STAFF REVIEW of Dance Central Spotlight (Xbox One)

Monday, September 8, 2014.
by Adam Dileva

Dance Central Spotlight Box art Ask any Kinect for Xbox 360 owner what the best game they owned for it was and I’m willing to bet most of the answers would be Dance Central. Generally regarded as one of the best Kinect titles for Xbox 360, the time has finally come for Xbox One owners to start working on their dance moves as well. Dance Central Spotlight is the fourth installment in the series, and while each version has gotten bigger and better, Spotlight takes a slightly different path now that it’s only on Xbox One. For starters it’s a digital download only, so don’t bother looking in stores for it, and second, it’s very cheap, but for a reason; more on that shortly.

The biggest change you’re going to notice when you start playing Spotlight is the lack of any campaign. The previous games had a story and a campaign mode to guide you from song to song, but Spotlight nixes the mode completely for a much more streamlined experience that simply focuses on the dancing alone. Granted, I doubt anyone played the previous Dance Central games for their plots, but it was a mechanic that kept you moving forward, unlocking new songs and routines that got progressively harder.

Spotlight still has progression in a way, but it’s a much more tedious task instead of being wrapped up in a narrative. You’re able to play any song from the initial get go, but each song will only be playable on a basic difficulty. To unlock harder modes and different routines you’ll need to grind and play songs repeatedly again and again to play the more challenging and fun routines of each song. This change while good in theory does make the first while feel a bit of a chore, as it’s not fun playing the songs you don’t like multiple times just to unlock more routines or achievements.

To all of the Dance Central veterans out there like myself, you’ll be happy to know that the core mechanics are essentially unchanged and you can simply start dancing without having to learn anything new. If you’re a new comer to the dancing series, Spotlight is a Kinect only game that uses full body tracking to determine how accurately you’re mimicking the moves shown on screen and gives you a score based on how well you’re dancing. For an uncoordinated white guy like myself that isn’t all that smooth on the dance floor, the basic and slightly harder difficulty routines are fun and easy to get into. If you’re like my wife and knows how to shake it well, the harder difficulty modes are much more challenging and will mimic moves that you may see in the actual music videos.

While the Dance Central games on Xbox 360 were very accurate, there was the odd times where it sometimes wouldn’t just track you properly; with Kinect 2 on Xbox One, this isn’t the case anymore and allows for much more detailed body tracking. Spotlight gives you more feedback on what you’re doing wrong, so instead of just your arm being outlines in red because you’re not moving it properly, you’ll get more accurate feedback like maybe just your wrist or elbow is twisted wrong.

Spotlight is the cheapest entry into the series with its digital-only offering at a mere $9.99. Why is it so cheap you ask? Well, you’re not getting a campaign mode any longer, but you’re also only getting ten songs included. So here are the songs included with the initial download:

Avicii -- "Wake Me Up"
Cher Lloyd -- "I Wish"
David Guetta ft. Sia -- "Titanium"
Jason Derulo ft. 2 Chainz -- "Talk Dirty"
Kid Ink ft. Chris Brown -- "Show Me"
Lorde -- "Royals"
OneRepublic -- "Counting Stars"
Pharrell Williams -- "Happy"
Rihanna -- "Diamonds" ft. Justin Bieber -- "#thatPOWER"

You’re then able to piecemeal your game with songs you only really want to have with DLC. Individual songs can be purchased for $1.99 each and there are a few song packs that save you a little money if you want all of the songs by a certain artist if it’s offered. If you’ve purchased any DLC for the previous Dance Central games on 360, you’re able to do so for free which is a great way to add some initial songs. Unfortunately, there’s no way to import the on-disc songs from the previous games though.

Each of the ten songs has eight routines that can be unlocked and will range from easy to difficult, and special routines that can be strength and cardio based, or even manly and odd routines. To unlock more routines, you need to flawlessly perform specific moves in each mode, and once you gain enough of these, the new modes will unlock and can be played. Eventually you’ll unlock the better routines and most likely never go back to the others.

If you want to use the dancing as more of a health tool, there’s now a Fitness Mode to track your progress and calories. Here you can choose if you’d rather do a strength or cardio workout and then choose a duration to play for. You’re also able to input your height and weight as well if you want a better tracking of your progress. It can be tough after a few songs to keep going, but it’s a great alternative to working out if you need some motivation; simply load up all the songs you love and begin.

As for the value of Spotlight, it’s really how you look at it as a package, or lack thereof. Personally, I prefer this cheaper entry price and then adding to the game with DLC as I see fit. Here it makes more sense to me, as now I don’t have to slog through 20+ songs I don’t care for at all, where as a larger and pricier disc version of the previous games did have more songs, the chances are there were more songs you didn’t like as well. Of the ten included songs, there’s at least one or two you’ll mostly likely really enjoy as the genres range to many different styles. The fact that I only have to ignore 3 or 4 songs in Spotlight is much easier than being forced to play much more in the previous style of game offering. At $1.99 a piece, adding songs from the store isn’t that big of a deal and knowing Harmonix, the offerings will continue to come in and be relevant to almost everyone’s tastes.

Harmonix seems to know the secrets to getting Kinect to not only work, but work extremely well without many, if any, faults. Just like how Dance Central was the best reason to own a Kinect on Xbox 360, Spotlight is the best Xbox One Kinect game to date, and if you own one, you’ll most likely want to pick this up, especially since it’s so inexpensive.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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