Review by Rob Roberts

Review of Dance Central 3 for Xbox 360 + Kinect

Review of Dance Central 3 for Xbox 360 + Kinect

Microsoft's Kinect device is moving into it's third year, and still seems to be most well known for two types of genre games-- workout games and dancing games. I suppose, however, if you are going to do one thing (or two in this case), do it well. Dance Central, in it's third release on the Xbox 360 this past Tuesday, remains the peak of dancing games on the Xbox 360. And with a built in Fitness mode, it takes care of the workout game genre pretty well too.

The 70s Lu$h Crew will have you dancing to songs like YMCA. Luckily you already know that dance...
The 70s Lu$h Crew will have you dancing to songs like YMCA. Luckily you already know that dance...
In Dance Central 3, the core game hasn't changed much at all, which isn't a negative as it's worked well since the first game. Tiny flashcards showing choreographed dance moves scroll up the screen in time to the music. When the card hits a particular spot on the screen, it's time for you to dance that move. Unsure how the move goes? Mirror the dancer currently on the screen, or memorize flash cards in the Practice mode. I've always enjoyed the way that "Easy" level dances take little pieces of the "Hard" level dances, making one feel a true sense of progression as they take on what can sometimes be quitecomplex choreographed dances. New to Dance Central 3 is a "Beginner" level, taking things to an even simpler level, best for those totally new to dance games that just need to learn how to keep the beat of the music.

Harmonix is no stranger to being the star of a party. For many years, there was a mantra on Facebook that went something like "Instant Party- Just add Rock Band!" Well, with Rock Band being off this year and more Kinect's moving into homes with the recent Microsoft price drop, Harmonix is likely betting that Dance Central will become a party star. They're probably right. A music game aficionado who already owns Dance Central 1 and 2 can import the games soundtracks with ease (and 400 Microsoft points for licensing reasons). If you imported Dance Central 1 songs into Dance Central 2, they'll already be there in 3 with no extra import process (woo hoo). Put all three songlists together, and you've got a diverse party playlist ready to go. Dance Central 3 has no shame about the party game it was in many ways intended to be. The very first menu of the game presents two options: Main Menu and Start the Party. Choose Start the Party, and you'll instantly go into song after song, with the ability to drop players in and out quite simply, and difficulty levels that can adjust on the fly. It's the Staples "Easy Button" of party gaming. Future Smartglass integration threatens to allow your friends to pick the upcoming songs that you will dance to from the couch.

It's a house party 90s style with Flash4wd
It's a house party 90s style with Flash4wd
For those that prefer to have a dance party when no one is watching, there's a sufficient amount of solo content to justify the price tag (one cent shy of $50 as opposed to $60, woo hoo). Fitness mode returns, even if it is just a glorified on/off switch that allows the calories and time to count just underneath the score. If you don't already use some sort of iPhone app or Fitocracy to do it, you can set calorie and time goals to be tracked within the game.

Story mode is a bit of a departure from the last game. As opposed to challenging various dance crews to arbitrary playlists of songs like we did in Dance Central 2, we are given a full fledged story mode. It involves you working for "Dance Central Intelligence" to time travel through decades to find key dance moves. Sadly yes, I am being quite serious. It's as silly as it sounds. There's quite a bit more dialogueand in-game-engine scenes than you'd expect in a dance game... quite the antithesis of the "just press play" idea in the party game mode. I could take it or leave it, although it's a little irritating to know that if the obsessive compulsive in me wants every unlock, I'll have to tolerate it.

Secret Agents from DCI. A missed opportunity to use Weird Al's "Party in the CIA" :(
Secret Agents from DCI. A missed opportunity to use Weird Al's "Party in the CIA" :(
A new "Challenge" mode exists, that works somewhat like a glorified leaderboard for a pre-selected week-long featured song, but with bragging rights and medals. Future Facebook integration appears to be imminent, which wouldn't be too surprising based on Harmonix's recent Rock Band Blitz title. Admittedly, it was kind of nice and motivating to hear the announcer cheer me on as I shattered particular records as a song was in progress. It was less motivating to see after I finished my first challenged that my score had been automatically "Flaunted to Friends List". Whoa whoa whoa what? My score wasn't that good, I didn't want to brag about that! Was that a message? Something on Facebook? Upon questioning my Xbox friends list via Facebook, it looks like it will appear in the game when friends launch Dance Central 3, keeping it in game and less spammy, phew. Still, a little clarity and option to confirm the bragging would be preferred. 

Most of our readers probably have an inkling already where they stand on Dance Central 3. For those who played the first and second games, there are enough worthy features in Dance Central 3 and a solid enough songlist to merit the upgrade (even if the contemporary songlist choices are not as strong, though this is entirely a matter of opinion). For those completely new to dancing games, although Dance Central 3 is a worthy title on it's own merits, if you don't think you'd get use out of Dance Central's 3 easy-to-party modes, it may be frugal to pick up a copy of one of the prior games to see if this series is for you, as the core game has stayed constant. For those that have enjoyed games over the past decade that make you move to the music however, Dance Central 3 is a worthy addition to your collection.

Acquisition Method: A review copy was provided to VOGNetwork courtesy of Harmonix. Dance Central retails for $49.99, Kinect sold separately.

Our Grade:
The Good:
* The jump up in features and "new paint" feels bigger from Dance Central 2 to this game than from the original to Dance Central 2

* Party Mode is a smart feature that shows Harmonix knows it's primary audience

* Beginner Difficulty and automatic difficulty adjustments help the game be less intimidating at said parties

* Dance Central 1 and 2 owners will find themselves with a very impressive songlist, enhancing the value for loyal fans
The Bad:
* Story mode is a bit too over the top and unnecessary... I guess it's for the kids

* The songlist, although better varied with the "decades" theme and showing strength in classics from the 70s, feels a bit lacking in the contemporary choices, especially compared to the last 2 games

* Will simultaneous Xbox Live play ever be a thing? I'm aware it might be a technical hurdle but surely there's a creative workaround/solution that's more instant gratification than week-long Challenges?

* It's time to update the interface that dates back to the first game, that has me preferring my controller (But props for Smartglass as a potential solution)

Rob Roberts, AKA Skie, is one of the co-hosts of Orange Lounge Radio here on the VOG Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @MrRobRoberts

Review by - 10/18/2012 5:24 PM763 views

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10/19/2012 10:46 AM

3 0

Since publishing this review, it's been brought to my attention that ALL unlocks (but not all achievements) can be obtained outside of story mode via the "level up" process (very similar to the prior Dance Central titles). I apologize for the oversight-- without being too spoilery, one particular unlock I personally think you'd have to play story mode to "get" (as in, the joke).... so I made an assumption it was in fact tied to the story mode. Oops on me for the oversight, but this factor did not really weigh into my score, so it will remain unchanged.
10/19/2012 7:58 PM

0 0

And of course the third genre popular on Kinect/Move/Wii: Minigame Compilations.
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