I love it when a dance comes together.
The thing is, that takes a while. And with Harmonix’s Kinect showpiece, Dance Central, that’s what’s holding it back.
In the game, you dance choreographed routines to various songs. If you come into it thinking you’ll get to enjoy the same types of tracks you like from Rock Band, that isn’t happening. The Dance Dance Revolution crowd won’t be entirely happy either, as there’s nothing to appeal to their Eastern tastes. What you have here are serious dance tracks from Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Soulja Boy and M.I.A., with a few old-school tunes for good measure. They fit well with what you’re doing, but it’s good to know what you’re getting into.
Dancing each song is a series of moves, and it judges you on your ability to move your limbs in the correct way. You can’t just jump straight into a song, though, or you’ll certainly not know what to do. Instead, you go into a little training mode before each song where it shows you the moves and makes you repeat them successfully before continuing. It works about as well as it can, but this game is supposed to be a party showpiece, and it just doesn’t work as well unless everyone prepares beforehand. (Which pretty much defeats the point.)
It’s also important to know that Dance Central doesn’t teach you to dance. I mean, it comes closer than anything ever has, but don’t mistake this for Rock Band 3‘s Pro Mode. You’re doing motions in a way a camera can capture them, and you’re still going to look a bit awkward doing them.
If you like a little practice in your dance games (and there’s definitely a crowd that does), Dance Central hits you hard. The highest difficulty level has you learning entire routines rather than a sequence of repeated moves, and there’s even an option to turn off the move display so you have to remember the whole thing.
Those who have been following our Kinect coverage know that many launch menu schemes have been difficult to navigate. While Dance Central doesn’t take the crown away from Your Shape, its interface is easily navigable, as it relies on a simple swipe of the left or right hand to advance or go back.
There are a few extra modes, such as Dance Battle (where you can challenge a friend to beat your moves) and Workout Mode (where it keeps up with calories burned). Neither are that fleshed-out, but that’s forgivable in a launch title. The life here is in the downloadable song catalog, which will certainly continue to grow for people who want to keep dancing.
Dance Central is good. That barrier to entry keeps it from greatness, but it’s still a worthy showcase for the early Kinect buyer.
Pros: Good menu design, accurate motion detection, general polish
Cons: High barrier to entry, limited appeal to song list