STAFF REVIEW of Dance Central 2 (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011.
by Adam Dileva

Dance Central 2 Box art I never have and never will proclaim that I?m a dancer. I?m not a dancer; I?m a white guy that dances like a typical white guy. Though I do love me my dancing games. I know I?m a terrible dancer, but I have fun, and that?s what matters right? Luckily, Kinect doesn?t judge me too harshly; it even sometimes tells me I?m doing well while I?m playing Dance Central 2. I do wonder what my clubbing days would have been like if the Dance Central games where around back then; would it have made me a little better on the dance floor? Possibly.

Dance Central 2 is finally here and I?ve been waiting for this title for some time. It?s the Sequel to the bestselling dance game on Kinect and I?d even wager it was the bestselling Kinect game at launch by far. Dance Central offered a reason and justification to all the early adopters of Kinect like myself. I?ve even heard it be called the Dance Central machine, it was that well done. Now the sequel is here with some big improvements and fresh dance moves for you to try out. Don?t fret, the base game itself is generally unchanged and still has you following and mirroring the on screen dancers for points, showing that you can keep up with their dance moves.

There are more songs this time around, 44 to be exact. Everyone?s going to have different musical tastes, but the songs that were noteworthy to me were: ?Baby Got Back (not the original, it?s a mix version unfortunately)? by Sir Mix-A-Lot, ?Bad Romance? and ?Born This Way? by Lady Gaga, ?Grenade? by Bruno Mars (which my wife can?t stop playing), "Mai Ai Hee (Dragostea Din Tei)" by O-Zone (better known to youtubers as Numa Numa), ?Sandstorm? by Darude, and ?What Is Love? by Haddaway. There?s a diverse selection of music, though I found DC2 to be a little more hip-hop and R and B heavy for my tastes than the first game. There?s sure to be a few songs here for everyone to enjoy though.

Not enough songs for you? You?re also able to import the whole song list from the first Dance Central as well, for a small fee for 400 Microsoft Points, just like how Rock Band offered. All you need is the code on the back of your manual from the first game (new copy of course) and you can import every song, none are left out due to licensing issues! Importing the first games 32 songs will boast your song list up to 76 songs, not even including any DLC songs you?ve (or will) purchase.

Dance Central 2 now boasts a ?campaign? mode of sorts. Dance Crew mode will have you battling against seven other crews of two dancers. Performing well will earn their respect and allow you to move on against the more difficult and talented crews. To represent a crew, you need to earn their respect and prove you can carry on their name. As you make your way through all the crews, you?ll eventually dance off against Glitterati, which to me felt like a hybrid of the Misfits from Jem and Lady Gaga. To beat a crew you need to earn stars for your performance in each song. Once you?ve earned sixteen stars total, you can challenge them at their ?boss song?. Get a minimum of four stars on this final song and you can move onto the next crew. Beat all the crews and you?ll have a final confrontation, which I won?t spoil, but be prepared, because you?ll have to dance to all the ?boss songs? in a row without rest. As you dance through the Crew Challenge, you?ll unlock new dancers, venues, and clothing. It?s obviously not the deepest story, but at least it?s there and it?s a new addition that I commend for Harmonix for including.

It?s no secret that I have a small living room and an even smaller play space for my Kinect games. Somehow Harmonix gets it right each time as I never had any issues with body tracking with my severe space constraints. You control the menus in the same fashion by swiping your arm from right to left to select, but now there?s also the inclusion of voice controls as well. Instead of using your hands to select songs and difficulties, you can simply say ?Xbox Dance?, and then pick your song by saying ?Song ____?, and even ?Difficulty ____?. Then just say ?Xbox Dance? again and you?re in the song you wanted. My only issue by using the voice commands for song selection though is that you need to know the songs name. I had a brain fart, couldn?t remember the name of the song I wanted, and had to go back to using hand controls to scroll to it for me to remember. I wish it had a list of songs that came up when using voice controls, but it?s a minor oversight.

