A couple weeks ago I was passed along a copy of Dance Central 2 to review for the Xbox. I grabbed the game with mild interest, having never played the predecessor, but still willing to give any new game a shot. Like most games I receive for review, I expected to have some moments of joy and those of challenge. What happened with Dance Central 2 was something quite different.
Just for some perspective, you should know that I am relatively new owner of a Kinect, which is to say that I am actively looking at every game available for the device. Even the games with horrendous reviews are popping up on my radar (here’s looking at you, Let’s Cheer!). With that in mind, I was uncharacteristically willing to give Dance Central 2 a good look. This was the sequel to the most successful game on the peripheral and had received stellar reviews last time around. Unfortunately, despite recognizing its quality, this is a game whose novelty was quickly lost on me.
After bringing the game home, I slid it in the console immediately and was prepared for a new experience. To date, all of my other Kinect interactions had involved hitting balls, jumping hurdles, blasting strange alien orbs and slicing fruit. I hadn’t delved into the fitness titles or the really active games. And, as one last aside, I had played a little bit with Just Dance on the Wii, i.e. not long enough to attempt more than one song.
Once the game loaded up, I was a bit annoyed by menus that were very sensitive and hard to utilize. Then I noticed there was no sign of an interactive/video tutorial. The best that I could find was a slide show with text telling me what to do. Okaaay… so, how is a novice like me supposed to play this game? I guess I needed to just start up a mode and play, right?
I fired up a random mode (I think it was workout mode) and was blown away by the complexity of what this game was asking me to do. Because I am someone who has never been trained in dance and never enjoyed social dancing at all, this game was quite a challenge to even start. I was consistently failing to even come close to what the devs expected.
At first, I laid blame on the lackluster tutorial. THAT was the reason why I failed. THAT was why I lost any interest in playing this game. Afterwards, I was being kindly poked by my editor to come up with something close to a review… and I just could not be bothered. After giving this experience some extensive consideration, I realized that my disinterest in Dance Central 2 is not to be blamed on a weak tutorial. Many such games have even less of a tutorial (back in the 1980s the word tutorial didn’t exist in the realm of gaming and we survived).
My ambivalence to Dance Central 2 is the simple fact that this game is just outside of my interests. I can highly respect the work that the developers put it. I can marvel at the strong soundtrack of well known songs licensed from the biggest pop artists from our culture. I can marvel at the technology at work. But, at the end of the day, Dance Central 2 was never going to work for me.
I fully understand that there is a world of gamers out there that would have a blast dancing their asses off, learning new moves, and reliving the glory that is Step Up 3D. I’m just not one of them. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Because I know that games I might enjoy (Phantom Dust) are an acquired taste as well. It’s great that we can live in a world of entertainment that is no longer dominated by just one kind of game (more FPS games please!) and that many different interests can be designed and can be successful in the marketplace. You just have to find your niche and come to terms with it.