Harmonix's Dance Central
series returns for the third year running with Dance Central 3
, but how does it compare to its predecessors and the various other dance titles out there?
For anyone who may be unfamiliar with the Dance Central
games and how they work, it's a 'simple' case of mirroring the on-screen dancer while keeping an eye on the upcoming 'Flashcards' displayed on the right of the screen which give you an indication of what moves are coming next. Points are awarded based upon how well you nail these moves and how long you manage to keep hitting them as you build up a combo.
All songs are unlocked from the start and 'Perform' mode remains, however, in this installment we have our first Story mode. You are Dance Central Intelligence's newest recruit and you must help them defeat Dr. Tan and his army before he puts a stop to groovy moves for good. You must go back in time, dropping in at each decade to join with some familiar Dance Central
faces and work out that era's 'Craze'. This requires you to hit certain moves in various songs that come together in one final routine for each particular era. By decoding and learning these song's routines, you build up the skills needed to outmaneuver the senile old Dr. Tan. Starting at the 70s and moving through every decade until recent years, the story mode drags you through a massive variety of music. Where the previous titles were much heavier on the modern music side of the scale, this installment sees much more older classics too. You'll start with some Village People as you boogie through the 70s, New Kids on the Block will help you move through the 80s and Backstreet Boys will shuffle you through the 90s. With four songs from each era available in the earlier stages there's much more choice this time around. Once this is complete, more songs for each Crew and era become available in the 'Master Quest' where players can work on mastering all the songs in the game.
The choreography sees a massive ramp up in difficulty this time around. Each routine feels much less repetitive and much more fluid than previously. The Dance Central
games are hardly the worst for this as it is but even so, the difference is noticeable. Much fewer moves are repeated, making each routine feel incredibly smooth. This needn't put off novice dancers though, as there are many difficulty levels to choose from, including a newly introduced 'Beginner' mode if you find the songs a little overwhelming. With the 'Rehearse' mode (previously 'Break it Down') in place to help you master any moves or even whole songs that you're struggling with, it really is a game for absolutely any skill level. With the ability to slow moves down, record yourself doing them and repeat them as many times as you like, it's impossible to not know where you're going wrong.
The choreography itself is all over the place, in a good way. With more spinning, dipping and floor-dropping than you could imagine, playing these routines on the hardest setting is a truly exhausting all-over workout that will leave you feeling sore for a few days. The tracking is brutally accurate too, allowing very little room for error, especially on those mental routines further down the difficulty list.
A new feature is the brilliant 'Party Mode'. This is a quick drop-in/drop-out mode that can be left running for people to play as and when they please while it shuffles through your song collection and mixes up various different play modes. These include the staple 'Perform' and 'Battle' modes, as well as some new additions. 'Strike a Pose' is a silly little newcomer in which you simply have to match the on-screen poses set by the characters, and stringing together as many as possible in a row will bump up your score. 'Keep the Beat' will play a song and you must simply keep dancing to it however you please, as long as it's in time with the song. 'Make a Move' is the most impressive new addition. In this mode, the players must create their own dance moves which their opponent then has to match. Players take turns, with points earned for matching these newly created moves and for making a move that your opponent struggles with.
If this is a bit light hearted for some of the more hardcore movers out there, we also see the introduction of 'Crew Throwdown'. This is an all-out battle mode in which two teams, of up to four people, can compete against each other. Players run through rounds of random songs and modes before a final Dance Battle. Scores can now also be 'flaunted', creating an instant challenge to all other players on your friends list to beat your flaunted score.
There may be many other Kinect dance titles flooding the shelves these days, but none of these compare to Dance Central 3
. It ticks so many boxes that others don't. It takes your hand and walks you through some brilliant, difficult choreography and builds you up, from someone who would fall over themselves whilst attempting a jazz step to someone mirroring Usher's popping and dropping. There is absolutely no other dance game out there that comes even a little bit close, whether that's as a party game or as a solo dancing experience.