Dancing games always left a bad taste in my mouth. The stamping down on directional pads or waving Wii sticks around never really felt like you were actually dancing; it quickly became more of a chore than a fun game to play. However, when the Kinect was launched, roughly a year ago now, a whole new world of possibilities opened up – specifically for dance related games. Now you could leap around your living room without being confined to the small square of the dance controller, or could you? The original Dance Central was an okay game, but its ability to pick you up via the Kinect was quite shocking; although in fairness, most of the early Kinect games were fairly diabolical in their motion capture capabilities. Now we see the release of Dance Central 2, and finally, we have the ultimate dancing game.
For this review I have enlisted the help of a semi-professional dancer, my nine-year old daughter, purely because being somewhat out of shape, and an awful dancer to boot, I had to test the game’s potential somehow.
There are a number of new features in Dance Central 2, and some that have been greatly improved upon since the first Dance Central graced our screens. There is a story/career mode for starters, whereby the characters are broken down into dance crews and it’s up to you to work your way through the story, scoring enough points to merit a final audition. By doing so, you’ll get the chance to unlock new characters, different styles and the final dance battle.
Whilst we’re on the subject of characters, those of you who played the first Dance Central will notice the addition of several new dancers as well as a few old faces; Miss Aubery still being the favourite amongst teenage lads.
The song list is as extensive as it is varied, you could be dancing along to Lady Gaga one moment, then strutting your stuff to Donna Summer’s ‘Hot Stuff’ the next. In fact, there is something like 40+ plus songs on the list, with the option to import those from the first Dance Central and download more online providing you cough up the necessary amount of points.
Voice control has been added and polished to a very presentable sheen for Dance Central 2; even with my broad northern accent, it managed to pick up my verbal commands with relative ease. The voice control actually turns out to be a winning feature of DC2, for example: say “play Lady Gaga” and DC2 will launch the requested song, saving you from wading through the menu system. “Xbox, pause” will halt the game mid-dance, giving you time for a breather, and “slow down” will inevitably slow down the current dance move so you can gain perfection for that routine. A full list of voice commands are provided with the documentation, but what I also liked was the occasional flash of information that appeared on-screen which informed you of the voice command that would execute the menu you just accessed, handy if you don’t want to stand there reading the instructions.
For those of you who wish to use DC2 as a work out, there’s the Fitness mode which offers a selection of timed work-outs to random songs and displays the amount of calories burned after the session is complete. Although nearly every dance game has included a fitness mode of some description, DC2 gets into the work out very quickly without having to navigate through layers of sub menus.
The actual dancing in DC2 is superb, with some of the best animated characters I’ve seen in a game for a long while. The steps are shown on either right or left of the screen (depending on your player) as cheat boards, indicating which limb to move and what direction you should move it in. The addition of the name of each move, or step, is also featured at the top of the cheat board so once you play for a while you’ll begin to recognise the name as opposed to the graphical representation of it. As I said, the animation is fantastic; the dancers move around fluidly, they look human for a change, and their clothing, hair and other items move according to their gyrations: Miss Aubery’s red locks bounce around when she’s leaping to Enrique Iglesias’ ‘I Like It’.
The dance difficulty can be selected as either easy, medium or hard, with an added level of difficulty depending on the song and how well you mastered it the last time you played it. All in all, it’s easy enough for a youngster to get into without becoming too disheartened by a low score.
I really enjoyed Dance Central 2, it was damn good fun, which is why we bought the Xbox and Kinect in the first place. You don’t have to be into dancing to get enjoyment out of it, and it would make an ideal party game. What I also liked was it wasn’t too graphically sleazy, I wasn’t worried about what skimpy outfits the animated dancers were wearing, which is a breath of fresh air in this day and age. In conclusion, if you own an Xbox and a Kinect, then go out an buy Dance Central 2 you won’t be disappointed.
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