Reviewed: January 21, 2004
Reviewed by: Mark Smith
Released: September 23, 2003
Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution game has become a cultural phenomenon that will like be studied by future societies and perhaps even aliens monitoring our world from light-years away. Leave it to the Japanese culture to infect our bars with karaoke and our arcades with dance machines. DDR first appeared in 1998 and has since been featured in prominent TV shows like Malcolm in the Middle, Will and Grace,, and even a recent episode of I’m With Her just to name a few. The core concept has spawned other PS2 dancing games featuring Britney Spears and Disney Jungle Book characters.
DDRMAX2: Dance Dance Revolution is the latest incarnation of the series to hit U.S. shores and the game has never been bigger or better. With a massive library of songs, psychedelic animated backgrounds, and even actual music videos, DDRMAX2 is the culmination of all things dance and the ultimate party game.
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 being on the wrong side of the glass. Normally by the time I have imbibed enough alcohol to muster the courage to sneak onto the dance floor I am lucky to walk let alone dance. 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. 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 DDRMAX2 what it is.
Chances are if you are reading this review then you don’t need the gameplay explained to you, but just in case, 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.
DDRMAX2 can be played with the gamepad or a dance mat or a pair of dance mats for even more challenging fun. You can also play two-player head-to-head for the ultimate dance-off contest making this a favorite at parties. There are more than 65 popular songs with more than 100 minutes of quality music, both licensed and original music.
While distracting to those actually playing the game, spectators can enjoy plenty of licensed music videos for many of the songs and funky kaleidoscope graphics or CG animated backup dancers that boogie down on the screen. As the dancer playing the game, it takes a lot of concentration to see “through” the distracting backgrounds and focus on the symbols.
There are plenty of game modes in this new version. Endless mode plays the entire song library in one continuous stream so you can practice for that dance marathon. NonStop mode is a variation of Endless mode and lets you play DJ and pick your songs then play them back in a nonstop sequence. There is even a dance editor that lets you create your own custom dance steps.
Workout mode is an interesting variation that lets you pick a calorie goal then dance until you burn off those calories. Naturally, this only works with the dance mat; you won’t get skinny sitting on the couch mashing the Dual Shock with one hand and munching Cheesy Poofs with the other. An interesting feature is the ability to compare your dancing workout to more traditional workouts like jogging or swimming.
I supposed there are thousands of gamers out there who are better than me at this game. I can get perfect scores on the easiest level and usually AA or B scores on the Light mode, but moving into Normal or Hard modes is an exercise in frustration. I’m lucky to even finish a song as each missed step slowly reduces my dance bar and once I start missing steps I get all flustered and totally wipe out.
DDRMAX2 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. One quick glance at sexy Kylie Minogue dancing around and I just missed three steps.
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. DDRMAX2 features a massive song list ranging from dance, techno, disco, and some interesting hybrid mixes. Some of it is licensed and some of it is totally original. 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, and even the quirky potential to use this game to shed a few excess pounds gives DDRMAX2 limitless replay value. Whether this becomes your next favorite party game or just a guilty pleasure you experience behind closed doors, DDRMAX2 is the definition of addictive gaming.
You can find DDRMAX2 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 DDRMAX 2 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).
Much like Frequency you either “get” this game or you don’t. For those that do, you won’t find a more comprehensive or fun dancing game out there.