Dance Central has perhaps had the biggest amount of hype since being announced for Kinect, but in reality is it the star performer now we’ve finally got our hands on the technology?
The idea of dancing around to your television is inevitably an interesting concept. After all many of us try to bust a few moves on dance floors and spectacularly fail in doing so. The most likely outcome is the pretty girl that was eyeing you up in the corner, is now thinking ‘What a twat’.
So how can the situation be made a little less embarrassing and give you a legitimate reason for working out and throwing some shapes in your room? The key to dance central is co-ordination. Don’t let anyone else fool you, despite the notion that Dance Central is perfect for beginners who have two left feet, it actually isn’t. You see the technology that we’ve all seen previously has relied on a bunch of professional dancers to showcase the game at work, which in some respects has made it look slightly straighter forward.
In actual fact Dance Central is probably one of the most difficult Kinect launch titles. The game itself doesn’t let you take control of any on-screen avatar, instead you’ll be copying moves from an on-screen dancer. When you stop dancing, the game will continue with its moves regardless of your actions. This allows those with a lack of dancing skill to feel more involved and not embarrassed if they cannot perform the moves.
Each move, which appear on the right-hand of the screen, is analysed and given a rating depending on if you pull a flawless one or just meet the basic requirements. Before each of the thirty two featured songs, you are given the chance to practice the moves that will appear during each song. Some are easier than others and you’ll be rated on how well you manage to meet the requirements of the move.
Each song carries different difficulty modes and a star rating. The better you perform, the higher the score and more stars you will receive, unlocking more songs in the process. To say that Dance Central is difficult is an understatement, for a rigid stick like me the process was very gruelling and at times de-moralising. Being told you cannot pull off the most basic of moves in the first song, doesn’t give you much motivation to move on. The key is to overcome this and practice and practice. The freestyle sections in each song are recorded and photos snapped following the conclusion of the song. Unlike the other launch titles, you cannot share or view video footage, which is a disappointing omission.
Breakdown mode is a useful way of practicing the moves required for each song and is useful if you have no knowledge of dancing or just want to nail a certain move. The idea of jumping into a song beforehand with no practice is madness and you’ll soon turn to jelly, flailing your arms and legs around in random movements. Learning the moves is something you’ll return to again and again, and each difficulty has different moves to learn for each song. This means there is quite a comprehensive amount of moves to factor into each song, 600 in all, but as they say practice makes perfect.
Unlike most games such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero where songs have to be unlocked, Harmonix have taken a different stance with Dance Central to presumably appeal to the more casual gamers, whereby the songs are all unlocked from the beginning. This gives you little appeal to play some of the songs that you may not be familiar with, which means you might miss out on some of the more interesting dances if anyone outside Lady Gaga falls into the ‘crap’ category.
What you can unlock though are new characters and costumes throughout play, an incentive which at first sounds pretty poor, but with plenty of cool attire to dress the rather stylish characters, it offers a small extra depth to the game. Otherwise the rest is fairly uninspired and consists of you completing the dance routines up to four stars to be able to unlock challenges, which mix up some of the songs together.
Perhaps the best use of the Kinect technology for Dance Central is the navigation of the menus, which require you to move your arm outstretched whilst sliding your hand to navigate further on the highlighted option. The fun comes from the slapping motion that you’ll be pulling as you flick through. This is faster than the official methods of hovering your hand over a button on the other Kinect titles and is more reliable. This is perhaps a method that other companies will have to adopt in the future as Harmonix have certainly made good use out of the brand new technology.
Dance Central is an accomplished start that could well herald a series of follow-ups. The Kinect technology is used effectively and whilst it appears basic at first, is quite possibly one of the hardest launch titles if you have no rhythm. Overcome the initial fear of looking a fool and you’ll find the fancy footwork and body movements are the perfect way to enjoy some drunken tomfoolery with your friends. The only thing it needs now is the greasy kebab on the way home.