I am not the target market for Dance Central nor its sequel, but I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that I love this series of games. I’m the guy who turns the radio to talk radio if the station I’m on starts inching towards pop music, let alone dance music. As far as I’m concerned, listening to dance music by choice ranks up there with picking up after my dog on walks. Yet I find myself wanting to pop this game in because it’s so much more than just the music, it’s a damned good time.
For those unaware, Dance Central 2 is the sophomore release in the Kinect dancing title. Unlike the other systems which use a handheld peripheral to judge your score, Dance Central uses your entire body to determine how well you are dancing. As you play through a song you match what the dancer onscreen is doing which are shown to you in the form of flashcards onscreen. As you mimic the moves you earn a score and ultimately stars for your performance – you can notice the outline of the dancer onscreen giving hints of what you’re doing well or missing. If you’re out of step with your left leg, the mirrored image (onscreen character’s right leg) will be outlined in red, the immediate feedback is fantastic for learning the routines if you’re skilled in the groove.
For those like me who have zero skill on the dance floor, the developers at Harmonix enhanced the somewhat limited Break it Down mode for this title. Rather than make you work through an entire routine, this time you have that as an option – or you can focus in on the tougher to master moves. Break it Down walks you through each dance move step by step so you can get the right feel of a move, even at a slower pace this time around. Harmonix had a chance to work with the Kinect a bit more as well, as they’ve managed to integrate some voice commands into the game as well, specifically during the Break it Down mode.
Also new is the ability to track your calories throughout all game play sessions, not just in the fitness mode. This is a nice little perk for those who use the game to aide in their quest for exercise. The best thing I’ve seen this time around is the drop in/drop out second player. If you’re having a blast and your friend feels like popping in and doing the Humpty Dance, they can – without missing a beat. I’ve also noticed the Kinect is a little better used this time around as well, as it scales its image to make sure that it gets all of you and your friend in the image it needs. In the first game, I ran into the occasion where my arms were cut off in the Kinect image, yet here I never ran into that issue.
With a soundtrack that includes over 40 new songs and dance routines, chances are there’s something here you’re familiar with – even if not in the dance music scene. With a range of artists that spans Bananarama and Digital Underground all the way through to Bruno Mars and Justin Beiber, there’s something here that’ll get any butt wigglin’. Following their own lead with the games being a platform, not just a title – any songs you may have downloaded already for Dance Central are automatically available in Dance Central 2. Additionally, with the code that’s included in the first game you can export (for a nominal fee) all the songs from that game and play them here, which really expands the playlist.
There’s a somewhat laughable story mode in the game that has you dancing to earn stars to gain respect from various crews, but in reality you’re just playing this game to dance anyway – so I imagine that most gamers will simply dance and forgo the challenges in that mode. Other enhancements that help flesh the game out is a more streamlined control scheme, I found it much easier to navigate menus and song lists this time around – even though it’s identical it’s obviously been refined a fair amount.
In my experience, the best way to play this game is to throw caution to the wind, and just dive in and not worry about how you look, or how well you do. That’s part of the beauty of the game is there is no failing a song, you just keep on moving forward and the song plays on. Getting together with a group of friends kicking back and laughing at the skills of some, while admiring the skills of others is a great way to enjoy the game. Now if you’ll excuse me, I feel the pull of Sir Mix-a-Lot calling me back to the Xbox.
8.5 – A great step forward for Dance Central. Importing your old songs to make a giant playlist is tough to beat, and the game is much more of a workout then you might expect!