This one took a little longer to review as I was on the fence of giving it a 10, so I had to be confident in the score, I’ve spent additional time with it and it’s close, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get over the fact of not having full length tracks and that was really the only thing stopping me from giving it a 10, I put my reasoning in the conclusion. Anyhow, if you haven’t played Dance Central 2 yet, here’s what it’s about:
The Kinect dance party rages on! Dance Central 2 brings a groovin’ new soundtrack and all-new multiplayer features that give you new ways to dominate the dance floor as a crew. Dance to 40 new tracks that spin a perfect mix of new hits and classics. Boost your library by downloading songs or importing your library from the original Dance Central. Drop-in, drop-out play means new dancers can join the party anytime. Dance as new on-screen characters in new crew pairings. The game analyzes your moves and lets you know how you can improve your performance. Practice has gotten easier, as you can now control your training using voice commands.
I would have to say and others would agree that Harmonix has done it again by making an improved sequel to the number 1 dancing game on Kinect: Dance Central. It’s improved in every area and has some new bells and whistles as well. If you really want to learn how to dance or want something different for fitness besides exercising, this is the best game for it. Even if you don’t want to learn to dance and just want to realize the potential with Kinect, the bottom line is this is the best game for Kinect out of everything that has been released until the day of writing.
As you’ve seen in my previous Kinect game reviews referencing to the Dance Central menu system, Harmonix was the first to create it and it is the best menu system in my opinion. It’s been re-worked a little bit in this one, with more options. It seems to me to be a bit more sensitive than the first Dance Central, but you can still navigate it pretty quickly. A new feature in this sequel is the voice integration. You can walk through all of the menu’s using your voice and it works the majority of the time. As with the previous release, this one still includes menu navigation with a controller. It is really the best of all the worlds, you have Kinect navigation, voice navigation and controller navigation, what more is there? The menu options themselves include, Dance, Crew Challenge, Fitness, Options, and Buy New Dances.
The dance section takes you right into the game not needing to unlock anything. You can create a custom playlist, up to 5 each with 20 songs, or pick an individual song. Some new things in this section — previously in the first Dance Central, songs were categorized by difficulty level and that was the only way to choose from them. Hovering over a song would play a preview of the track. This has been upgraded as we now have a sorting option which is in the top left of the screen. You can sort by difficulty, artist, song title and by location/type such as if the song is from DC/DC2/DLC. When you hover over a song, not only does a bit of the track play, but you get a preview of the actual dance routine that goes with it. It’s absolutely perfect, not really for us that play the game all the time, but for those casual gamers or first time players. They can now get a feel for the moves so they know what they are getting into. You can see the new preview mode in the video below.
Once you choose a song, you can either Perform It, Dance Battle, Break It Down or check the leaderboards to see who has the top scores not on your friends list. Perform It is the regular dance mode that scores you. Everyone has different learning patterns, but I think the one rule that practice makes perfect is for everyone. I tend to learn the routines in perform it first, and then moves I really have trouble with I break those down. Others may go right into break it down mode and then perform them once they have them nailed down. What is absolutely brilliant is with both Dance Central’s levels of difficulty. By choosing easy, you do some of the common moves in the songs, it is typically a repetitive routine however it helps you get the basics down. Once you move to medium, you still do some of the repetitive moves but not as many as new moves are introduced. Once you nail those, you then can do the hard routine which has all of the moves in the proper order and the routine as it’s meant to be danced to. I noticed a lot of the DC2 songs feature little to no repetition on the hard routines. This is what makes DC2 stand out from all of the competitors as you are doing real routines, not something basic and repetitive that was thrown together.
A new scoring box has been added in the bottom left corner as well as you hover over a song. Your solo score is displayed, if you have scored on the song, as well as the new co-op mode score and your leaderboards, which keeps you up to date on who has the highest score out of your friends on Xbox Live. The leaderboards score used to be only shown after you performed the song, which was really not convenient to try to compete against your friends, so this new score box is very much welcomed. The songs themselves are top-notch. DC2′s track list is just amazing to me, but as music goes, not everyone has the same musical preferences. There is probably something for everyone, ranging from disco, old school, hip-hop, dance, pop, techno, etc. but I find the majority of songs on here are much more energetic and make you just want to bust a move. There really is a lot of variety in this round, making it on the same level as Just Dance 3′s soundtrack, if not better. One side note, I know parents love to buy these dance games for their kids, and even though there are a couple of kid songs on the tracklist, DC2 is really not for kids. It’s very difficult for them and they just end up getting frustrated, so I really can’t recommend this as a kid’s title. Most of the other songs they typically don’t know so there isn’t really any enjoyment factor for them. The only time I have seen my younger ones dance to either Dance Central is when they are with their friends, but then they don’t do the moves, they are just bouncing around being kids, so it’s pointless, just play the radio for them instead.
