Within nearly every hardcore gamer there’s a casual waiting and wanting to breakout. We all have our guilty secrets, whether that be sneaking a go at bejewelled, hiding away to tend to your crops on Farmville or just having to plain admit it and get the microphones out for SingStar and Lips. I fall in to the latter camp, so I was very interested to find out how adding a dance element would work out.
Anyone who’s played a SingStar game before will feel very much at home here. The interface works with the same old, but well oiled, engine of simply plugging in the mics and selecting a song. With Dance however, you will also need to set up the PlayStation Eye and calibrate the Move controller.
Space requirements aren’t too much of an issue as unlike Dance Central and Kinect, this Move title is really only tracking a single hand - the one you’re holding the controller in. The Eye simply needs to see you from waistline upwards so 6ft is plenty enough space. In fact if you’re feeling particularly lazy you can get away with playing the game sat in a chair - but this kind of defeats the point. If you really want to follow the groves and rock your body, it does require a bit more space as the routines do involve full body movement, even if this isn’t properly tracked.
This though exposes a fundamental problem of SingStar Dance. Selecting to boogie along to a song means you’ll be following an on-screen dancer who’s clearly been practicing these routines. A lot. When you first start strutting your stuff it will be a struggle, for most armchair jockeys, to keep up with any of the movements your dance instructor is making on screen as there’s no indication as to what you will need to do next. Not that it matters too much; as with the singing in SingStar, the game compliments the player rather than punishes them by telling them they have no talent. This perhaps explains some of the contestants on the X-Factor. To get maximum points you will need to learn the dance routine properly, but without any feedback as to how well you’re going, other than good, okay and poor, it’s like a lardy planning their own exercise routine. Harder difficulties don’t change the movements; it just makes it tougher to score points due to greater accuracy being required.
Song selection is a mixed bag more-so than SingStar titles often are, though there’s no doubt that pretty much everyone will find something they like, or at least one or two tracks that will be familiar. Some songs have clearly been chosen for their beat rather than their melodies; many of those don’t work well as vocal tracks though there are a handful that work well as both dance and sing-along.
Highlights of what’s on offer in vocal parts are Blondie - Heart of Glass, The Supremes - Baby Love and Cynia Lauper - Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. More of the tracks cater for the Dance side of thing with some great beats from Pitbull - I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho), Reel 2 Real - I Like To Move It, Salt’N’Pepa - Push It, and Shaggy - Boombastic being a particular favourite. Then there are a few that will cater to both arms of the game, such as Ricky Martin - Livin’ La Via Loca, Chris Brown - With You and The Jackson 5 - I Want You Back. In all there are thirty to wallow along to. Sadly there are no dance routines for any downloaded songs, but they still work vocally, as they do in any other title in the series.
What disappoints most of all is that the dance part of SingStar feels very much tacked on to the whole experience; it’s like a plug-in almost. It is possible to both sing and dance at the same time, but this becomes a massive compromise unless you’ve got a natty hands-free microphone, pop star style. You can’t really follow the moves and sing at the same time given the need to hold a microphone and a motion controller.
Sadly the dance part of SingStar Dance is a weak experience and it would perhaps have been better to have concentrated on a dedicated motion game - this does nothing to heighten or evolve the Move experience and it won’t convince people it’s a required purchase. As a SingStar game it offers the same well-polished and ground-rooted play experience, but as is often the case with these titles, the more tracks you appreciate the more enjoyment there is to be had. This one feels like a middling experience, so think carefully before jumping in.