Sadly, its smarts eventually aren't enough. The more demanding moves require you to move your entire body in ways it may be unfamiliar with, and highlighting which body part is "wrong" is ultimately not very helpful. Dance Central can tell you what is wrong, but it can't tell you why it's wrong. Are you moving too quickly? Too slowly? Are you at the wrong angle? Do your hips need to move more? You can perform the same move incorrectly a dozen times over, without knowing how to improve your form. It can be frustrating, to the point that you don't want to bother learning anymore.
Still, perseverance has its rewards. I was ecstatic when I got my first Gold Star performance, and I still wanted more. I wanted to replay the song with the cue cards turned off. I wanted to do a harder version of the routine, and I wanted to try some of the more advanced songs. What makes Dance Central's difficulty progression so unique and rewarding is that it's not based on "accuracy." More difficult songs don't demand you to be more "accurate" with your moves. Instead, the routines themselves get much more difficult, throwing in more complex moves. You may start the game doing mere side steps and claps, but continue progressing and you'll be learning full body spins and jazz steps!
Surprisingly, Dance Central
doesn't really work as a "party game," since you really need to take the time to learn the moves at your own pace. (Not particularly fun for a crowd). Dance Battles are novel, but ultimately aren't a real multiplayer experience as two people take turns performing the same routine. (And heaven forbid one person actually learns the moves, it'll be a completely lopsided fight.) Dance Battle is reminiscent of early Guitar Hero
multiplayer battles. They may be tests of skill, but they're not real social interactions. Where is the "Rock Band
" version of this concept? Why can't I dance with someone else? Why can't we learn together? The lack of a social element to Dance Central
really hurts it.
Of course, if anyone is able to make that transformation
, it's Harmonix. This is the developer that transformed Guitar Hero
into Rock Band 3
, after all. So many features in Dance Central
feel half-baked right now: multiplayer needs to be rethought. "Workout Mode" is just an obscure option that adds a calorie counter to the HUD. The game's pointless "Freestyle" sections need to be removed altogether. On top of that, there's a laundry list of features that are missing: being able to use (or create) your own avatar, replays, and an integrated download store.
is undoubtedly one of the strongest games in the Kinect's launch lineup, but it's hard to ignore the untapped potential awaiting the franchise. Ultimately, Dance Central
's greatest shortcoming is that it can't actually teach you how to dance. But, its greatest triumph is that -- against all odds -- it will make you want to.
This review is based on the Kinect retail version of Dance Central provided by Microsoft.