Dance Central 2 review

We hit the final pose of Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On” with a satisfied, but sweaty, grin. One of the most difficult songs in Dance Central 2 is a prime example of why this series is so successful: interesting and challenging choreography that’s still fun, a familiar Top 40 release performed by the original artist and a responsive gameplay system that lets you know when your limbs are horribly off-beat and are making you look like a complete douche. And while this isn’t news for those of us who played the first iteration, you can now do all of that with someone else at the same damn time.

Above: Hi-Def is just one of five crews you’ll meet on the dance floor

Dance Central 2 will be instantly familiar to fans. Flashcards titled with names of the next move appear and are performed by one of the characters from one of the dance crews. Successfully performing the choreography will spark visual cues like a glowing trail from the character’s hands. Unsuccessfully performing results in red highlights around the character’s limbs that are being danced incorrectly. The same vibrant visual style as the original is present in 2 and the return of familiar faces like the diva Miss Aubrey are welcome sights. All 40+ songs in the game (not to mention importable tracks from the first and all previous DLC) are playable via solo, co-op and versus (Dance Battle) modes.

Above: Dance Battle mode now can be done simultaneously

Grab a friend, a towel and a bottle of water because you’re going to need all three to take advantage of Dance Central 2’s multiplayer feature. Not only can two people now simultaneously perform a song together, but the game’s Dance Battle mode has also been completely revamped so that true head-to-head competition is finally possible. Previously, players had to switch off during a song to showcase their dance floor supremacy and the battle felt more like a polite trade-off rather than a fierce competition. Now you compete against a friend side-by-side, and the addition of Free-4-All, where extra points are given to the dancer who can successfully complete a single move before the other, makes multiplayer more involved and provides extra fodder for living room trash talking.

Above: The Free-4-All mini game during Dance Battle mode will test your speed and coordination, moves with a gold background yield more points

Surprisingly fun is the new Crew Challenge, or the game’s version of a career mode. Tasked with gaining the respect of the four different crews in the game, you must earn stars by successfully performing songs through solo or co-op play. Earning the required amount unlocks a challenge song from each crew and successfully completing that with four stars unlocks a new crew to impress. At the very end of Challenge your endurance, memorization skills and coordination are put to the test with a 5-song setlist that you must pass in one go. Remember that towel and bottle of water we told you to get? Yeah, you’re going to need that here too.

Boasting seven levels of difficulty to the original’s five, Harmonix also greatly improved Break It Down to be much more intuitive. No longer will you have to go through a whole routine just to figure out a specific move and utilizing the game’s new voice commands makes it easier to slow or speed up a piece of choreography until perfected. While we found we occasionally used Break It Down in the first game, the increased complexity in choreography in 2 meant we were turning to this feature more often to figure just what heck we were doing wrong while trying to be fly like a G6.

Above: You can create a playlist of specific moves to practice during the improved Break It Down

Choreography has always shone in Dance Central compared to similar games and 2 is absolutely no exception. Routines in 2 at higher difficulty levels are on par with those seen in music videos and the complexity and variety of moves meant we were often caught grinning our heads off when the choreography matched the song to perfection. Yes, that means you will be literally whipping your hair back and forth during Willow’s song.

Our complaints with the game are slim. We miss the percentages at the end of routines telling us how much of a song we performed successfully. Instead, the amount of Perfect and Good’s earned are calculated which left us scratching our heads as to how much more we needed to do in order to be better. Voice commands had to be repeated from time to time, but it was an option we rarely used. Free-4-All during Dance Battle mode was sometimes jarring as the transition from the routine meant we felt like we were thrown off-beat at times in order to score more points.

Above: Head snaps and snarky comments towards your competitor are optional but always encouraged

With the inclusion of multiplayer, Dance Central 2 has become the definitive dance game on any console far surpassing its competitors. Thoughtful and intricate choreography that is still fun but accessible, a song list that is familiar and current with a depth of gameplay has made this title both challenging for previous Dance Central converts yet still welcoming for newcomers. Is this game the reason why you still have that Kinect sitting on your TV stand? Yes, yes it is.

Oct 14, 2011

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