As with both titles, flashcards have always been welcomed which show you the current move and the name of it, as well as the upcoming moves. A new item that was added are gold cards. Gold flash cards are worth 4x the points if you get a flawless on them. The scoring system has been rebuilt giving you a chance to get much higher scores than DC1. Most people don’t like the new scoring system, but I welcome it with open arms. It’s so much better because in DC1, I was able to replicate scores in Dance Battles because the scoring system seemed to be very basic. The rating system goes from not doing a move correctly at all, to almost, to nice and then to flawless. DC1′s rating system was the same however it informed of you what rating on all of the moves you did. This one is a little different in that it only lets you know how many flawless and nice moves you do and are marked with gems (a diamond is for flawless and emeralds are for nice), but instead of individual moves, it has grouped them together, so when you need to practice you know what “set” of moves you need to work on instead of having to work on the whole song, and it’s even better yet because it automatically keeps track of what moves you need help with, how could it be more simple? That leads us into the break it down mode.
Learning some moves: Breaking it down and recording yourself
When you need or want to practice, Break It Down is the best place for it. Both Dance Centrals are the only dance games that allows you to practice dance moves at your own pace. DC2′s break it down mode has been further enhanced with the big addition of being able to focus on certain moves. DC1 forced you to perform the whole song, and if you were stuck on a move, after 3 fails it would move on and you’d have to start the song over again, never really giving you a chance to just focus on one specific move or set. The new method allows you to focus on whatever you need help with, even if you pass it flawlessly, which automatically skips the move, or fail it 3 times. You can jump right back into it and keep doing it until you get it right or make sure you are doing it correctly. It’s a great system.
You can also slow it down and speed it up as well and the choreographer will give you tips on what you should be doing and calling out the counts for you. What I found is a little bonus, not many people will care, but in break it down mode, when you are working on one move, the dancer starts on the 5th beat count of the previous set of moves in the measure. If you know parts of the routine, you can time the measure and start exactly with the previous move, this is how learning should be done so you can transition smoothly from one move that you know well, to the move that you don’t know so well. DC1 didn’t have this at all and you would just jump right into the move, so if you were only trying to practice a move for hours, when you did the routine, you were so focused on the move you worked on, transitioning from the previous move looked silly because you may have forgotten the transition move, like I said though, most people won’t care about it but I found it much more enjoyable to practice.
Another new addition to break it down mode is the ability to record yourself. Yup, you can record live video of yourself doing the moves and replay it. It takes this one step further, it puts your video next to the dancer so you can see exactly what you are doing wrong so you can learn from your mistakes. After you are done practicing, if you focused on certain moves or did a full song session, the game will mark which moves you had trouble with so you can keep going back until you get all of them right. Because the teaching system is so engaging and interactive, this is absolutely the best learning/teaching dance system that has ever been created, hands down — even a real dance instructor won’t have the patience to teach you to dance in the same way this game does, no matter how much you pay them.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the new modes allows co-op play. You can start songs with a friend from the beginning or by yourself, and your friend can jump in anytime (or leave whenever for that matter) and choose their own difficulty level. The merging of multiple difficulty levels between 2 dancers is just beautiful. It’s all in-sync and looks fantastic. This also helps new comers to the game as they don’t feel like they are really trying to compete with you. DC1 seemed to focus more on who’s the better dancer, DC2 removes the competition element with the new co-op mode. You do work together to obtain a higher combined score as well so the way it all works together is really great.
