My average week at work involves peddling drugs, murdering prostitutes, stabbing random people in the street and sending entire platoons to a certain death just to hear their screams. No, I haven't written that after snorting a really long line of cocaine. That's essentially all that I'm expected to do while reviewing video games for a living. Thanks to the wonders of motion gaming, even the dudes from Office Space will approve, because it's all about makin' bucks, gettin' exercise, workin' outside inside. Freakin' A, you know. Life as a video game journalist, as you already may have suspected, is quite swell indeed. That is, as long as you play stuff that you love.
Unfortunately, for every conceptually brilliant indie game, there are ten soul-crushingly mediocre cover shooters. For every ten of those, there is at least one that makes having an Iodex-and-bread sandwich during lunch seem like a more appealing proposition. This way, the pain balm-induced stupor at least makes the suffering and humiliation go away. You see, unlike our readers, we don't play games solely for entertainment. We're here to do a job—one which sometimes involves jumping on a grenade, just so that you don't end up wasting hard-earned money on a dud.
Dance Central 3 includes a fair bit of retro with 70s disco numbers
An Iodex Sandwich Moment
The prospect of reviewing Dance Central 3 turned out to be the Iodex sandwich moment for me. To fully appreciate why it's such a terrible proposition, you need to understand how much of an affront the game is to my personal ethos. The music I prefer is the kind that you headbang to, or sit smug in a chair while pointing at people in a condescending manner with a smoking pipe. It is, in fact, physically impossible to dance to the songs in my playlist. Not that I could even if I wanted to, because I'm a guy with the proverbial two left feet. The only time I prefer moving my feet, it's generally to kick in doors or curb stomp kids who listen to BackStreet Boys and LMFAO. However, not only am I expected to listen to these very songs, but also dance to them in Dance Central 3.
Reviewing the game at office was out of question, and I sure as hell couldn't subject my parents to the humiliation of watching their grown son break into spastic spasms in front of the telly. That's why I decided to camp in with a friend. One who had an Xbox 360, Kinect, a large enough living room and a peculiar lack of shame as well as dignity that let him agree to such an arrangement. The idea was simple: stock up on alcohol, dance away the night and write the review on the following day.
The story campaign involves a megalomaniacal villain and super-secret spy dancing agency
No More Drugs For You!
Like all plans, this only sounded good in the head. Next morning, I woke up with a massive hangover and a jaw that hurt like hell. The room was thrashed and the only piece of furniture left standing was a glass table with razor blades and a copious amount of talcum powder strewn upon it. My friend walked in shortly looking like a mime wearing a face full of white powder and blackened eyes. That's when he asked me to leave, before slamming the door shut in my face and yelling, “No more drugs for you!”
Fortunately, my shamelessness is only surpassed by my persistence, so I was able to convince him to let me take one more stab at the review. Sobriety gave me a whole new perspective. As it turned out, Dance Central 3 is quite easy to pick up and learn even for a n00b like me. Unlike the Wii or the PS Move based motion games, you use your entire body to dance. The idea is to mimic the moves of on-screen characters as the Kinect sensor keeps a track of your limbs, head and torso in relation to one another. You are essentially graded on a scale of five stars in terms of your ability to ape the dance moves and nail the timing.
Kinect-based motion gameplay is surprisingly accurate and engaging
Better Than I Had Hoped
Frankly, it wasn't as bad as I had hoped it to be. After a few hours of resembling Forrest Gump trying to attempt the Macarena, I had improved by leaps and bounds. This is largely due to the wonders of the Kinect motion controller, which makes sure that you use your entire body to dance. And because the the sensor can accurately tell the position and orientation of every last limb and digit on your body, the game's intuitive tutorial mode can make a respectable dancer out of someone with leaden feet, like yours truly.
