The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Dance Central is one of the few series in the Kinect’s line-up that fosters excitement for what the motion-sensing device has to offer. It’s no surprise that Dance Central is consistently the best-selling Kinect game. Even with its success, Harmonix makes sure that the formula doesn’t wear thin. Dance Central 3 is more than just new songs and new dances; it’s easily the best entry yet.
The core concept remains the same: You mirror the dancers onscreen. The characters’ limbs will light up red if you are not matching up with them, offering easy-to-understand feedback. That part hasn’t changed, but Dance Central 3 is better than the previous entries thanks to the song selection and numerous new modes.
Dance Central 3 has more dialogue and cutscenes than any Harmonix game to date. The crews that you have become familiar with in Dance Central 1 and 2 are now members of DCI, Dance Central Intelligence. DCI is a time-traveling dance-crime fighting organization. The premise is absurd and sometimes hilarious, but it doesn’t go far enough. The story isn’t meant to be taken seriously, but Dance Central 3 doesn’t fully embrace the silliness. Attempts are made at sincerity, but I couldn’t help but scoff and continue flailing my arms about like uncoordinated maniac. When you are telling a story about time traveling dance-crime fighters, why would you ever aim for anything serious?
The conceit of the story has you collecting assorted dance crazes of past eras. You learn to do the Electric Slide, dance The Hustle, and master The Macarena. Even non-dancers like myself are familiar with most of the crazes, and I couldn’t help but get excited when it came time to learn dances I had heard of.
In each of the eras you have to collect pieces of the familiar crazes hidden inside the songs. Finding and unlocking the crazes lends traditional video game mentality to a game that has normally been about getting up, dancing, and having a good time. Gamers love collecting and finding hidden things, and seeking out the crazes scratched that itch for me. I don’t mind replaying a song when I’m going for more than just stars and a high score.
Dancing through the eras means the song selection is much more diverse than previous entries. Dance Central 1 and 2 stuck mostly with modern dance anthems peppering in only a few classics. In Dance Central 3 you dance to ‘70s hits like Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and The Trammps’ “Disco Inferno”. Some of the best stuff comes from the ‘90s. I enjoyed embarrassing myself with Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” and New Kids on the Block’s “You Got It (The Right Stuff).” The modern stuff has not been neglected and makes a worthwhile appearance. Artists like 50 Cent, Nicki Minaj, and Katy Perry all make appearances, and if you want more songs you can always hit up the ever-expanding DLC (or bring tracks over from Dance Central 1 and 2 for a small fee).
You still won’t find true online multiplayer, which is disappointing, but the offerings for those in the same room as you are great. Every single mode, single and multiplayer, allows players to jump in at any time for cooperative dancing.
Competitive dancing has also received a meaty expansion. Along with the traditional one-versus-one dancing of the first two installments, you can now take part in Crew Throwdown. Up to eight players split into groups of four and take each other on in dancing battles. These sequences are still one-on-one, but the new structure adds to the fun. The Kinect takes photos of everyone, offering up images that dictate who’s turn is up. The traditional “who can dance better?” battle exists here, but it’s more than just that. A dancing version of “Horse” shows up, where players have to recreate each other’s moves. One mode is solely about striking poses. The variety keeps the game fresh and keeps the laughs coming. Watching people dance is always entertaining, but watching people make up their own crazy moves and jump into awkward poses is even better.
The new Party Time Mode simplifies the overall interface to allow you to leave Dance Central on during a party for people to jump into. Right hand changes the song, left hand changes the mode, and when you high-five the person next to you the song begins. In the past, when you had friends over to play Dance Central, it was a complicated process of teaching people how to use Kinect and rifling through menus, and Party Time Mode gets rid of all that.
In normal situations, I don’t dance. Deep in the recesses of hidden hard drives, video exists that features me making a fool of myself at my wedding, but that is the closest I have ever come to dancing in public. With Dance Central, I don’t mind jumping right up and waving my arms and legs around like I know what I am doing. I have always enjoyed Harmonix’s dancing franchise, and Dance Central 3 is the best experience I have ever had with Kinect.
Email the author Kyle Hilliard, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.