Reviewed: December 28, 2004
Reviewed by: Mark Smith
Released: November 16, 2004
Dance Dance Revolution: Ultramix 2 is the latest installment of Konami’s popular dancing franchise to hit U.S. shores, and the second release for the Xbox. With more music and more modes the game has never been bigger or better. With a massive library of more than 65 songs spanning techno, house, R&B, and trance plus even crazier psychedelic animated backgrounds, and more great online play, Ultramix 2 is a substantial expansion but not nearly enough to be called a sequel.
While this year’s version of DDR saw some significant improvements on the PS2 (with new EyeToy support) the Xbox version is mainly a musical upgrade with a few minor enhancements. Considering you can download music packs for last year’s Ultramix via Xbox Live you might already have more music than you can dance to, but there is plenty in this new package worth checking out.
Ultramix 2 features:
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.
Ultramix 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 or link a pair of Xbox’s together or go online for competitions with up to four players. Ultramix is going to be huge at your next party. There are more than 65 popular songs featuring some of the hottest mixes from world-famous DJ’s. This is the kind of music you’d hear in some of the best clubs and raves from around the world.
While distracting to those actually playing the game, spectators can enjoy plenty of funky kaleidoscope graphics with 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.
Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 2 now offers a Party Mode, a compilation of various games that allows players to compete against their friends for ultimate dance supremacy in completely new ways. Challenge Mode and Battle Mode have returned with all new gameplay. Battle Mode keeps players dancing til dawn with up to four players competing simultaneously, while Challenge Mode lets players dance through various rounds of play completing specific goals and objectives.
Ultramix 2 features online play with plenty of modes and all of the matchmaking services you’d expect from Live. Most surprising was that the gameplay flows quite smoothly. For a game that requires precise timing, any lag would kill this title. Thankfully, there was none in the more than 30 matches I participated in. DDR must be catching on as there were a lot more people playing this year than last.
The new multiplayer modes are rather inventive and include Team Battle and Synch modes. The Team Battle mode is your typical versus mode that has you competing with a rival dancer to get the most flawless run possible. The Synch mode is something new and a long time coming. This mode has you and a partner dancing together and synchronizing their steps. The game actually detects any timing differences between the two players steps.
Ultramix 2 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 and flashy effects. You can now download new dancer models and animation via Xbox Live.
The menus have been slightly enhanced and are a bit flashier than before 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. Ultramix 2 boasts a bigger music library than ever before ranging from dance, techno, disco, and some interesting hybrid mixes. Some of it is licensed and some of it is totally original and most of it is fairly obscure to the general public. The game features top hits from Delirium, ELVIS, Freestylers and the Commodores - plus remixes by top dance acts, including Paul Oakenfold, Svenson & Gielen and Jondi & Spesh.
Downloadable songs will be available in packs of 5 songs for $5.00/pack. The game also supports all the downloadable song packs from the original Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix game - offering an unprecedented 100+ songs to choose from at launch. By the time you make your way through all the songs you’ll be ready to hear them all over again.
You can find Ultramix 2 bundled 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, and the added bonus of being able to download more music for a small fee has the potential to keep this game alive forever.
The new online modes and the increased number of people actually playing DDR on Xbox Live is certainly encouraging. There are now global scoreboards and the ability to organize massive online dance tournaments. The numerous modes, multiplayer gaming, and even the quirky potential to use this game to shed a few excess pounds gives Ultramix 2 limitless replay value. Whether this becomes your next favorite party game or just a guilty pleasure you experience behind closed doors, DDR Ultramix 2 is the definition of addictive gaming.
You’ll never catch me playing this game in the arcades but having DDR on my Xbox 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).
If you are looking for more popular music you might want to check out the new version of DDR for the PS2, but if you are in the mood for some killer techno tunes and house music then Ultramix is the ultimate selection of high-energy dance beats. Regardless of which system or which game you play, you won’t find a more comprehensive or fun dancing game out there.