Harmonix has been one of the only developers to truly understand how to utilize Kinect to make fun, engaging and easy to control experiences. They hit it out of the ballpark with the original Dance Central three years ago, creating arguably the best Kinect title at the time. The team is back for a third installment in the Dance Central series with new moves and new beats for you and your friends to groove too.
I can only imagine that one of the hardest parts of developing Dance Central 3 was trying to improve upon what was already considered a great game. While the core gameplay is very strong the series faces similar challenges as other music genre games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero: how to innovate in order to get customers to buy another entry without changing the successful formula the series is known for.
One way that Harmonix has decided to change up Dance Central 3 is by incorporating a story mode for players to dance through. Players are cast as an agent of Dance Central Intelligence who must travel back in time to master the dance moves of past decades in order to stop the oppression of dance in the present by an evil doctor and his dancing robots. The story is a little out there but how else do you insert a story in a game that is essentially an excuse to host a dance party?
I’m much more in favour of a time travelling dancer learning new moves to save the world as opposed to the tried and true fish out of water story that has been a staple of dance movies over the past decade. Harmonix recognizes that the story concept is a little goofy and thankfully do not play it serious. The story as well as the characters and their lines are campy and self aware which is pretty enjoyable.
The results of having a time travel story is that the track list for Dance Central 3 is made up of a great mix of songs from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s. The previous incarnations of Dance Central had the odd song or two from previous generations but were predominantly focused on modern music. While some funk classics are noticeably absent, we are treated to the likes of the Hustle, the electronic slide and my personal favourite Ice Ice Baby. If the songs of yesteryear aren’t your thing feed not, the songs from previous Dance Central game including DLC can be imported into the track list.
I had fun dancing my way through the annals of music history but the fun story mode is locked until most of the songs have been practiced beforehand. Story mode would have been an interesting way and organic way to introduce players to some dance routines and the pacing of moves instead of forcing them to rehearse beforehand. Even though it would have been cliché the campaign could have revolved around the rookie agent who had to learn the ropes as opposed to having to perform Bass Down Low, one of the harder songs, right off the bat.
Nevertheless the practice of the various moves is important in order to nail down the timing and accuracy for maximum points. Dance Central 3 grades your dancing abilities on a scale of flawless to failure, with the former netting you more points. As with previous incarnations, making a mistake will cause the offending limb to be highlighted red, presumably to help players perfect their routine. The only issue with this system is that it does little to help correct the mistake and doesn’t clearly communicate what the problem is. A little more feedback would have gone a long way towards making me as skilled as John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.
In addition to utilizing the Kinect for the core dancing mechanics, Dance Central 3 also incorporates voice commands to help ease the burden of navigating options. Instead of vertically swiping your hand to input a command, simply use voice commands to select a song, retry a difficult move or slow down instructions. The great implementation of Kinect voice commands alleviates the problem that many Kinect games face; navigating menus.
When you’re done honing your solo skills in the campaign, Dance Central 3 supports up to eight players for a true Hollywood dance-off. Crew Throwdown Mode will pit two teams head to head through various activities such as strike a pose or keep the beat. While each of these mini-games are fun to a point, the real fun aspect of multiplayer are the dance offs. Dancing through an entire song nonstop is what Dance Central does best.
The most entertaining way to play with a group of people is Party Mode. This is a great way not only to provide a sound track for a party but keep people entertained as well. The songs continue to rotate and players can easily jump in and out at their leisure. High fiving you’re dance partner initiates two players jams which can be a lot of fun.
Dance Central 3 is largely the same core game as its predecessor but that doesn’t detract from the great package Harmonix has put together. The new campaign mode is a great addition for those who like a little more structure in their games and gives extra incentive to play the game solo. The departure from a club music track list to a mix of classics and modern songs is a great way to change up dance routines as well as appeal to a broader audience. As with previous installments, Dance Central 3 is one of the best Kinect titles available and should be on the Christmas wishlist of boys and girls looking for a great Kinect game.
This review is based on a retail copy of the 360 version of Dance Central 3.