Dance Central 3 is one of those rare sequels that doesn’t try to break the mold, doesn’t provide much innovation from previous outings, makes only incremental improvements yet still delivers an outstanding experience. The Dance Central series has been one of the best-selling Xbox 360 Kinect games to date, so it doesn’t really need to do much to be successful. Not surprisingly, then, nothing really got blown up from Dance Central 2. However, that’s not to say nothing changed. To Harmonix’s credit, although they didn’t do anything revolutionary, the evolutionary changes they made with Dance Central 3 really make all the difference in the world, particularly one: they added a plot.
Under normal circumstances, adding a plot to a Kinect dance game would be completely useless. In Dance Central 3, it makes sense. Sort of. An evil genius named Dr. Tan is trying to destroy dance forever. As part of the Dance Central Intelligence agency, you travel back in time to the 1970s, 80s, 90s and 00s to find dance routines that can foil Dr. Tan’s plans. Yes, it’s silly, and it’s completely nonsensical from a narrative perspective. But, by introducing a time-traveling plot, Harmonix lets you perform dance moves from decades past — while also rocking out to 25 period-appropriate songs. Considering how much the Top-40 radio stations overplay songs, Dance Central 3 needed to spice up the audio a bit, and this decade-spanning plot does just that.
As for the dancing part, you never really know what you’re doing wrong when you’re in the middle of it, but in this genre of game — and even in the instrument-based games — you never really have known what you’re doing wrong. You just know when you’ve done something right. But, this same complaint makes the game much more-accessible than one might expect, particularly with the addition of a Beginner level. It also has enough move-your-body-wildly randomness that you can advance while still having fun.
With that said, Dance Central 3 does offer some challenge in the higher stages, to the point that you’re going to have to have some honest-to-goodness coordination and deliberate body movements rather than random flailing to beat out Dr. Tan. What’s ironic, of course, is that when you get friends together, that “flailing” is the name of the game, and it’s what makes Dance Central 3 so fun.
As nice as the plot may be from a music-introduction standpoint, the multiplayer modes are really where it’s at with Dance Central 3. A new Crew Throwdown mode supports eight people (four at a time) in a sort of dance-off competition, which is a nice improvement over the two-player simultaneous mode introduced in Dance Central 2. Party Time, on the other hand, just lets you rock it, going at it like you were on a dance floor while using quick movements to act as the DJ. The new Make Your Move mode is probably the best addition, though, not to mention the mode that’ll see the most play. The mode is aptly named, because its goal is to create your own moves/routine and then see if anyone you’re playing against with can replicate it. It’s an awful lot like a game of H-O-R-S-E from the basketball world, but with dance moves rather than hook shots.
None of these changes is particularly huge, and in fact they’re all pretty incremental. Better song navigation, a refined interface, adding a Beginner difficulty, improved voice commands, the addition of a Story and the Make Your Move mode … none of that sounds too massive. But the cumulative effect is what matters, and all of those seemingly minor updates deliver the best Dance Central experience to date.
Buy the game online using this link: Dance Central 3 at Amazon.com.
Platform reviewed: Xbox 360 (Kinect exclusive)
– Jonas Allen