Battle it out in the battle mode
Even though there isn’t really competition in co-op mode, DC2 has brought back the Dance Battle mode for those that do love the competition atmosphere. The biggest difference in this release is being able to dance simultaneously. DC1 had us taking turns, which I will admit, did kind of ruin the mood. It was still competitive, but it removed the fun out of it. The new dance battle puts fun in it as well as the competitiveness. Not only can you dance together now, there’s some little bonuses thrown in as well. At times, one of you will go into solo mode. The person that goes into solo mode wins the spotlight for a moment to really show off their moves. The other dancer has to wait, but who doesn’t love being able to rub it in their opponents face Solo mode also gives you double points, so being able to get the same score with both dancers is impossible. Another new bonus in the battle mode is the free-4-all, which is kind of a mini-game. When it goes into this mode, it switches both players up to being able to do whatever moves are displaying on the screen. The objective is to build up your move meter as fast as possible but by doing the moves correctly and claiming points. Gold cards are in this mode as well so be sure to pay attention, whomever has the most points wins the mini-game. It really is a cool addition and the whole dance battle mode is much better this time around.
Some final notes on the dancing portion of the game, these are more bells and whistles that I thought were worth a mention. Through the whole menu itself, there is a new notification box that pops up. This will inform you of all kinds of different things, such as which songs you have 5 stars on and what level you beat them on, and recommends that you should try Song X on medium or hard. I enabled fitness mode and it tells you how long you have been dancing for, how many calories you’ve burned overall and other things. It’s really a nice addition. I’m sure when new songs arrive and what not they will be in this box as well.
More accurate than its predecessor
The actual detection engine has been rebuilt as well making it much more accurate. I love it when games are accurate, and even more so that its more accurate now. This means you can’t be lazy anymore. In DC1, some of the moves you could get away with just barely moving or kind of doing the motion it wanted and it would still mark them as flawless, not in DC2 thankfully. It’s either do it right or keep trying. You do have to account for proper angles, spacing, distance, and more. It really is that accurate. The detection engine also detects your limbs, which is why I mentioned it shows the true potential of Kinect. It’s not just tracking your hands and feet as other dance games have shown, its full body, broken down by limb parts. Once they get finger detection down, it will be the absolute best detection engine ever made.
In my Just Dance 3 review, I mentioned how it was really cool as you progressed through a song, the background would become more animated. Well, Harmonix made it better, you already have a reality scene/setting that you are in, such as a subway, a beach, a boat, etc. which is way better than some animated backgrounds, but when you do really well on a song, the background goes from reality to this dance paradise, no pun intended, setting. There’s all these really cool neon lights and really just looks like sweet. Like I said, it’s just another minor or even missed feature to some, but to me, it just enhances the game even more.
One last note, once you start doing good, your dancer will obtain these motion trails, I’m not quite sure what they are, but they are a huge help as well. Most people probably don’t pay attention to them, but they really help you in trying to figure out directions of your arms and hands. Again, minor to some, but to me, huge improvement, as I tend to try to mimic these routines as close as possible and sometimes add my own swag to them.
The other section is Crew Challenge. This is basically the story mode for the game, but Harmonix does such a great job with dancing that they don’t need to make some elaborate story. It’s good for what it is and as long as DC2 does well, we should see a DC3 upcoming. If you are familiar with the characters from DC1, some have returned, others have not and new additions are added as well. Instead of the individual dancers we had in DC1, they have now formed crews. Each crew consists of 2 main members and their followers. Your goal is to earn enough respect with each crew, to make it all the way to top and you can only earn respect by performing songs well enough, so it has its own challenge in addition to being able to perform the songs.
The crews consist of the following characters:
- Riptide – Emilia and Bodie - Emilia returns from DC1, while Bodie is new…the only thing is it seems we can never get any background information on any characters in Kinect games, DC1 lacked this information as well. You get to learn their personalities from dancing with them, but it’s typically nothing more.
- Flash4wrd - Taye and Lil’ T – Taye returns I’m guessing with her little sister, Lil’ T.
- Lu$h Crew – Miss Aubrey and Angel – both return from DC1 and formed their own crew.
- Hi-Def – Mo and Glitch – Mo returns and adds Glitch to his crew, I’m assuming it’s his crew since he’s older.
- The Gliteratti - Jaryn and Kerith – This is a new crew, not sure where they came from but they are strange.
- D-Cypher – Dr. Tan and his 2 “perfect” robots – this isn’t really a crew, it’s just a 5 song playlist that you do and something Dr. Tan formed, whereas all the other crews have 9 songs each (except Flash4wrd, they only have 8) that you can choose from and you have to impress them. This crew just takes the top challenge song from the other 5 screws and you just dance to it as a playlist.
