I was sold on Dance Central the moment I saw the first E3 live demo of it in action. I always trust in Harmonix to make a quality game, but watching this girl break it down to one of my favourite songs took it over the top for me. Video games based on real dancing aren’t necessarily new, but up until this point, no one had made a dancing game where every body movement mattered. I’ve been waiting for this type of game for quite some time, and I was ready to pay anything for it.
Well, almost anything. I wasn’t ready to buy a Kinect at $150 just for this game, and I anxiously awaited for the day when I could get a Kinect for less than full price. That day happened, and I’ve since cranked that Soulja Boy and contorted my body in ways I never thought were possible. Is this the new dancing queen? Or nothing but two left feet?
Dance Central is a dance game that wouldn’t work as well on any other platform to date. Thanks to the Kinect, your whole body is accurately tracked while you perform intricate dance moves. Just Dance and SingStar Dance are great for what they are, but ultimately they’re only reading what your right hand is doing. I think Dance Central does a great job of tracking your body and letting you know when you mess something up. When you are out of sync, the body part that you are messing up will light up. It doesn’t necessarily tell you how to correct it, but you can break it down step-by-step in the game’s training mode till you get it right.
The set-list contains 32 songs, which is a bit thin. There is downloadable content available, but its coming out at a much slower rate than Rock Band. While the set-list definitely plays more towards my tastes, it does not cover the range of genres like the Just Dance series does. In this game, you will find mostly urban and dance tracks to boogie to. Each song comes with three different dance routines; one for each difficulty setting. All of these routines are awesome. If you were to put in the effort to score well in this game, I think you would actually become a better real life dancer.
As a video game dancing experience, Dance Central is the new standard. The accurate tracking and the top-notch choreography put this above all in that regard. I have a ton of fun playing this game and I still look forward to playing more of it. However, it does fall short in a few key categories. As a video game, it’s pretty thin. There’s no career mode. You can’t make your own character. You can’t dress up the characters available to you. There’s no simultaneous multiplayer mode, which is a huge miss. The only progression you get is through unlocking different difficulties for each song, which can get tedious. As a package, this feels like the dancing equivalent to the first Guitar Hero.
As a party game, Dance Central also falls short. The lack of simultaneous multiplayer is a huge downer. I fear that this is a limitation of the Kinect, which means the series may never get true multiplayer. In its place is a turn-based two-player dance off, which is not bad, but could have been better. Dacing with three other friends can be silly fun with Just Dance. In contrast, dancing by yourself in Dance Central, on an easy song you’ve never seen the routine for, with all of your friends laughing at you as you stumble your way to a two-star performance may be enough to make you never want to play the game again. It’s in scenarios like this where the accurate tracking and intricate dance moves come back to haunt it. This can be overcome if you’re friends with Justin Timberlake or aren’t that concerned with their score at the beginning, then it can be a lot of fun.
Dance Central is my favourite Kinect launch game and some of the most raw fun I’ve had in a while. The Kinect integration is awesome and miles ahead of all the other Kinect games out right now. I will continue to play this alone and break it out at parties if I’ve got the right group of friends. Maybe it’ll even give me the skills to tear the club up someday. Is it worth buying a Kinect for at full price? No. Dance Central still has room for improvement. There are a number of music game features found in Rock Band that would work great here to flesh out this experience. There’s also a lot of room to improve the party game aspects of it, which Just Dance is still the king of. I’m hoping Harmonix gets it right with a sequel.