Dance Central Review

If there was one standout game announced at E3 for the Kinect, Harmonix’s Dance Central was that game. Dance Central featured a snazzy presentation and some Lady Gaga. How much more theatrical could a game get? It also teased that anyone could learn how to bust up the dance floor.

You probably noticed that the first Kinect launch titles featured the usual family mini-games, sports games and fitness software leaving Dance Central the clear leader. The pedigree of its developer and the new technology of the Kinect should set you up for high expectations.

Fortunately, in most ways this is a very successful technology demonstration of Kinect’s potential. The game features a variety of popular dance and pop songs with specially choreographed routines. It also does an excellent job of introducing wall flowers to some actually usable dance floor acrobatics, shimmies and sways.

New players can break down the more complex dance routines and practice to master the component moves. You’ll be “dropping a Thunderbolt” or popping and locking to your favorite dance pop songs effectively if you have any rhythm or coordination pretty quickly.

Where Dance Central begins to run into problems is with its lack of depth. The game feels a bit content anemic. There are only 32 dance routines from a nice variety of artists. No Doubt, Cascada, Snoop Dog, and even some Dirty Vegas.

These bands prove that this is a title with a mix but, as with most music based games it’s likely you’re going to avoid some of these tracks because they don’t suit your style. If you dislike even 5 songs then your options are pretty limited. You can continue to add songs through Harmonix’s DLC just like with Rock Band or Guitar Hero.

Also unlike Rock Band, there really is no progression or unlock achievement built into Dance Central. You simply hop into dance mode, choose from one of the pre-made characters and begin grinding out dance moves. These avatars also are preset and don’t offer players the ability to roll your own.

The game features difficulty levels that alter the grading scale and simplify the number of moves in a song, but basically once you’ve danced a routine on Easy there is not a huge difference from the Hard version. That said, this is a game that will tire you out on any level. It asks a lot of players and you either hit the mark or miss the move, there is little middle ground.

Multiplayer comes in the form of a Dance Battle mode where players can compete on routines and be judged on their performance. It’s fun but very basic. There is also a Workout mode but don’t expect a real workout here – this is just a calorie counter attached to the basic dance mode.

Dance Central is the epitome of a launch title. Even though it’s a good game it lacks the depth of more mature titles. It is also fairly clear that while it’s the cream of the Kinect crop now, the inevitable Dance Central 2 will likely be the game to really show off the potential of this new tech. In many ways this feels like Harmonix’s version of DJ Hero, a game with some potential that will only be realized in future iterations.

Pros

  • Dancing can be fun and exhausting
  • Great visual presentation
  • Good mix of dance music

Cons

  • Very basic game modes
  • Too few songs
  • No Avatar customization

The Verdict: 80/100

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