This has been a big season for the dance genre. We’ve had everything from ABBA to the Black Eyed Peas, from Just Dance 3 to Just Dance Kids 2, and many more, on all platforms. Naturally, a sequel to Dance Central, arguably the best of Kinect’s launch titles, was expected. Given how well received the first game was, a lot of pressure was doused upon Harmonix’s shoulders. Not only did they need to find ways to improve an already well endowed package, but also exceed the automatically high expectations from the fans.
Fortunately for them (and us), Harmonix accomplished both tasks admirably. Dance Central 2 arrives with more content, more modes, improved visuals, a better track list, and when combined together, should more than please the rabid fan base they have nourished over the last 12 months.
The gameplay hasn’t changed a bit. Players need to match their moves with their on-screen avatars. Cue cards line up along the side of the screen, providing both the current move and what’s coming up. Successfully nailing moves provides points which accumulate into a star rating, just like the typical music games. The best part is how the routines are put together, with the choreography looping moves in such a fashion that not only feels right for the track that’s playing, but also are just plain fun to perform. And just as it was before, the motion sensing is spot on. It is a rare occurrence to have one of your moves incorrectly recognized, and once again proves that Harmonix has a deep understanding of how to develop for Kinect.
The now-standard Dance mode makes a return, allowing players to hop in, pick their favorite song, and shake it til the cows come home...or until they nail the coveted five-star rating across all difficulties. With 44 new tracks on the disc, along with the ability to import everything - including the DLC - from the original game, there’s a lot to choose from. The new songs cover several decades, from the 80’s (Bananarama’s Venus) to the 90’s (Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby Got Back) to today (Far East Movement’s Like A G6).
"With more modes, a great track list, and engaging (local) multiplayer, plus the nice tweaks to the voice support and the addition of the Crew Challenge, Harmonix’s latest effort remains in the top spot among all Kinect titles on store shelves today."
Supplementing the Dance mode is the Crew Challenge. Acting as a sort of campaign mode, the Crew Challenge pits you against other two-man crews in a battle of dance supremacy, culminating in a final confrontation, a face off against the big boss of boogie (ok, so I made that title up, but you get the idea). All the tracks are drawn from what’s available on disc, so there’s no real surprises here, but it does add a little something to the experience have competitive progression instead of just straight-up dancing as offered in the Dance mode.
One of the most welcomed additions to the Dance Central formula is the multiplayer support, something that the first game was sorely lacking. Two players can rock the dance floor at the same time, be it in the competitive dance battles or cooperative play. And let me just toss it out there now, having a friend to join in the action is a total blast. The Free 4 Alls in particular stand out as one of the most enjoyable aspects. In it, moves are are suggested just as normal, but they vary between the two players and can be completed in any order. The first one to nail them all, wins. It’s great fun and rarely is either person is doing the same move at the same time, making for some interesting puzzle-pieced choreography and tense competition.
Picking up a cue from other entries in the genre, Dance Central 2 features a Fitness mode, with many different sets of choreography, all with varying duration and intensity. The experience isn’t necessarily different from the rest of the package, but each routine is designed to hide the fact that you are burning calories behind a veil fun. Short, easy routines, body-breaking sets, or long workouts, there’s something here for everyone, regardless of what mood you are in or what fitness level you are at. If titles like EAS Active, YourShape, or Zooma are a bit too bland for your workout needs, Dance Central 2 may be what you’ve been waiting for. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t have the same robust stat tracking as found in the others.
Also on tap is the expected aesthetic changes and feature adjustments. There are new characters to play with, and new items to customize them with. Voice control has been greatly improved and expanded, as now you can navigate the entire game with Kinect’s microphone, negating the need for a controller altogether. The Break-It-Down mode is more...er...broken down. You can now skip around the routine and focus on just specific moves, instead of having to go through the whole set just to get to your troublespots. The visuals have seen an uptick, modifying the Jet Set Radio look from the original (specifically the cut scenes) and infusing it with a three dimensional style. It still has the bright and vibrant color scheme, but is much more appealing, and visually evolved.
All in all, Harmonix did a fantastic job of making the great, even better. There’s still some components on the wishlist though. Taking the multiplayer online would be a no-brainer and given how fun the soundtrack is, it would be nice to see a DJ Hero style Party mode thrown in. In fact, if it had that with the jump in/jump out support, Dance Central 2 could easily be the default, must-have party game for any Kinect owner. As it sits though, your money will still be well placed here. With more modes, a great track list, and engaging (local) multiplayer, plus the nice tweaks to the voice support and the addition of the Crew Challenge, Harmonix’s latest effort remains in the top spot among all Kinect titles on store shelves today.
Release date : 2011-10-24
Publisher : Microsoft Game Studios
Developer : Harmonix
Gameplay : Music,Tempo, Dance
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