Dance Central 2 review

"I can't dance" sang Phil Collins in the '90s. He's not the only one, because here at Pocket-lint, we're quite famous for having the exact opposite of snake hips. Probably something like elephant hips. Sadly, with Dance Central 2 likely to be a hugely popular game with those who can, and do, dance, we thought it only fair to have a go.  

On the plus side, being so useless on in the "throwing shapes" category, we're well-placed to look at the game and discover how enjoyable it is for those not blessed with any sort of rhythm. And find out if it's an inclusive experience for everyone. 

Dancing on the Ceiling

As the name implies, Dance Central 2 is the follow-up to the hugely popular Dance Central Kinect title from 2010. It brings with it a number of new features, including two-player mode so you can finally challenge a friend, which is a far more inclusive experience. 

Power up the game and you are presented with a number of options: Dancing, Crew Challenge, Fitness, and the ability to buy new dances.

On-screen menus can be controlled via a quick swipe of your hand in the air - they are the most responsive we’ve seen on the Kinect to date - or by you talking at your TV. Very handy if you need to pause the game mid-dance off.

Let’s Face the Music and Dance

Dancing can either be done solo, or with another player, and you can play co-op mode too, so you can work together, or even against each other, to see who really is the best dancer.

Once you’ve decided, you’ve got to chose a song and those songs come with a variety of different moves to master and learn. Britney Spears’ Toxic - strangely not sung by her - is one of the hardest there is here, while Darude’s Sandstorm one of the easiest. Each song has a further three-level difficult rating, which makes the game grade you more harshly, on the top setting, and requires your moves are nearly perfect. On the lower setting, it's more forgiving.  

The mix of songs is incredibly random with a barrage of the latest dance tracks smattered with classics like Haddaway’s What is Love and Bobby Brown’s Prerogative. There were many that we didn’t recognise with a strong focus on rap tracks from the 90s.

As you would expect, all dances expect you to get jiggy with it, completing the moves at the same time as your character does on screen. Match the on-screen model and you’ll get rewarded. The more you get, the better your score and the more features you get to unlock.

To help you improve there's a Break It Down section where you can practice set moves and the game tries its best to get you involved and encourage you to do better. Get the move right, but not in time, and you will get you an “Almost” message for example.

Crew challenge is pretty much the same as the dancing area, but sees you battle against the various make-believe “crews” of the game.  You can play solo, or with a friend, and the best way to think of the gameplay is a dancing version of Street Fighter.

Dirty Dancing

You can use the game to lose a little weight or stay in shape too, and those who think they are fit enough can opt to play in the fitness area of the game. Here you can either enable fitness mode for the whole game whereby it will track your calories, or participate in a timed workout, ranging from “Sweat-in” to “Long-haul”. The later is almost 50 minutes. By the end, unless you are über-fit, you will be aching.

Having played the game for weeks, you’ll soon run out of dances - there really is only so many times you can dance to Bananarama without losing your mind - and like SingStar on the PlayStation – you can buy more tracks. They cost 240 Microsoft points and are downloadable in-game. You’ll get a 240 points voucher in the box to get you started.

Murder on the Dancefloor

It’s not all dance, dance, dance you know. For the two player to work, you have to be in the same room, and the game can be pretty unforgiving on tracking your moves. Harmonix, the games developers has said that it completely re-worked the tracking code from the last game, because it wasn’t as actuate as they wanted.

You’ll also find that the dance selection isn’t for everyone. There were a lot we had never heard of, or would want to play, rendering those tracks useless to us. Any playlist is going to be questioned, but we would have expected some more classic tracks rather than just the odd Gaga or Bieber.   

Verdict

Even though we have zero rhythm, Dance Central 2 was great fun that had everyone in stitches, while, at the same time, bringing us some exercise by stealth.

When it comes to inclusion, the game does let all levels of gamer get involved while still rewarding those that have put in the effort. For example, two-player mode lets you play on different difficultly settings which is great for kids to dance with their grandparents.

And yes, the teenage daughters in your life are going to love it. So, if you like dancing, have an Xbox 360 and Kinect, this is one to put on your shopping list. Just don’t expect to Look Good On The Dancefloor.