After making a fool of myself in the Dance Mode for a while, I fired up the Rehearsal Mode. A decidedly black-sounding dude, who strangely introduced himself as a movie theatre employee, did a great job at mentoring me in the interactive tutorial mode. Get a move wrong and it gives you an option to retry, slow down, or even perform a video analysis until you have nailed it. Rehearse a song before opting for a full performance and you're bound to ace it. Although it's not mandatory to rehearse each song, I would recommend it unless you can trace Prabhudeva in your family tree.
More Evolutionary Than Revolutionary
A quick comparison with the last two Dance Central games makes this franchise seem more like FIFA than a Rock Band game in terms of evolution. The changes are more incremental than anything majorly game changing. That isn't entirely bad, considering how well the Kinect-based gameplay works. The fact that I went from expecting a catastrophically bad experience to genuinely enjoying this dancing business, despite not caring for the music at all.
Its deep, intuitive and surprisingly accurate motion gameplay humours the gamer in you, and then it becomes more a matter of getting into the groove and nailing the moves. At this juncture, you don't really care about what sort of music you're dancing to. You're too engaged in acing the steps to trifle with all that.
Seamless drop-in, drop-out co-op and versus gameplay in the Party Mode is quite fun
Dance Central 3 isn't without its new additions either. It now ships with 46 songs ranging from the '70s disco and dance tunes to the current rap, hip hop and R&B numbers. None of the songs are locked and you can jump into any of your favourite tracks. New music, however, can only be purchased, or carried over from the last two games, in case you have already bought the DLCs.
The spanking new Crew Throwdown mode allows anywhere between 2-8 players to square off against each other. Up to four teams compete in six rounds spanning various game modes ranging from regular dance battles, song performances, to minigames such as Pose Offs that require teams to mimic each other's poses. This brings in another new mode dubbed as Make A Move, which lets players create a new move from scratch and challenge the other players to mimic it.
It's a Party, Get Some Friends Along
The versus and co-op aspects have been integrated seamlessly and allow players to jump in the fray by just waving or high-fiving each other. Dance battles with a buddy are fun, while motion tracking is good enough to grade each player's moves with enough accuracy to maintain healthy competition.
The main multiplayer draw, however, is the popular Party Mode. Turn it on and the music keep segueing from one song to another in an infinite loop. Players can drop in and drop out seamlessly without having to reset or go through the motions of setting the playlist again. This is a feature that can add a great deal of fun to any house party.
The Rehearsal Mode is intuitive enough to improve even gamers with leaden feet
The single player campaign mode is hilariously self aware and includes a campy storyline involving a super-secret organisation that's sworn to protect the dancing world. The Step Up-meets-Austin Powers plot features deliberately over-the-top stuff such as time travelling dancing agents and an eccentric villain hell bent on taking over the dance world with a grooving robot army.
All of this is a thinly-veiled excuse to revisit songs from '70s, '80s, '90s as well as contemporary numbers, while you master various dance moves therein to beat the uber-villain. This game is smart in the way it knows that there's no way in hell it can pull off a serious plot with a straight face. Fortunately, it doesn't try that, and instead chooses to embrace a campy narrative instead.
In the simplest of terms, Dance Central 3 changed my very perception of dance games in general. It is one thing to control a clumsy on-screen mannequin with a joypad, and it's a whole other ball game when you become the mannequin itself with the Kinect. This intuitive form of gameplay exalts the dance genre to an experience that's thoroughly enjoyable even for someone who doesn't care for the music being offered. This speaks volumes to justify Dance Central 3 to first timers who aren't sure how this Kinect-based dance business will work out.
Even if you aren't the one who fancies dancing alone, the sublime Party and Crew Throwdown modes make it a blast to have during house parties. The only real downside to this particular iteration is that it offers very little improvement for those who own the last game. However, first timers will find this a genuinely entertaining proposition. Think about it: I used to be a hater, but I still ended up enjoying the experience.
The game is easy to learn in the beginner modes, but tough to master in the higher difficulties
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Oct 27, 2016