Dance Central is one of the flagship titles utilising the newly released Kinect motion peripheral for the Xbox 360. Kinect is a controller free interface that uses a webcam style device to detect users gestures or spoken commands to interact with games. The Kinect is in competition with similar systems now being championed by the Wii and PS3.
Developed by Harmonix, creators of the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises, Dance Central is a music video game where the player is given dance moves to perform on, which are then tracked by Kinect and represented on screen by one of the games chosen characters. The game is divided in five main modes; Perform It, Challenge Mode, Workout Mode, Dance Battle and Break It Down.
The set-up of game is very straightforward to understand and it doesn’t take long at all to get involved. Players have a choice of eight dance characters, each with their own stereotypically unique styles (club chick, spoilt princess, rocker, effeminate disco dude, etc.). Indeed the animation owes much to the graphic style of the games cousins, Guiter Hero and Rock Band. Throughout each dance sequence visual cues run up beside the characters, in a format similar to that of pioneering game Dance Dance Revolution. Cues show which part of your body to move and how to move it, although it can take a little time to understand exactly what movement is implied by each cue.
The game modes are fairly self-explanatory, Perform It being the regular single player mode, Workout Mode is an extension of the Perform It, with a display showing how long you have dance for and how many calories have been burned. Break It Down is the practice mode, which allows you to learn the more complicated moves. Challenge mode is about unlocking stars to progress to increasingly harder levels. Finally, Dance Battle is when two players compete in a head to head dance-off with the winner declared on points. This is by far the most entertaining mode, although it is a slight disappointment that in the game the dancers must take it in turns and cannot compete side by side.
The game excels in the choice of music as has come to be expected with Harmonix titles, with classics from the 70s, 80s and 90s (such as Kool & The Gang’s ‘Jungle Boogie’ and Salt-n- Pepa’s ‘Push It’) competing with more recent hits (Souljah Boy’s Crank That’ being an obvious choice) to create a good mix of genres and styles to suit most tastes. With more songs and dances already available to download, this is sure to be a popular feature of this title.
Overall the game is a great success, the development of the Kinect technology is a great step on from the dance mat based games. The game is great fun and this is only the first title – there are still improvements to be made, in terms of gameplay and developing more options in both single and multiplayer games, but there is a definite sense that Dance Central as a series will go on to be every bit as successful as Harmonix other hits.