If history has taught us anything it’s that dancing games will eventually go the way of the Guitar Heroes and the Rock Bands before them – although we anticipate the grave will be filled with less plastic instruments. Like any trend, what goes up must eventually come tumbling down but if Harmonix’s dance-em-up sequel is anything to go by, disco fever may only just be peaking.
No less than a year after the original Dance Central rode on the back of the Kinect launch to become the system’s best-selling dance-em-up, a sequel this soon seems unwarranted. However, Harmonix doesn’t have a track record for churning out needless sequels and Dance Central 2 is packing a lot more than just new moves.
At the centre stage of Dance Central 2 is Crew Challenge. With career modes consistently absent from the competition, this campaign sees you work your way up the ladder strutting your stuff with a number of stereotypical blinged up and streetwise crews. You’ll start out busting moves with the Riptide crew before moving on the bigger and more reputable troupes and venues such as beaches to underground subways. There’s not much in the way of a story and it never quite hits the same star-studded plateaus as Rock Band's "road to ruin" stories, but it’s hard to argue that it’s not a welcome addition.
Dance Central’s full-body tracking continues to differentiate it from a flooding market. If you’re looking for a game that’s going to teach you some moves, Dance Central 2 is the perfect tutor.
Before stepping onto the dance floor you’ll have the option to break down the routine move by move. Execute a move flawlessly and you’ll continue onto the next one; fail it and you’ll have to master it three times before you move on. It’s not just a case of following an image or the on-screen dancer – moves are explained in detail and, if you’re struggling, you can slow down any move or film your own efforts to study exactly what’s required and where you’re missing the mark.
There’s a level of thought here that most would overlook, but Harmonix has taken it and applied it to over 1,700 moves across a vast musical library. Voice commands add to the experience, allowing you to communicate with the tutorials easily. If you want to skip over a detail or go back and give it another shot, just say so. Similarly, if you want to jump straight into the song list from the start screen just say “Xbox, Dance”.
This accessibility extends beyond vocals and single-player. A second player can drop in and out of your performance seamlessly without navigating any menus or sign-in screens. It doesn’t match the head count of Just Dance 3’s four-player routines but we respect Dance Central 2’s refusal to throw away accuracy when it’s just as fun with two. Head-to-head modes see each side picking their favourite crews to represent before throwing down, nailing spotlight moments and free-for-all sections to gain the upper hand.
There’s a lot Dance Central 2 has teach, but also a lot to lose. We’ve all felt a little worn out dashing around in front of our TVs and, knowing this, Fitness Playlists have been incorporated into the game to work our upper bodies or offer up a calorie-burning challenge. We recommend turning the Fitness Tracker on as soon as possible as it’ll track your progress in all areas of the game including Crew Challenge and Perform It. There’s also a few Achievements to be racked up this way. Still, what’s a sequel without new songs?
Harmonix’s selection isn’t as diverse but it’s hard not to find something you can boogie to. Meat-is-designer advocate Lady Gaga, tween bait Justin Beiber and rude girl Rihanna all make their obligatory appearances on here as some of the biggest names in pop, joined by the likes of techno kings Daft Punk, veteran disc jockey David Guetta and some R 'n’ B artists thrown in for good measure. It’s the sort of soundtrack you’d expect to hear whilst watching a Step Up movie or spending an uncomfortable long time on a strip in Ibiza, so it happens to be quite fitting here and at least there’s no sign of Swagger Jagger.
Those with existing Dance Central anthologies will have any downloaded content thrown into the sequel and the original 32 Dance Central tracks can be imported into your library (for a fee of 400 Microsoft Points) which are compatible with all the game’s modes including Break It Down.
Dance Central was a must-have Kinect launch game because it made the best use of the technology and taught us a move or two. Dance Central 2 trumps its predecessor superbly with improved multiplayer, thorough tutorials, and an all-new campaign. Dance Central 2 isn’t just the best dancing game ever, it’s the best Kinect game we’ve ever played.