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Preview: Dance Central (Kinect)

As a diminutive person who jabs at buttons and keyboards for a living, I can say with the utmost accuracy that dancing isn't my forte. You'll probably come to the same conclusion after watching the video of me gyrating to the beat of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face," which I've foolishly embedded after the break. I've placed it there because I want you to see -- somewhere in that garbled body dialect -- how rapidly the "Oh my god, I can't be seen doing this" phase is supplanted by an inescapable feeling of fun. The endorphins don't lie, guys.

Dance Central isn't a quick-and-dirty ditty from Harmonix, the developers behind Amplitude and Rock Band. It's an immediately accessible rhythm title that trades multi-colored buttons for body language, presented in the form of easily processed silhouette cards. A practice mode enables you to gain familiarity with the dance move associated with each silhouette card, but I found them clear enough to follow correctly on my first attempt. Glance at the upcoming move card (think of it as the "next piece" window in Tetris) and prepare to mimic it and the group of on-screen dancers in rhythm to the music. It's like dancing in front of a mirror -- if you were a vibrant cartoon person with a boombox.

The reflection of your own body, as captured precisely by the Xbox 360's Kinect camera, is almost hidden compared to the in-game characters, and it makes the game feel more collaborative than judgmental. In comparison to rote stomp-'em-down Dance Dance Revolution, it's a dance dance revelation. I understand there's a mental embarrassment hurdle to be cleared here so, if it helps, better to think of Dance Central as a hip, hip-thrusting exercise game. Either way, you should also think of it as one of Kinect's least abstract games -- you're not awkwardly driving an invisible car, for example -- and certainly one of its most promising.
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This article was originally published on Joystiq.