Review: Dance Central

Dance Central is a dancing rhythm game from the folks who created Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Packed with an eclectic mix of music and dance moves from the artists, it hopes to redefine the way we play dance games.

Dance Central is among the most visually polished of the Kinect launch titles. Gamers stand in front of their television and mimic the on-screen dancer as they dance to the choreographed moves rolling up the side of the screen. Motion, timing and a sense of rhythm are all vital. Too bad you can only teach people two of those things.

Ideal Player

Rhythm game fans looking to ditch the controllers, the mats, the arcades and take a timed step toward learning some fancy dance moves.

Why You Should Care

Harmonix knows how to make solid video games. Guitar Hero and Rock Band redefined a genre, making it not only more accessible to a broader audience but also creating a game that became a regular fixture at bars and pubs across the country. Can choreographed dancing become the next great pub video game?



How does Dance Central work? The goal is to perform the dance moves shown on squares rolling up the side of the screen. The icons are meant to be reminders for the moves you need to perform. Moves like Crank Dat, Superman, The Robot, and Raise the Roof. The avatar on the screen doesn't mirror what you do, you mirror what they do. When you get it wrong the limb you're not moving correctly will glow red. The harder the difficulty, the more accurate your moves need to be.

How hard is it to play? Much like Rock Band, it takes some getting used to, but once the concept of dancing to a mirror image sinks in, it's just a matter of practice. I'm no dancer, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I was able to work my way through all of the game's songs with no reattempts. Playing on medium difficulty was a bit hard and the hardest setting made the game unplayable for me, but not out of reach.

So can Dance Central teach you how to dance? I haven't quite made up my mind about that yet. While early versions of Rock Band couldn't teach you to play guitar, they could give you a strong start on drumming. I suspect that's what Dance Central will do for dancing. It can't teach you rhythm, or how to inject the necessary sizzle into your moves to transform them from mimicry to dance, but it can set you on the path to learning how to dance.

Review: Dance Central
Maybe this time Totilo can go a round or two in Dance Central against Soulja Boy

How's the game's music selection? It's a nice mix, but a there are only 32 songs on the disc. That may sound like a lot, but if you don't have eclectic taste in music you're going to find that you only like a portion of these songs. I liked everything they included from Fat Boy Slim and Bell Biv DeVoe to Lady Gaga and Soulja Boy.

How does it compare to Rock Band and Guitar Hero? Is it as replayable? That's the thing about Dance Central, it's essentially just the quick play mode of those games. There are no World Tour or Solo Tour modes and the multiplayer is limited to a local, two-player Dance Battle mode.

Dance Battle? Is there a lot of finger snapping and leather jackets? Sadly no, but it is a fun mode to play with friends. The Dance Battle mode breaks up each song into chunks, having you and another player switch out to dance through sections of the song. At the end the game determines which of you is the winner. I found playing king of the hill with this mode was very satisfying, but mostly because I was taking on a room full of kids and never lost.

You played this in front of other people? Isn't it embarrassing? Dancing in front of a bunch of people does take some getting used to, but it's fun and by the second song everyone who was watching me wanted to take a turn. That's one of the wonderful things about Dance Central, it makes dancing enough like a game to make it fun whether or not you know how to dance.

Dance Central In Action

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The Bottom Line

When I first tried Dance Central I said I thought it was the best Kinect game at E3. I also said it was the game with the greatest potential at the show. I haven't changed my mind. It would be nice if the game had more features, more modes and perhaps twice the music, but the core concept works beautifully. Like Rock Band, Dance Central creates an illusion and puts you at the center of it.

Dance Central was developed by Harmonix and published by MTV Games for the Xbox 360 Kinect, released on Nov. 4. Retails for $49.99. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Danced through all 32 songs, some multiple times and on multiple difficulties. Danced about 8 feet from the camera. Had dance battles, snapped fingers at appropriate times.

Kotaku has more reviews, hands-on impressions and video of Kinect in action right here.