If you've been reading this site for a while, you might already be aware that I was a big fan of Dance Central, and it was pretty much the reason why I really wanted a Kinect. Enough of the waving a Wiimote around I wanted a game to make me really dance. And with it's surprisingly accurate motion tracking, pulling off the choreography in Dance Central was both challenging and super fun.
So how does the sequel stack up? Spoiler alert: It's awesome!
It's the perfect kind of sequel. It takes everything that's good about the first game and keeps it, while adding new features and improving on others. Make the jump for all the details!
The biggest addition to Dance Central 2 is the fact that it now features 2-player gameplay. And not like in the first game where you had to take turns. Nope, this is two people dancing at the same time, either cooperatively or in a Dance Battle. The Dance Battle is fun because each person gets occasional solos and there are two Free-4-All sections where they put four moves up on the screen and whoever can complete them faster than their opponent gets the points. I don't mind the interruptions to the regular dancing gameplay in this situation because it kind of makes the competition more fun. However, you're going to need a good-sized space to really enjoy side-by-side play. (My tiny Brooklyn apartment is decidedly not good-sized enough as it turns out!)
Because one of the best improvements that Harmonix made to the Dance Central experience is the option to shut off Freestyle Mode! That's right, no longer will your dancing be interrupted to watch yourself flail around while you wait for the choreography to return. Actually, the kind of improved the visuals this time, giving you a dot-matrixy kind of image of you that does look pretty cool as it sweeps towards the camera from time to time. But really, the way I prefer to play is to just do choreography straight through. Unfortunately, this doesn't work for songs imported from DC1 or earlier DLC. Those still have Freestyle sections because they didn't go back to add in alternative choreography.
A story mode has also been added this time around, and like the touring in Rock Band, offers a loose framework for you to do dance after dance after dance. The basic premise is that you face off against various dance crews, and you have to earn a certain number of stars before moving on to the next one. And of course, you once again finish off against robots in the boss battle. Because don't all dance battles end up against robot dance crews? Seriously, though, while Crew Challenge might be a little silly, it's nice to have the extra motivation to push through and get a better score on a song aside from just seeing that a friend is beating you on the leaderboards. And you can do it three times, on Easy, Medium and Hard!
Fitness Mode has also been improved, both by leaving the mode activated until you turn it off again so you don't have to worry about remembering to activate it every single time you play the game, and also by offering up actual workouts. There are a series of playlists that you can choose that are marked with different durations and intensities. While there's still a pause while the game shows you your score for one song and loads up the next, it's less than if you had to go back to the menu and select another one yourself, so it keeps you moving more. You can also make your own playlists, with the ability to save up to five custom playlists with up to 20 songs in each.
Break It Down Mode has also been tweaked, with voice controls added to the navigation. Voice controls worked pretty well for me in the regular game, although when it came time for song selection, you have to know which song you want and say it, because it doesn't give you a list or anything. And with so many songs, I forget what's in there! But I had a little trouble using voice commands in Break It Down Mode, because occasionally it wouldn't register what I had said, and if I moved wrong, I would accidentally activate an on-screen command. But I do appreciate the ability to practice either the whole song or focus on just the moves you're having trouble with. So you don't have to waste time proving you know how to do everything but that one step.
The graphics didn't need much improvement, so things just look a little more finessed this time around. There are some returning dancers, but most are new. Bodie is my easy favorite, being a cute blond surfer dude, although I hate when he speaks, because the deep, booming voice just doesn't match the look! And as with the first game, you will get a nice variety of music to dance to, from pop to dance to R'n'B to rap, both retro and current. I wish there were more songs in the library that I loved, but even the ones I wasn't familiar with were still fun to dance to. For 400 Microsoft Points you can import all the songs from DC1 into DC2 and double your library. And the game comes with a free 240 MP card so you can buy yourself a song from the library of DLC. The first one's always free!
As I've mentioned, there has been some tweaks to the gameplay here and there, but the basic premise remains the same. You mirror the moves of the on-screen dancer, keeping an eye on the flashcards that slide up the side of the screen so you know what's coming next. Do the move correctly, and you'll boost your score. Do it wrong, and the on-screen dancer's limb will turn red, indicating which part of your body is out of step. I don't know if the choreography got easier or if they adjusted the motion tracking to be more forgiving, but I didn't really have any trouble on Easy level. I only had to replay a couple songs to get my four star score up to five. I've only just started Medium, so I don't know if in addition to more complex choreography, the game gets pickier with the motion tracking. It's hard to tell.
Basically, if you loved Dance Central, this is a no-brainer. You probably already pre-ordered this to get the 400 points to import the songs for free like I did. But if not, this series is definitely one of the best reasons to own a Kinect. I don't know if I'd recommend buying a Kinect just to play it, but if you've already got one plugged into your Xbox 360, there's no reason at all you shouldn't be playing Dance Central 2. Like I said, it takes everything good about the first game and just improves on it. So what are you waiting for? Shake your groove thang!
A copy of Dance Central 2 was purchased by the writer for the purpose of this review. All modes were sampled, all songs were danced, and Easy Crew Challenge was played through to completion.