yeah! Dance Central actually had me commenting, “where’s the nearest dance club? That seems like the next logical step for the evening.” Even if I really do suck at dancing, I can have fun doing it, and Dance Central is the place to do it.