Dance Central Is For Non-Dancers

by Matt Miller on Aug 16, 2010 at 06:02 PM

Several games are headed to Kinect for its launch this November, but few of them are targeted towards established gamers. While Dance Central is certainly out of familiar territory for the gaming crowd, it has several elements that may make it worth a closer look – even if you insist that look occurs in the dark of your basement, far from prying eyes that can observe your meager dancing skills.

In fact, Dance Central is built from the ground up for non-dancers. Guitar Hero and Rock Band never billed themselves as music games for musicians; their appeal derives from bringing music performance to people who otherwise might never have that experience. Likewise, Dance Central is structured to teach dancing to people who feel like they have two left feet.

Dance Central includes three gameplay modes. Break It Down is the gateway practice experience that challenges players to master individual moves before progressing. It includes a number of tools to help your learning, including the ability to slow down the beat as well as body tracking that shows which appendages are out of place.

The second game mode, Perform It, is just what it sounds like. A single performer stands in front of the Kinect camera and completes a dance routine. The easiest difficulty setting involves mostly simple movements with lots of repetition. The hard setting is more in line with what you’d see in a music video of the song in question

Next Up: Dance Battle & the song list so far

The final game mode, Dance Battle, is as close to multiplayer as you’re going to find in Dance Central. Players tag team back and forth on a song, each dancing for short sections before trading off during freestyle sections. Scores are ultimately totaled at the end of a song and a winner is declared. The whole game can be played through to completion in Dance Battle. Progression through Dance Central is different from many of its cousins over in the music game field. All the songs are unlocked on easy, but you’ll need to beat that setting to unlock the higher difficulties.

We dug into the game and played several songs recently when Harmonix swung by the Game Informer offices. There's a definite learning curve involved in following the onscreen dancers, but with each song it became a little easier to recognize moves. The Break It Down mode assured that there was always a place to retreat when things got too tough in the straight performances. However, with two people playing, the obvious choice is Dance Battle – then everybody is making a fool of themselves, which is always the ideal scenario for games that are about moving around in front of a camera.

Dance Central doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but our time with the choreographed songs made it clear that this is easily the most compelling and interesting dance simulator we’ve seen. Is it enough to carry Kinect for gamers when the game releases on November 4th? That remains to be seen.

The full list of announced songs is listed below.

Basement Jaxx – “Rendez-Vu”
Beastie Boys – “Body Movin’ (Fatboy Slim Remix)”
Bell Biv DeVoe – “Poison”
Benny Benassi – “Satisfaction”
Cascada – “Evacuate the Dancefloor”
Fannypack – “Hey Mami”
Kool & The Gang – “Jungle Boogie”
Kylie Minogue – “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”
Lady Gaga – “Poker Face”
Lipps Inc – “Funkytown”
M.I.A. – “Galang ‘05”
Nelly Furtado – “Maneater”
No Doubt – “Hella Good”
Nina Sky – “Move Ya Body”
Pitbull – “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)"
Rihanna – “Pon de Replay”
Salt-N-Pepa – “Push It”
Snoop Dogg/Pharrell – “Drop It Like It’s Hot”
Technotronic – “Pump Up the Jam”
Young MC – “Bust A Move”