- Kinect Sensor Required
- Publisher: MTV Games
- Developer: Harmonix
- ESRB Rating: “T" for Teen
- Genre: Dance
- Pros: Great presentation; fun gameplay; good song list; good menus
- Cons: Bit light on features
Dance Central is a dancing game. Not like Dance Dance Revolution, however, where you are tapping the floor on a dance pad in seemingly random patterns. This is a real dancing game where you perform real dance moves with your whole body. There are dozens of different moves that you learn and link together to perform routines for each of the 32 on-disc (with more DLC on the way) songs. You might not think you are into this type of real choreographed dancing (you know, the kind pop starlets and their backup dancers do on stage instead of having a real band), but when you get into the game and actually start playing, it is an absolute blast.
It can be difficult, though. Luckily, the game has a great "Break it Down" training mode for every song that teaches you each step one at a time before you ultimately put them all together into one fluid routine. The game also eases you into each routine by making you start on Easy and work your way up to the Medium and Hard difficulties by unlocking them. This is a smart way to go because there is a huge difference between practicing first and learning the moves and just jumping into a song. You can 5-star a song the first time if you use "Break it Down" mode first, but you'll only 2-star it (if you're lucky) if you try to just jump in blind. Once you memorize the moves, perfecting the routines is fun.
Each move in a routine also has a name and a flash card associated with it that scrolls on the right side of the screen, which lets you know ahead of time what moves are coming. You are judged on how accurately you replicated the moves and how smooth your motions are, and Kinect does a fantastic job of really tracking your whole body. The game is also remarkably accessible and easy to have fun with, too. Even if you mess up a lot, the music doesn't falter and the game doesn't chastise you. The only thing that suffers is your score. This is a great touch that will encourage more people to play and have fun because it doesn't go out of its way to tell you how much you suck the way a lot of games do. It is all about having fun, and Dance Central does a great job of letting you do just that.
One other thing I want to touch on is that the menu is awesome. Instead of the menu trying to anticipate what you want to do and acting for you instead of reacting to you, like most Kinect games, you have more control here. Menu options are lined up on the right side of the screen. To scroll through the options, you move your right hand up or down, and depending on how far up or down it will scroll faster. To select an item, you hold your hand out to highlight the option you want and then quickly sweep your hand to the left. It isn't sticky and trying to automatically snap to the next option like other games. You don't have to hold your hand in place for 5 seconds to let Kinect know you want to select something. You have total control here and it is surprisingly intuitive. This is easily the best menu system on Kinect so far.
Visually, Dance Central is a nice looking game. The menus are hip and stylish looking. The character models for the dancer look great and are well animated. And the clubs you dance in are flashy and neat. The on-screen information is also very clearly presented so you can see your score, upcoming moves, and how well you're performing specific moves quickly and easily.
The sound is also great. The music sounds great, and the announcer that helps you in the training mode is helpful instead of obnoxious. Great all around.
Dance Central is a fantastic game all around that really shows what a great Kinect experience can be like. The gameplay is fun and Kinect's tracking of all of your dance moves and motions are more accurate than any other game at launch. The menus also really stand out in how easy they are to use. I know it seems stupid to spend so much time focused on menus, but these are seriously great. The only slight drawback of Dance Central is that it is, obviously, a dance game and that isn't exactly everyone's favorite thing in the world. It is so well executed, though, that anyone will be able to have fun with it even if you think you don't like to dance. We highly recommend Dance Central for a purchase.