Review: Dance Central 2

Dance games have been a dime a dozen ever since the big Kinect boom, and for good reason. The motion tracking technology the peripheral allows for has revolutionized the genre. It’s come a long way from Dance Dance Revolution. Earlier this year we danced the night away with Dance Central, the killer app that launched plentiful Kinect units to otherwise skeptical gamers. Dance Central 2, the hotly-anticipated sequel has finally hit store shelves, and it’s just as explosive as the first time around. Harmonix smartly assessed the flaws that arose in the first game without giving the new release the unnecessary overhaul many developers toss out with their second game. The result is an even more polished rendition of one of the greatest dancing games to hit a home console.

Dance Central’s core concept is simple: choose a song, learn its unique routine via breakdown that introduces and simplifies each step even further so by the end of the routine you’ll be able to put them all together as a complete, polished set of dance moves. You’re given multiple opportunities to practice each move before being released to string them along to the song you’ve chosen, giving even beginners a chance to shine. Once you’re confident enough to bust it out in time to the song, you can hit the stage and showcase what you’ve learned. There’s a song on reserve for virtually any sort of player – whether you’re more reserved and need less movement or you want to take center stage, there’s a song for you.

While the first game, perhaps owing to MTV’s hands previously in the pie, focused mainly on hip hop/classic R&B and a smattering of pop songs, Dance Central 2 is a much more varied offering, serving upbeat numbers from everyone from Lady Gaga to Daft Punk, with Donna Summer, Rihanna, and more in between. So even if you’re less of a hip hop fan, there are some varying routines to choose from – a welcome change, if you ask me.

Most alterations have been made to tighten the already smooth and fluid gameplay, but many are less subtle than others. They certainly haven’t been overlooked. For instance, while in the past seasoned dancers were forced to rise through the ranks of higher difficulties in order to show off their skills with “hard” routines. In addition, what was arguably the most annoying feature from the original has been obliterated as well: the ever-present freestyle modes that captured you mid-dance busting a move and/or looking like a fool in the process as Kinect snapped pictures for posterity.

For perfectionists, who weren’t okay with just “flawlessly” performing a move, Dance Central 2 improves upon its predecessor’s tendency to critique your competency, analyzing the way you set about completing a section and offering pointers on how to do it even better. It’s like your own personal (ridiculously critical) dance instructor. In fact ,you can record your mistakes or impeccable showings and watch them later to take a look at exactly what you’re doing wrong. Even if dancing is not your forte, Dance Central 2 gives you the tools you need to learn and work your way to the top in no time. Still, despite its willingness to correct your mistakes and make itself accessible to players of all skill levels, Harmonix’s sequel is still a much more hardcore outing than the competition, like say Just Dance 3. It’s all about mimicking the most genuine choreography cued up for each track and learning to nail it, much like a real dancer would. It’s tough, but when you finally emerge with a decent score, it’s a fantastic feeling.

You were able to match your skills with a friend in the previous game, but now you’re able to enjoy two-player simultaneous dancing. It also allows for competitive dancing as well. While both are especially useful additions to an otherwise impressive arsenal of tips and tricks, they are not without their faults. Two players are tracked quite beautifully, but more difficult moves take up more space and can often find one player going off-screen. The opportunity is there and has the potential to shine, but it might need a little more work if there is to be a third game. Unfortunately, you can’t take the show online, either, which would have been a critical addition for such a competitive game.

Dance Central 2 is everything you’d expect, especially from a Harmonix sequel. When it comes to improving on an already fantastic base, they often excel, and their sequel to the Kinect’s defining game is no different. There’s a song out there for everyone, plenty of opportunities to shine whether you’ve got two left feet or are Lady Gaga’s backup dancer, and gorgeous menus and graphics to top it all off. There’s significant improvements here, from two-player simultaneous dancing to even smart analyzing of your best – and worst – moves to help perfect your steps. If you’re looking to get a little more serious with your dancing or looking for something to add to your exercise routine, Dance Central 2 is an excellent choice.

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