Every Kinect sold comes with a demo of Dance Central tucked away on the Kinect Adventures disc, meaning everyone has a chance to play the sensor's best dancing game by far. Now you have the chance to play one of its worst, Let's Dance with Mel B.
We've always had a nagging feeling that developer Lightning Fish Studio overachieved with Get Fit with Mel B, and that feeling makes sense now we've played the follow-up. While the fitness title was clearly not a high budget affair, it still hit most of its marks, whereas Let's Dance falls short.
The problems kick in right from the get-go. After creating a profile — for which you'll need a controller, by the way — the game takes your picture, with a helpful white outline on-screen to line up with your face. The problem is that every time you get into the outline the camera inexplicably moves, sending you bobbing around trying to match it up again before the three second countdown ends. You can re-take your picture but the camera is only going to jitter around the place again, so that grainy photo of your ear is probably the best thing you're going to pull off.
After that, you can choose the number of players. The game supports up to eight in individual or team play, with two facing off against each other at any one time, so that's at least one thing that Dance Central doesn't do. Solo or duo players can pick either a straight dance or survival mode, where you take on songs one after the other attempting to keep your rating above a certain approval level. And that's it: there are no other modes. There's no workout, no winner stays on, no tutorial and nothing else. It's as barebones as it gets.
Using similar technology as its predecessor, your movements are displayed on-screen alongside professional dancers and, in some songs, even Scary Spice herself. Across the top you'll find the "dance bar", showing you which moves are up next and which you should attempt at that moment. However, each is depicted by a single still image with only occasional arrows showing you which body part to move and how. There are no step names, either, so your first few times through each song you'll find yourself cluelessly trying to mirror the on-screen dancers. It's not enjoyable.
It's not even possible to learn the steps in a tutorial mode as in Michael Jackson: The Experience, but perhaps most disappointing is the fact there's only one difficulty per song, a killer in party mode where skill levels vary wildly. Couple that with the hard to follow graphics and the party atmosphere soon deflates.
Let's Dance loses further points for offering some woeful motion detection: we were genuinely able to score more points by flailing our arms around than by following the steps accurately. For some moves, the game seems to accept any form of motion, and considering there's no opportunity to advance in difficulty you're stuck trying to better your score. What incentive is there to improve when the detection is so haphazard?
It's not all a disaster: the songs aren't bad, with tracks from Fergie and Lady Gaga next to party classics like I Will Survive and Car Wash. It's just a shame these only have one dance available, putting some tracks out of reach of the poorer dancers.
Get Fit with Mel B was a good effort from Lightning Fish Studios, but it can't make lightning strike twice with this below-par follow-up. The lack of alternative choreographies, shoddy motion detection and confusing graphical representations of moves and steps all drag the experience down. With plenty of superior dancing games on the market for Kinect, this one is best avoided.