Review: Dance Paradise

I never thought I’d see the day where dance games would become so popular. As a Dance Dance Revolution vet, I’ve gleefully accepted the Kinect revolution with open arms. Dance Central, then Dance Masters, and now Dance Paradise — it’s a regular fantasy land for those of us who like to get our groove on.

Dance Paradise is the newest addition to the Kinect library, though quite far from the best. It’s a light, fluffy dance game with few complex elements and surely nothing that could give Dance Central “hard” vets a run for their money…in fact, one might go so far as to say that this is more like an Xbox Live Arcade offering for the Kinect, except it comes saddled with a hefty price tag and a “real” box.

Quality aside, Dance Paradise is a pop music celebration through and through. The title serves up 40 hits from the likes of Lady Gaga, Kool and the Gang, and even Mika. The songs’ original music videos come with the game, and I found this to be quite a nice touch, since the dance titles I’m used to offer only the music (or covers of popular hits. The artists’ videos provide something for your friends or significant other to watcht while you’re awkwardly attempting to get your groove on.

How Dance Paradise lets you shake what your mama gave you is quite different from what we’ve seen in the other star Kinect dancers. In Dance Central, you break down a routine, perform pieces of the dance, and then throw it all together. Dance Paradise takes a more cartoony and simplistic approach to dancing.

As you start up a song, you’ll note colorful “star paths” like those you might find in Guitar Hero or Rock Band. When a dance move approaches the end of the path, you need to follow along and repeat the dance move until the colored bar trails off. Dance moves are ridiculously simple, asking little more than shoulder rolls, air guitar mimickry, and simple steps that sometimes mirror the video in the background, particularly throughout Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”

It sounds simple enough, and even perhaps innovative, if you look at it as a dance/Guitar Hero-esque offering, but it’s so painfully simple to perform that it’s not much fun. Much like the wildly popular Just Dance series on the Wii, it’s acceptable to flail your upper half without doing a thing with your legs or even bobbing in time. You can even hold your own in Hard mode this way. Even as you progress through the barebones Career mode, you’ll find that your on-screen avatar performs flawlessly even if you’re falling down in a drunken stupor, which is likely the case if you’re pulling this game out.

And if you think about it, that’s probably where Dance Paradise really shines. Its obnoxiously loud color scheme, overly large, friendly fonts, and top 40 hits are there to keep a party chugging right along. There is virtually no beginner plateau to overcome, and no on-screen photos being taken that might embarrass potential shysters, so all you really need to do is come equipped to shake it like a Polaroid picture and you’ll rack up achievements, Perfect rankings, and likely some friends.

Three multiplayer modes are included, as it’s clearly the game’s aim to keep you groovin’ with friends: Synchro (cooperative dancing), Versus, and Attack modes are all an interesting change of pace if you happen to have friends with two left hands as well as feet. It’s not hard to emerge from battle victorious, although I did find the Attack mode to provide quite a few sporadic moments of honest-to-goodness fun while I mixed up my opponents’ moves and confused them. I could imagine how it would be in a room full of close buddies, gamers and non-gamers alike. Despite the lack of real effort put forth for the dance moves, it works.

And to assuage those who don’t quite want to hover around a video game for the life of the party, the video DJ allows for a ready-made music video player to cycle through the creme de la creme of the 40 included tracks to make you a haphazard DJ. I used it quite a few times when cleaning up around the house — you sure can’t depend on MTV for the videos anymore.

Dance Paradise is loud, gaudy, and plenty of fun if you don’t care about learning to dance like the vixens in the videos or even in an acceptable manner at parties. It’s all about just moving and getting into the music, though it all feels rather cheap and contrived, and you could certainly flail around like a goof just by putting the radio on — it’d be a lot cheaper. I was hoping for much more from the latest page from the Book of Kinect Dancing, but this one’s hard to suggest if you’re going for substance. And even for parties, I’d stick to Just Dance — at least you’ll come out on top, having learned a bit of real choreography.

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