Many of your favorite dancers from the first game make a return; Angel, Emilia, Miss Aubrey, Taye, and Mo all return with new styles and clothing. There are also a handful of new dancers as well that make up each member?s two person crew. Also expect many of new dance moves to go along with the ones you still know from the first game. The routines are quite varied when playing the same song but on different difficulties.

If you?re a more health conscious person and wan to track your fitness, there are even Fitness Playlists included for those that want a deep cardio workout. Here you can pick a preset play list to burn a sweat, or even pick your own favorite songs to dance along with. You?ll see how many calories you?ve burned, and don?t take these playlists lightly; you?ll need a towel and water after the longer and more difficult ones.

One of the biggest complaints about the first Dance Central was learning how to do some of the more difficult dance moves. Yes it had a tutorial, but if you were unable to do a specific move, there weren?t any other tools to really help you out. Now, for the inept dancers like myself, the vastly improved Break It Down mode will be able to teach you even the hardest of dance moves with enough practice. Here you can learn an entire routine or just that one specific dance move that you can?t seem to quite get. Practice the move and nail it three times and you?ll move on. If you continue to have problems, even when slowed down, there?s an option to record video of yourself trying said move and comparing it to the dancer side by side. Some might be terrified at the idea of the game recording you, but for those really wanting to learn the more intricate movements, this tool is invaluable, even if I do look silly trying these moves in my Halo pajamas. Seeing yourself side by side the dancer is a fantastic tool to see what you?re doing right and wrong. Harmonix definitely listened to the first game?s criticism and this is exactly how you remedy that problem.

Now that Dance Central supports up to two dancers simultaneously, my initial reaction was thinking that I wouldn?t be able to do it because of my small play space in my living room. I was proven wrong and surprisingly the wife and I played side by side in my very small section and had zero problems with Kinect detecting both of us and our frantic movements. Why can?t all Kinect games be this accurate and done properly? It seems Harmonix knows some of the development secrets!

If you?re playing a song by yourself and someone wants to join, it?s as easy as them standing beside you and raising their hand (like some other Kinect titles). The drop in and drop out multiplayer was much needed and it?s much more entertaining trying to beat a friends score now that you can compete side by side and not have to take turns.

Challenge your friend to a Dance Battle and you?ll be off to the dance floor competing for high scores and showing who really has the best moves. Many moves of a song will be synchronized with your dance partner, but there will also be sections that will showcase each player with a spotlight, giving them the chance to earn a bonus multiplayer if they can dance fluidly. There is even a section called Free-4-All that?s almost like a mini game that will pop up from time to time. Here, a bunch of dance moves on cue cards are shown and you can pick any of the moves to perform for points. Every so often a gold card will be shown and will net you four times as many points to whoever can pull it off first. Things become frantic in this section and you will bump into each other and step on some toes, but you?ll have a great time laughing while doing it.

To those not shy, all of the pictures taken can be uploaded to your social network sites to share with your friends that show you in the game with details of your song, score and more. To the guys out there, be warned though; there?s a heavy use of very feminine dance moves included in the routines that should be more than enough to embarrass even the bravest male dancers. This will be an absolute blast at parties with friends though, especially ones that have much drinking to be had.

All aspects of the game simply seem improved. Graphics seem cleaner and sharper, there?s more facial animations on the dancers that give them more life, and hair and clothing moves much more fluid and realistically. Sadly though, there is still no online multiplayer, so here?s to hoping for it to be included in Dance Central 3. I can live with the two player simultaneous support for now though.

The first game set the standard for the dancing genre on Kinect; the sequel raises that bar by adding a solid multiplayer that you don?t have to fuss with and a tutorial mode that should be able to teach dancers of any skill many dance moves to use in real life should the opportunity arise. Again, Dance Central 2 is THE reason to own a Kinect if you don?t already. Now go get your boogie on and dance up a sweat.

Overall: 9.2 / 10
Gameplay: 9.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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