Unfortunately fans of Dare, Oblio and McCoy will be upset about them missing from this sequel. As I said, there really is no background information so you don’t know what happened to the cast that was featured in Dance Central 1. What’s weird is, even though these are just like any other game characters, you kind of bond to them, especially since you will spend countless hours trying to dance like them so you will become attached. It would be nice if Harmonix elaborated on the story some more, but we will only know that if they are planning a DC3, and if a story will be more detailed.
Speaking of countless hours, to actually unlock everything in the game, you will have to master each crew’s set of songs, getting 5 stars on all of them, on each difficulty level. This will take you time, I would compare the length of this game to the length of Forza Motorsport. There is just that much to do and it’s something you just don’t do overnight. As I said, practice makes perfect and you will definitely have to practice a lot. Even after you 5 star all the songs, if you really excel at them, you can gold star them. Once you gold star every single song, you have completed the crew challenge to the fullest extent, but even so, you still achievements to go after. It really is worth every penny.
The fitness section is a welcomed addition as well. As I mentioned, dancing isn’t just for dance enthusiasts, there is a lot of physical activity with dancing. Ever wonder how many calories you actually burn during dancing? That’s what this mode is for and it works beautifully. I would recommend turning on fitness mode as soon as you start so it can keep track of everything you do. Even if you don’t play in fitness mode (a fitness playlist), a heart icon is on your view window to let you know it’s recording fitness statistics. This means throughout your regular dance sessions, the crew challenges and any multiplayer activities, you will accumulate stats to your fitness tracker.
It really is a great addition to the game as well, as this does give fitness enthusiasts a different type of working out as let’s face it, exercising is boring, that’s why it’s hard for us to keep at it. Dancing is fun, always has been always will be, so now you really don’t have an excuse to stay on the couch. Harmonix did go ahead and create 9 fitness playlists as well, which carry a range of different songs, it’s more about the physical workout than the music you are playing with these playlists. The times vary between 10 minutes to do a quick workout in the morning or evening, to a long and tough workout, going to 50 minutes. While in fitness mode, the left box turns into all of your fitness stats. It keeps track of your current session as well as your lifetime stats. All in all, it’s just a great feature.
There are quite a few options so I’ll only go into details on the ones that matter. You have gameplay settings which offers the ability to the much welcomed features of enabling/disabling photo mode (PS — you can upload photos that are taken to Kinect Share in this edition), freestyle mode, autosave, and voice recognition. I’m really not good at freestyling so I am really glad we can turn this feature off. I would like to mention though, it is possible to score more points with freestyle off. There are additional moves you can do that are done during freestyle mode, so it does have kind of two purposes. You can also change your storage device as well as enter cheat codes. Yes, there are cheat codes but using them typically removes you from scoring on the leaderboards as well as any achievements. We have not heard of any cheats yet, but they typically get you into the easter eggs into the game. Harmonix has a reputation for putting easter eggs everywhere – in DC1, there was a pink ninja costume that you could unlock as one example.
In the audio / video settings, with music and rhythm games especially, sometimes TV’s can cause lag with not displaying the information fast enough to the sound being output. Harmonix puts in an A/V calibrator that has you run some simple tests to make sure everything is good to go, more or less so you can’t blame your dancing skills on your TV. You can also access the Kinect tuner from here, adjust the video overscan, enable/disable surround sound and change the volume of the crowd and effects. I do like being able to turn off the crowd, only because sometimes I just like listening to the music and it makes it a much better experience to me. This was an option in Rock Band as well, and the only bonus in Rock Band was that when you were doing really good, the crowd would sing along but only to certain songs. I didn’t hear any singing along in this version, not sure if that would be cool or not since it’s more of a concert thing, not a dancing thing.
The movies section allows you to replay any movies you have unlocked in the Crew Challenge mode. You do have to unlock them before you can watch them though.
The tutorials section gives you some static screenshots with a basic overview of that mode. They included tutorials for Perform It, Dance Battle and Break It Down, although if a new gamer profile is signed in that hasn’t played before or is a guest, it will force these tutorials upon them, so its more for a rehash than anything.
The redeem code allows you to plug-in the code from your Dance Central game, if you own it. This will allow you to import all previous songs from the first Dance Central. This is the only Kinect game that allows this type of future upgrade. You can definitely have one of the largest dancing catalogs out of any dancing game with this feature alone.
