Dance Central is the name of the game and it's pretty much one of the best dance games, in terms of motion tracking and move sets (600 moves coded in) at least. Where it loses out is in features, it's definitely single player game with only a 2 player (step in/out of camera range to swap) to allow you to Dance Battle your friends. Yet for the lack of features the game comes packed with enough content to allow you to enjoy it for what it is.
No dance mats or controllers, Dance Central is controlled completely by the player and the Kinect's motion sensor. Choosing songs, moving through menus and navigating options is made easy with simple and precise motion sensing, perfectly married with the game's interface. Once you've found a song you want to dance to (there's around 30 with more as DLC) you can either choose to go right in, or Break It Down.
Break It Down is a great option for beginners to Dance Central, with an instructor that gives you good feedback and a visual Flash Card style that shows you the move coming up. It is fairly easy to begin to learn a set of moves, by rote mastery. Pattern recognition and attention to detail is the order of the day here with many of the moves being shared by various songs. There are also various difficulty settings that up the move roster and of course the complexity.
You want to start with Easy though.
In Break It Down mode you learn the dance set with your instructor, if you blow through the move list you get rewarded and if you mess up too many times, the instructor will give you plenty of chances to try and get the move right. You can also slow down the move list to allow you to nail a particularly tricky move and make sure that your body posture is just right.
When you're dancing for real in the game, you'll see there's no Career Mode and there's only a selection of song lists. This reminds me of the early Guitar Hero and of course this makes Dance Central appear to be a Proof of Concept game, with the sequel (if there is one) having more of everything - rather like DJ Hero 2.
What you get though is pretty polished, the game tracks movement extremely well and in some cases it feels like it might judge you too harshly. Make a wrong move and the offending move or limb is outlined in red and you get docked points. It's all about keeping in rhythm and flailing your limbs around like a demented octopus on the drums isn't going to net you an awesome score. The game knows when you're trying and when you're trying to cheat the system. Once you get the hang of it though you'll be racking up the points, keeping fit and having fun all at the same time.
There's a wide variety of dance styles to play with and there's tracks by the infamous Lady Gaga to name but one artist on the game. Poker Face went down particularly well with our test crowd and even non-gamers were soon up and dancing when they didn't have to mess around with complicated controls and menus.
If you're curious about the whole track list, don't say we're not good to you here!
• Audio Push - Teach Me How To Jerk
• Basement Jaxx - Rendez-vu
• Beastie Boys - Body Movin' (Fatboy Slim Remix)
• Beenie Man - King Of The Dancehall
• Bell Biv DeVoe - Poison
• Benny Benassi - Satisfaction
• Cascada - Evacuate the Dancefloor
• Christina Milian - Dip It Low
• The Commodores - Brick House
• Craig Mack - Flava In Ya Ear (Remix)
• Dirty Vegas - Days Go By
• Eric B. & Rakim - Don't Sweat the Technique
• Fannypack - Hey Mami
• Jay Sean ft. Lil Wayne - Down
• Kool & The Gang - Jungle Boogie
• Kylie Minogue - Can't Get You Out of My Head
• Lady Gaga - Just Dance
• Lady Gaga - Poker Face
• Lipps Inc - Funky Town
• M.I.A. - Galang '05
• Nelly Furtado - Maneater
• Nina Sky - Move Ya Body
• No Doubt - Hella Good
• Pitbull - I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)
• Quad City DJ's - C'mon N' Ride It (TheTrain)
• Rihanna - Pon de Replay
• Salt-N-Pepa - Push It
• Snoop Dogg/Pharrell - Drop It Like It's Hot
• Soulja Boy Tell 'Em - Crank That (Soulja Boy)
• Wreckx-n-Effect - Rump Shaker
• Young MC - Bust A Move
The bottom line with the Dance Central controls is that it tracks the movement nearly perfectly; scoring you on how accurate you are and making sure that you have a precise movement. The menus are easy to navigate and the Kinect matches up perfectly. There is NO character customisation though, so you're stuck with Harmonix own roster of dancers and that's that.
Harmonix aren't strangers to good looking graphics or aesthetic choices, in Dance Central they've gone for a highly stylised look and it suits the vibe perfectly. There's a good level of detail on the main characters, the crowd, the backing dancers and the venues themselves. As per usual light and shadow are used to a good effect and we really like the bright and cheerful nature of the whole palette.
Silky smooth animations make Dance Central a joy to watch as well as play, there's no missed frames and there's nothing that appears out of place. It's all good stuff.
We can't grumble with the sound, the ambient sound is there, the background tracks are there.
With some really pumping tracks and some great dances, there's nothing we can say about the music apart from that it really gets your toes tapping. Even Lady Gaga...
Each character has a distinctive voice and personality; it comes through in their animations as well as the dialogue. Mostly it's that kind of beginning and end of routine dialogue that you get, so there's nothing amazing here.
There's 'offline' 2 player Dance Battle only, swap in and swap out via the Kinect camera...that's it.
We can't fault Harmonix for playing it safe with a new title, it works well enough but there's just not 'enough' of the game to push it any further than a decent title for the Kinect. If you want to have fun though and keep fit, this is a great way to do both of those. Hopefully Dance Central 2 will have more of everything.