Dance Central rocked the dance game genre by being the first to really utilize the full body tracking of the Kinect sensor. Country Dance: All Stars follows the formula set by Harmonix and Dance Central with an emphasis on the culture that surrounds the country music industry. For everything positive that has been written about Dance Central, it does cater to a certain musical taste that seems to exclude country music lovers.
Country Dance: All Stars fully embraces the country music genre as illustrated by the variety of song choices, venues and character models. The track list ranges from songs that conform to line-dancing to the slower country crooner ballads. Classic country songs such as Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire to more modern hits from Carrie Underwood, Alan Jackson and Miley Cyrus help to round out the 30 song track list.
In addition to the wide variety of songs, players will also be able to dance across multiple stages including the streets of Nashville, a TV dance set, and of course a country bar. The different stages add to the authenticity of the country theme but a larger variety of locations would have been appreciated.
The character models whose moves you follow on screen are generic country characters, with cowboy boots and hats. There is no ability to select a particular avatar to use, so those who prefer to dance as a particular gender will have to be satisfied with whatever the game gives them. The appearance of the characters, as well as the overall graphics of Country Dance: All Stars are serviceable but do not reach the same level of visual fidelity that exists in other dance games.
The animations of the characters do a good job of demonstrating the moves that a song requires, which is appreciated for someone who is unfamiliar with the nuances of dancing to country songs. The game also accurately tracks the movements of the player well but it isn’t perfect. There were a few instances where I received points when my dancing skills were clearly not up to par.
During each dance number the lyrics to each song also appear on screen and highlight as the artist hits each word. This is a nice added touch for those who may be unfamiliar with a song or for everyone else in the room not currently dancing. At the end of each song, a breakdown of how well the player did is presented, showing the percentage of great moves, good moves, okay moves and misses.
Country Dance: All Stars is very group friendly and can easily be busted out at a party. One of the major criticisms of Dance Central was making most of the track list unlockable. In Country Dance, the entire 30 song playlist is available from the start, so groups can dance to their favourite songs without having to worry about unlocking anything. It also offers the ability to play multiple rounds of songs, instead of putting you back to the main screen after every dance. It still would be nice to choose a set of songs to dance to as opposed to choosing a new song after each round.
As with every Kinect games these days there are also photo opportunities in each song that take a still photo of the player. At the end of each song various photos are displayed over an imposed backdrop. The backdrop tends to make the photos looks jagged and rather low quality, simply using the player’s living room as opposed to a backdrop would have looked better.
While you can dance to your heart’s content to your favourite country tunes, Country Dance also has a few game modes if you’re looking for a change of pace. Perfection mode only awards points for great moves while freeze mode plays static on the screen which prompts the player to stop and hold their current movement. If you move while the song is in a freeze state you lose points. Apart from a high score there is really no incentive to play the Perfection mode. Freeze mode however is a fun twist on the dance formula, particularly when competing against a partner.
Country Dance: All Stars also offers a rehearsal mode that allows you to practice certain moves; similar to Dance Central’s “break it down” mode. Many of the same moves are performed in each song in Country Dance which may be why every song isn’t supported in rehearsal mode. While it is a minor gripe those who want to master a specific song will have to master parts of other songs in order to hit every move.
Rehearsal mode simply breaks down a song by move, allowing you to repeat or move on to the next set of movements. Aside from a voice-over encouraging your performance, there is no real help learning the moves of Country Dance: All Stars other than just practicing the same part of a song over and over.
Country Dance: All Stars Kinect is a good party dance game that will appeal to fans of country music. Those who aren’t fans of country music won’t get much mileage out of this game .While it lacks the polish in terms of mechanics and fidelity of Dance Central 2, it does offer the most authentic country dance experience to date.
This review is based on a retail copy of the 360 version of Country Dance All Stars.