Funky Town comes to your living room
Dance is a complex mistress to tame, sparking off complex emotions in those who wish to dice in it. To others, it’s simply an awesome medium of self-expression, leading even the perfect douche to form a mass following bigger than Jesus simply by acting like a robot. It’s hard to convince those who feel it’s simply unnecessary pelvis shifting outside of the bedroom, and dance-mats haven’t exactly helped the cause by sticking its artistic science on a massive D-Pad. Enter Dance Central, Harmonix’s latest music project that takes a hiatus with the band to get jiggy on the street.
Ditching the now ancient technology of the Dance-Mat, Dance Central uses Kinect to track just how slick you really are. Through 32 tracks and some exceptionally tongue in cheek charismatic dancers, Dance Central is determined to get just about anybody into the groove of things, and with a fun and dynamic dance system, it may just win over even the squarest of layabouts, even if just for a few minutes.
The tracks range from 80’s club classics to modern day pop hits. No matter where your tastes in music lie, there’s no denying that Harmonix have formed a near perfect set-list for anyone to jump into. Even if more recent hits like Lady Gaga’s ‘Pokerface’ and Cascadia’s ‘Evacuate the Dancefloor’ deliver horrible apparitions of sugar crusted airbrushed figures glitzing up MTV, undeniably catchy tracks like the Beastie Boy’s ‘Body Movin” and Bell Biv DeVoe’s ‘Poison’ are just too damn hard to resist. Even if any of the songs available do nothing for your eardrums or seem too cringe worthy to even select, the dance moves on offer and undeniably catchy gameplay compliment them all perfectly well.
Any form of HUD is limited to each tracks unique ‘Cue Cards’ along the right of the screen. When a particular move reaches the centre of the screen, your dancer will perform it perfectly and you will have to replicate the move to your best ability. It’s easy to line up the next move in your repertoire as future moves queue up for a time to shine. The signature Harmonix artistic style sharpens all the characters to a slightly comical tee, and with all the major stats such as score, star rating and move rating all integrated into the streets and stereo that surrounds you, the visuals are engaging and the objectives you need to focus on clear and direct, without complicating either the layout or gameplay.
Donate Dance Central a little bit of bravery, and in return it gives you a game that just as much fun to spectate as it is to play
No matter how simple and pleasing the aesthetic is though, some routines can be just too complex to perform off the mark. Thankfully, the ‘Break It Down’ mode offers a comprehensive look in to all the routine on offer, as well as the chance to perfect moves by slowing down the tempo, splitting up each movement and offering handy tips on how to perfect each move. With a little effort and dedication, it’s not only a great ease into Dance Central, but a great confidence boost to shoot for higher difficulty levels.
Seeing you perfect your abilities isn’t fun for others, though. They want to see you fail, trample on your own toes and kick a few cats. Should fellow dances wish to challenge dedicated Dance Central students, ‘Dance Battle’ allows two players to take turns in decimating their competition with body popping. Even though it’s not quite fully realised in terms of multi-player, it’s the same joyous party experience that games like Singstar can offer. Donate Dance Central a little bit of bravery, and in return it gives you a game that just as much fun to spectate as it is to play.
Though it’s a great laugh to play amongst others, there isn’t really much going for the shyer groovemeister. Songs are simply racked up by difficulty, the next batch unlocked by completing the previous. There’s no integral career mode and only one unlockable costume per character. Though you’re camp dance addict counter-parts may get off of strutting the street like it’s Brighton’s Gay Pride march 24/7, it’s not much of an incentive to cycle through all the available persona’s to build up their reputations. The major prize for perfect performances at the end is a secret character, and even then, the reward just isn’t worth the incentive to ware down your joints from a massive session.
Each song also gives way in certain segments for a ‘Freestyle’ moment. At these points, the cue cards don’t apply and allows you to muck about for your own candid moments. After you’ve had your extra moment of spotlight, the footage is played back, edited in a format that makes you look like you’re having an epileptic fit, even if you stubbornly frozen to the spot. It’s a bizarre addition that seems to be aimed at a daft pillock contest rather than actual game ingenuity the rest of the title shoots for.
Despite the lack of prizes for the lonely and bizarre additions of lack of moves to simply make you look like a bit of a prat, Dance Central is arguably the best game to grace the Kinect since launch. It’ll leave even the grittiest of gamers quivering as it sits on the shelves waiting for an owner, yet anyone who takes the plunge and give it a shot will get a fantastic party experience from producers who truly understand the blend of music and gameplay. Hell, with a bit of practise, you can even take these moves out of the living room and onto the dance floor. It’ll be much more impressive than taking to the night club and stomping your feet forwards, backwards, left and right.
The Bad: Bizarre ‘Freestyle’ segments tear out what makes the game enjoyable, No career mode and limited unlockables for solo players