Of all the Kinect games to have hit the market prior to the release of Dance Central 2, only its predecessor has been able to justify the existence of the peripheral to me. The implementation of real-life dancing as a gameplay mechanic was not only revolutionary from a technology perspective, but wildly fun for gamers and financially successful for Harmonix.
Though I reviewed the original Dance Central favourably for the most part when it first came out, it was not without fault. It’s biggest failings were that it didn’t make for a great multiplayer game and that its feature set was paper-thin, which is often a problem with launch games. Does the sequel build on its predecessor to provide a more complete dancing game experience?
Out of the box, Dance Central 2 comes with 44 songs, which is about the right size for a track list for this type of game. There’s a good mix of genres and eras represented,though there’s definitely a slant towards more modern and urban music. I found this to be the case with the original as well, which is fine for me, as I like dancing to that type of music. If you’re looking for a more eclectic mix of tunes to boogie to, maybe Just Dance 3 is more up your alley. One thing I should note about the set-list is that one song (Britney Spears’ “Toxic”) is a cover. We’ve been spoiled these last few years with games that feature the original recordings, and hearing this trainwreck of a cover is an unfortunate throwback to the early days of music games. Even still, the overall set-list is definitely an upgrade over the original.
As with Dance Central 1, the choreography in Dance Central 2 is top-notch. At easy difficulty, you’re still doing real-life dance moves that you could use at a club. By the time you reach hard, the routines get really elaborate and impressive. Since I’m not that great of a dancer, most of my time with Dance Central 2 was spent on easy, with some dabbling done in medium. Even at those lower difficulties, the routines felt fun to me. I watched my brother play through the game on hard, and he was having a lot of fun with it, too. My favourite song to break it down to is “Technologic” by Daft Punk, which I think has a killer routine that’s a lot of fun.
In order to flesh out the single player experience, a Crew Challenge mode has been added, which is essentially the game’s story mode. I like the structure it adds to the experience to make you feel like you’re making meaningful progress through the songs, but the story itself has room for improvement. The story revolves around you battling other dance crews to prove your worthiness, though it’s about as generic and unexciting as one can be. Sure, you don’t play music games for the story, but if you’re going to put one in, at least make it somewhat entertaining. Criticisms aside, I’d much rather have it this way than the old way, where there was no progression at all.
The biggest omission to the original Dance Central was simultaneous multiplayer. Dance Central 2 alleviates that by allowing two players to dance at the same time. I’m glad to say that the new multiplayer elements work really well. Players can dance to the same song on different difficulties, as well as drop-in or drop-out at almost any time, making this a much better party game than its predecessor. Going into this, I was concerned that the Kinect would lose fidelity by adding a second player, but I didn’t notice any sort of hit in motion-tracking. My only word of advice to you is that to prevent you and your dance partner from constantly bumping into each other, stagger yourselves out so that one person is closer to the Kinect than the other.
Dance Central 2 is the fully-realized game I wished the original was last year. It made fixes to all of the key areas that hurt the previous version and it’s more fun now to play than ever. Whether you have two left feet or serve fools on the regular, Dance Central 2 is definitely worth a look.