25th January 2011 - Dance Central is a Kinect-based Xbox 360 title that aims to bring down the competition and climb to the top of the pile, crushing the likes of Dance Dance Revolution and the dozen other copycat titles rocking the market. So can Harmonix, the legends of the Rhythm-game genre, pull off the true dance revolution with Kinect’s use of full body motion tracking? Read on to find out…
In Dance Central, the ideas are pretty simple and straightforward - you dance along to onscreen avatars and score more points the better you do it! You cant ask for much other than that in a dance game though, but Dance Central offers as much as possible for a title like this. Firstly, the actual dance moves here are great; there are a ton of different songs with all manners of dance styles and music to go along with it. Almost every song has you dancing in different ways, different styles and all the while having you feeling good. All 32 of the games on-disc music tracks range from the easy to the insanely difficult, catering to dancers of any skill.
Then there is what I thought to be the most important aspect of what makes this a truly standout title; the detail of the Kinect’s sensor. Harmonix have made stunning use of the Kinect for this game, having it accurately tracking your entire body along to the on-screen moves and dancers.
It’s a big shame though, that while you can see yourself what you’re doing wrong and how bad you look compared to the ‘pros’, Dance Central doesn’t feature any decent way of helping you improve. It does feature a ‘Break it Down’ mode, which has you learning to go from the simple and easy to the more advance. But that mode really doesn’t cut it, and Harmonix have missed out on big ground where they could have worked towards the game having a more advance and user friendly learning experience.
Moreover, one of Dance Centrals lesser known aspects is actually one of its better - the Workout mode. Like all those annoying ads for Zumba advertise, this mode (the game in general, too) is the real mix between dancing, fun and fitness. While it doesn’t have detailed stat tracking like the ‘real’ Kinect fitness games have, or a heart rate sensor, Dance Centrals Workout is far superior in having you work up a sweat and getting the most cardio you can from a game. It even surpasses Wii Fit and the brilliant EA Active in terms of getting you motivated and actually wanting to workout. It pulls this off by genuinely being a good deal of fun, and a great laugh with a few friends or the missus (or man, for you ladies).
Visually, I was impressed with Dance Central. The characters aren’t particularly realistic, but they look the part for dancers and the smug look on some of their faces had me wanting to hit them, but I resisted the urge for the sake of my television. The animation on the other hand, doesn’t just scrape past the board like the characters. No, this games animation is full-fledged amazing. Its groundbreaking for a dance game, really giving leverage to anything this game lacks by reinstating how pitch-perfect the dancing itself looks and plays out. With 90 Dance routines among the 32 songs, and over 600 dance moves making these up, you never get delivered stale animations or feel like you’re dancing the same dance over and over.
Seriously, this music is far from my comfort zone. I listen to Thrash Metal for breakfast, help myself to a dosage of Hardcore for lunch, stock up on some delicious Nu-Metal for dinner and finish the day off with a Punk-filled dessert. So to say the very least, I wasn’t a fan of the tunes. But that doesn’t stop me entirely from enjoying myself. I wouldn’t dare listen to the likes of Lady Gaga, Basement Jaxx or something called FannyPack in my spare time, but Dance Central had me trying my luck with dance moves to these songs, and actually enjoying it. The feeling of busting a move, and ecstasy of actually getting it right, can overwhelm even the worst of the worst of dance songs, as long as you’re having fun - which Dance Central pretty much guarantee’s - then you wont care about the tunes.
I enjoyed this game. I don’t like to dance and I certainly don’t like the music, yet I enjoyed this game. If that doesn’t say volumes about the fun factor here, I don’t know what does. 32 songs may seem trivial, but these songs are actually great to play and replay given the fresh batch of over 600 dance moves and over 90 unique routines that have you mixing it up. While the effect did start to wear off on me, im sure any dance fanatic or pop-loving clubber of sorts will absolutely love this game for months on end. Helped further by the pretty generous slew of DLC Harmonix are still giving us, and Dance Central is the true dance revolution.
Making great use of the Kinect, Harmonix’ Dance Central showcases the hardware at its finest. Definitely the pick of the little of launch titles for the Kinect, but if you cant get your head into the game of Dancing, this one isn’t for you. Its more of a workout than the workout and fitness games themselves, and it much more of a dance simulator than any other dance game can hope for. This is the Kinect title we wanted to see.
AAG SCORE: 8.5/10
+ 32 Songs, 90 Routines, 600 Moves
+ Highly Enjoyable Dancing
+ Great Workout
- Not For Some People
- Fails To Teach Newcomers
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott