Reviewed: November 19, 2011
Released: October 25, 2011
Dance Central is singlehandedly responsible for selling most of the initial batch of Kinects when Microsoft’s new motion-tracking device launched this time last year. After years of furiously stomping on plastic mats matching scrolling arrow symbols someone had finally developed a way to track the human body, quite accurately mind you, so it was only natural that the dance genre evolved into what has now become as competitive a marketplace as those plastic guitar franchises. |
A year has passed and Harmonix is back with Dance Central 2, hoping to up the ante with new music, moves, and modes, and try to compete with the friendlier Just Dance franchise that is also making its way to Kinect around this same time. While Ubisoft’s franchise concerns itself more with casual, silly fun, Dance Central 2 takes a more serious approach to dancing, teaching you real moves, then syncing those moves into routines that, when learned properly, work just as well in the club as they do in your living room.
While the original game offered a fairly unstructured gameplay experience, Dance Central 2 introduces the new Crew Challenge mode, where you will compete with various two-man crews, earning respect points that allow you to rank-up and unlock new crews and clothes. You can also explore the track list in free-play mode as well as the new two-player co-op and dance-off modes everyone has been waiting for since the first game…but wait, Just Dance 3 does 4-player co-op. Foiled again… Not really. These games are hardly interchangeable nor likely to appeal to the same type of gamer.
Dance Central 2 brings 44 songs to the table, each with three difficulty levels that will have you learning the moves while following the scrolling flashcards and mimicking the onscreen instructor. The songs vary in style, genre, and even decade, with old-school beats from Bobby Brown’s “My Perogitive” and Digital Underground’s “Humpty Dance”, to more modern hits like Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and Justin Bieber’s “Somebody to Love”. While musical taste is purely subjective, I only enjoyed about 10 of the 44 tracks in this game and several, I had never even heard of, whereas 99% of the songs in Just Dance 3 were all familiar and all incredibly fun.
In addition to the 44 tracks that come with the game there is planned DLC as well as the ability to import (or purcahse) the entire track list from the original game into Dance Central 2, boosting your library to nearly 80 songs almost immediately. Sadly, there is no party mode that will randomize all these songs for you, which means there is a lot more hands-on time in the menus, picking music or creating play lists.
There are some nice improvements to the Dance Central 2 interface, namely voice control which makes it much easier to get around the menus and skip to specific moves in a dance routine. Graphics have been stepped up a notch with better character design and much smoother animations. The backgrounds are more interesting, even if the person playing can’t really pay enough attention to appreciate them, and there are all sorts of slick and colorful special effects. Even the dance move flashcards have been improved.
Dance Central 2 brings a few new features to the table. Tracking two players at the same time should have been in the first game, but at least we have it now, but there is still no online modes making it impossible to “serve” your friends on Xbox Live. And your dancing game is only as good as the music you are dancing to, and personally, most of the music in the core set list was unfamiliar and not to my liking.
But that’s not to say you won’t enjoy it. Dance Central 2 is a solid game and perhaps an even better dance instructor. I didn’t have as much “fun” playing this game as I did Just Dance 3. This was much more like taking dancing lessons then performing at a recital, but the Crew Challenge mode offered a nice new structured way to experience the game. Bottom line; the fun you’ll have is entirely based on the amount of work you want to put into the game, learning the moves and memorizing the routines.