Reviewed: October 18, 2004
Reviewed by: Mark Smith
Released: September 21, 2004
Konami has had some phenomenal success with their DDR series of games, and Dance Dance Revolution Extreme is their pinnacle achievement in the ongoing franchise. Admittedly, the core gameplay hasn’t changed much over the years. It still hearkens back to the arcade original that launched the simple concept of stepping on directional symbols as they scroll across the screen.
Frankly, I’ve been getting just a bit more bored with the series with each new release. Sure, Konami adds new contemporary music, and they’ve even toss in some music videos and new game modes to mix things up and make the game more “party friendly”, but at the end of the day DDR has always been just another dance game…until now.
As a club DJ for more than ten years I know a lot about music but I’ve never been the best dancer – curse of having 12 toes and two left feet. Breaking out the dance mat and attempting to play this game in the privacy of my own home with the blinds closed still takes a huge effort in blocking out any self-consciousness and with the newly added support for the EyeToy, there is no escaping my awkward antics.
Admittedly, I’m much more comfortable and have better skills at playing this game with the gamepad, but using the Dual Shock takes away a huge part of what makes DDR Extreme what it is, and most of the new modes now require your hands to be free. So lose the controller and your inhibitions and prepare for the ultimate dance game to ever hit the PS2.
DDR is founded on the principle elements of directional commands that rise from the bottom of the screen toward their matching outlines along the top. Your goal is to match those symbols precisely as they pass through their outline. In theory this sounds like an easy proposition, but just wait until they start throwing multiple directions at you at the same time, or perhaps combining “holds” (where you have to keep the button pressed for an extended duration) while continuing to match other symbols.
The speed of the symbols is based on the BPM (beats per minute) of the music and the number of symbols is based on your chosen difficulty. On the easiest skill level a song might have 80-100 steps in the entire mix, but on the Light setting this number doubles. Choosing Normal or Hard drives the difficulty into the realm of impossibility. Only professional dancers and speed freaks need apply.
DDR Extreme can be played with the gamepad or a dance mat or a pair of dance mats for an even greater challenge, and this latest version supports the EyeToy USB Camera. The camera lends itself way to numerous new game modes that will give you a full body workout.
All of the original modes are back along with two new and challenging options. The Mission mode will have players performing a series of tasks on their quest to become the most "extreme" dancer. The Endless mode allows players to play all the songs as one long continuous nonstop mix, while the Lesson and Edit modes lets players learn and customize their dance moves. Rounding out this complete DDR package and ensuring players are getting off the couch and onto the dance floor is the popular Work Out mode, allowing players to track the calories they burn as they dance off the pounds.
If you’ve been thinking about getting an EyeToy you now have your single best reason to do so. Without the camera DDR Extreme offers two new multiplayer modes, Hyper Dash, and Feeding Time. Hyper Dash is like the old Track and Field game where you alternately mashed buttons to run. Now you actually run in place, your feet propelling an onscreen character in a side-scrolling race. You can even shoot at your opponent creating craters that the other player must leap over.
Feeding Time is a sophomoric little diversion that has you feeding animals by tapping on the dance mat to match corresponding directions with animals and food. Some animals require multiple units of food, which require additional taps on the arrow. Yawn.
But if you have the EyeToy camera there are five new modes that combine video capture with your dancing, and while some of these smack of gimmickry, you can’t help but have fun playing and watching others play them.
Watch Me Dance is the simplest of the modes and is basically the core DDR game superimposed over the video capture of the players dancing in front of the TV. Obviously a great feature if you have a hot dance partner or stylish moves, otherwise it’s about as embarrassing as posing naked in front of a mirror.
Clean the Screen is a mix of DDR and that window washing game that comes with your EyeToy. Basically, the screen slowly fills up with clutter and you must wave your hands around to “wipe” the screen clean so you can see the symbols as they rise to the top. If the screen gets too dirty you can’t see the arrows and make your moves.
Coconut Panic puts you between some palm trees. Using your hands you shake the onscreen trees to rattle some coconuts loose then you must catch them as they fall from the trees. Again, this is pretty much like those mini-games that came with your EyeToy.
Magic Ball is a variation of Breakout where you use your hands as paddles to keep the ball bouncing around the screen knocking away at the blocks. While this mode has potential, there is no predictable physics to the ball making it impossible to control. It’s all pretty much luck.
Hands and Feet is the mode you will likely spend the most time with, especially if you enjoyed the recently release Groove game that also used the EyeToy. In this mode you must match the dance symbols along with intermittent hand motions to match the onscreen cues.
DDR Extreme is not about the graphics, but even so they do a surprisingly good job for the most part. The symbols are generally easy to see and “holds” and “double-tap” notes are clearly indicated by unique symbols. Things can get distracting when the background gets cluttered with animated dancers or FMV music videos. And now we have the added distraction of having to watch my own awkward attempts at dancing “in the mirror”.
The menus are simple and the scoring and music selection screens are colorful and easy to navigate. As you unlock new banks of music they are color coded so you know what’s new. The information on the HUD during the game is clear and easy to read provided you can take your eyes off the streaming steps long enough to read it.
As with any music or dance game the soundtrack is the driving force behind the gameplay. DDR Extreme features a massive song list ranging from dance, techno, disco, and some interesting hybrid mixes. Here is just a sample of the great titles included in this game:
By the time you unlock and make your way through all the songs you’ll be ready to hear them all over again. The numerous modes, multiplayer gaming, new camera modes, and even the quirky potential to use this game to shed a few excess pounds gives DDR Extreme limitless replay value. Whether this becomes your next favorite party game or just a guilty pleasure you experience behind closed doors, DDR Extreme is the definition of addictive gaming...to the extreme.
You can buy this game with the Konami dance mat for $60 or if you already have a mat you can get just the game for $30. Definitely not a bad deal for the content and endless gameplay potential.
You’ll never catch me playing this game in the arcades but having Dance Dance Revolution Extreme on my PS2 ready to humiliate myself in the privacy of my own home is undeniable fun. I suppose there is a certain demographic that will really enjoy this game, girls and anyone who can dance, and the camera will certainly feed the ego of those wanting to become TV stars, even if it is just in your own home.
As with most of these dancing games you either “get” it or you don’t. For those that do, you won’t find a more comprehensive or fun dancing game out there. The new camera-based game modes add greatly to an already fantastic DDR package and sets the bar just that much higher for the next installment.