The account-linking code is primarily for the dance central website. I believe Harmonix is working on upgrading it as they have done in the past with Rock Band, and you can link your Xbox account to your username on the website. The website will list all of your statistics, as well as other little bells and whistles. It’s a nice feature and it only shows you that Harmonix really does care about its customers.
This is another section that I wanted to go in detail on. The main reason is this is the access to the online store. In DC1, it was quite bad, it would actually load the normal Kinect Marketplace GUI, and you would just choose a song or item and download it from there. Now there’s a whole new store all in-game and I am very thankful Harmonix put this in, offering tracks and avatar items. Not only can you now preview a track of a song that you may want to buy, but hovering over it for a minute also shows a dance preview!
I know with DC1 DLC, we would wait until Harmonix released a DLC trailer so we could see the new moves, but not anymore! It really is a great addition to the already great game. The other note is Harmonix is the most dedicated developer out there to be quite blunt. They release regular DLC for Rock Band weekly, I have never seen such devotion to gamers. They will never let any of their games become stale because of lack of DLC, even years after its release, not just months. Even though DC DLC is not released as often as Rock Band, Harmonix is still putting in the effort to get us as many tracks as possible and as quick as possible, but one thing is for certain, they will always release DLC at some time to keep you coming back to the game. Unfortunately, I cannot say this about any other developer but it would be nice if other developers cared about the customers in the same way Harmonix does.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this review, I was really on the fence with rating this a 10 until I had one issue with the game. That issue is a real life experience and although I am in the minority of merging Kinect games into real life activities, I think if it was successful, it would only help the video game industry in my opinion. Anyhow, that experience is the tracks themselves. For whatever reason, Harmonix has still not included full length tracks in this release. It’s trying competitor, Just Dance 3, has given an option to play short or full length tracks. When I first played a full length track in Just Dance 3, I thought at first I understood. Dancing to a full length track that has you doing a lot of energetic moves does tire you out and the shorter versions help with this, allowing you to play the Dance Central series longer.
However, I have a tendency to take these dance moves learned and apply them to real world scenarios. The very recent place I went to, happened to play Usher’s DJ Got Us Falling In Love Again. I am far from shy so I went out to the dance floor, started doing the number up. You have basically everyone staring at you since no one knows the routine, and then the problem started – when Pitbull’s part came up…I was lost. I couldn’t think fast enough to improvise something to make it look like whatever moves belonged and as I mentioned, I’m not creative when it comes to dancing. After the part in the song was done, I went back to rest of the routine but at that point, I lost everyone’s interest. I am not pointing the finger at Harmonix as it was my fault I took the moves to the real world level, however had I been able to do a complete and full routine, it may have intrigued more people to possibly invest into this particular dancing game. I’m not embarrassed to tell people I learn dance moves from a video game, and neither should anyone else.
If anything, Harmonix has an opportunity to change the world. Just as the majority of people know how to do the 4-step hustle to Stevie Wonder’s My Eyes Don’t Cry, to even the newer songs like Casper’s Cha Cha Slide and the Cupid Shuffle, there is no reason these routines couldn’t become a popular and normal way to dance everywhere, trust me they are 100 times better than everyone just being a bobble head and fist pumping, which leads to why I rated this at a 9 instead of a 10. You don’t get many, if any, opportunities to the change the world and when you do, you really need to — as The Sugar Hill Gang says — Jump On It. The big thing with dancing that no one realizes is that most people don’t dance at social events because of confidence. If you know how to dance a routine, more than likely you have that confidence but then it’s just the shyness holding you back, however if other people are doing it, then you’re not as shy anymore. The overall statement I’m trying to make is, if you have confidence, you feel good about yourself in turn. A game that is able to bring you confidence is just huge.
In my view, this really is the best Kinect game out there and if you have not played Dance Central or Dance Central 2, or do not have a desire too, you would be surprised to find out that you like dancing even though you don’t think you do. I do hope Harmonix does make another Dance Central to continue or finish up the series and retain the ownership of the best dancing games ever created, but create with the vision to change the world this time. As always, keep your attention to 123Kinect.com for future news regarding any Dance Central related information!
This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Dance Central 2
Scoring policy: What do these game review scores actually mean?