What happened? It started so well. There we were, jumping and dancing and laughing together. Controllers were a thing of the past and the Wii looked like a mere pretender with its ongoing deluge of cheap bloatware. Ok, so not all of your titles were killer apps, but there was some good stuff there. Why did you have to ruin it with a game like Dance Paradise?
The first Kinect title from Mindscape, Dance Paradise bears a remarkable resemblance to another dance title, going so far as to share several tracks with its popular sibling. Unfortunately, that’s where the similarity ends. Dance Paradise has all of the trappings of a quick, low budget cash-in. Gone is the slick interface, the intuitive controls and quality visuals. The core gameplay remains unchanged from Harmonix’s title – mirror the dancers on screen to progress through the song and keep in rhythm to gain additional points. In execution, however, this system lacks sophistication. Dancers drift down a Guitar Hero-style track and, when they reach the bottom, you must copy them before moving on to the next set of moves in the queue. Moving between the four queues works well, requiring only small but decisive sideways steps, but pulling off the actual dance moves is an awkward, unpredictable process. Sometimes the game will choose to reward random flailing with perfect ratings while the most simple clapping routines will fail to register.
The moves themselves are also depressingly bland. After growing bored of sidestepping my way through Bad Romance on the easy setting, I stepping things up to hard (the only other option available) and tried my hand at some Fall Out Boy. There I was revved up and ready to go as the game threw me a curve ball – jerky air guitar! It was at this point that I was actually glad that no round lasted more than a minute and a half.
The truncated songs were another major source of irritation. Promising forty varied tracks is great, but it would be even better to be able to actually hear them. I can only imagine the target demographic is one that finds itself easily out of breath and averse to standing up for more than a couple of minutes at a time. Fatigue may still set in, I’m afraid, as the menus take an age to navigate and the loading screens are even worse. Scrolling through songs is an arduous process – you have either the choice of painstakingly going through each track one at a time or zooming from one end to another with no hope of landing on your first choice. Needless to say, my patience was wearing thin after only a short time.
Dance Paradise does have some good ideas. Avatar integration is something that every Kinect title should feature and it was fun to see my digital persona doing a much better job than I was (some would call my lack of motion laziness, I call it peaceful protest against poor game design). While the steps themselves were overly simplistic, preparing for the next set of moves was made easier by the animated cues compared to a system based on flash cards. Thanks to this, there was no need to follow a tutorial before jumping in to the actual gameplay. Sadly, the rest of the game is poorly presented with dull stages serving as backdrops for the tracks’ music videos. These in turn prove to be more distracting than entertaining, making it harder to focus on where your hands and feet should be at any given time.
Dance Paradise’s plus points are far from enough to save it from the bargain bin. Having spent a disappointing few sessions struggling to see the appeal beyond the inevitable uncoordinated drunken performances at the end of a night out, this is a sad reminder that motion games spawn the most unpleasant, gimmicky games no matter what the platform. There are far more inventive and entertaining ways to enjoy Kinect than can be found here.
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