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Dance Central 2 [Review]

Overall Feeling: 

The games mechanics and tech have all been given the upgrades that the fans requested. The new options for voice control on the menu system and the integrated co-op that allows you to dance with your friends at the same time are welcome additions to the game. The track-list however is a little south of 'impressive' and could have used a little more of that classic Harmonix awesomeness.

The Pros: 

+Voice controlled menus make navigation quick and easy.

+The integrated multiplayer allows you to dance together.

+The same gameplay that made DC1 the best launch title for the Kinect is back and refined.

The Cons: 

-The track list is pretty weak, which is kind of important for a game that's supposed to make you want to get up and dance. Rating : 

When Dance Central launched alongside Xbox's newest peripheral, the Kinect, one year ago (Happy Anniversary Kinect!) it was hands-down the best received game to take advantage of the hardware. To be fair, it wasn't a particularly stellar launch line-up to be fair... but even still a rhythm-based game from Harmonix is always a welcome addition to any new medium.

Unfortunately with a full year for development houses to learn and take advantage of Xbox's shiny new technology, we haven't come very far. There have been a few bright and shining gems that have released for the console, most notably Sega's Rise of Nightmares, but at the end of the day there hasn't been anything yet to make the Kinect a really 'must have' piece of hardware. Harmonix has swung back around to create a sequel to one of the very few bright-spots on the console's short life-span though bringing with it a host of new additional features to take further advantage of the Kinect's capabilities.

If you were a fan of the original Dance Central, then chances are you've already picked up the sequel. It offers everything that the original title did, but with a new track list, expanded feature set for navigating the game's menu system and a co-operative focus through-out that finally allows you to dance alongside of your friends.

Easily the biggest feature to be added, and the best for all aspects of the game for my money, is the game's voice-activated control system. Now instead of waving your hands around and pushing your way through the menu system, slapping a series of title menu options, you can simply use your words to guide the game to where you want to get to. For an example, if you want to just jump right in and start shakin' your groove 'thang' in the immediate, you can call out "Xbox, Dance!" and it will jump to the song selection menu. The Kinect is surprisingly accurate with the ability to not only read the commands, regardless of what kind of flair you want to put on the words, but with the song selection.

After several hours of playing, and almost exclusively using the voice commands to navigate, I was surprised to find that there wasn't an instance, even once, where the selection was anything other than what I was trying to get to.

The options for selecting the game mode and difficulty are available through the voice-command as well, and best of all so are the pause menu options. Those that have experienced the Kinect, in any way, know that the default is generally to lower your left arm at a 45 degree angle and let it read that for a few seconds... which is obviously of determent in a dancing game like Dance Central. It's a much cleaner and organic experience when you can just tell the Xbox that you're ready for a break by saying "Pause."

Of course the other big complaint, some may say biggest, of the previous title was that the two player options were rather limited. In the original Dance Central there was only the option to 'tag out' in order to play with two players. That meant a repeating of dance sequences in order to keep everything 'balanced' while two people competed against one another to see who had the 'flyest moves.' In Dance Central 2, you can finally have two people performing at the same time, which is a welcome addition to the series and helps keep the party moving in a much cleaner and enjoyable way.

The only real downside to the game is that the track-list seems to have taken a bit of a bath. Harmonix has a pretty stellar track-record at this point in the game for developing an awesome set-list, regardless of what the game is. From the earliest days of Frequency and Amplitude, the company has managed to get a host of awesome toe-tapping beats regardless of what little clot they had in the music industry. Now that they've established themselves, one would assume that it would just keep getting bigger and better... however Dance Central 2 has the unfortunate side-effect of working with the larger publishing houses which means including, almost exclusively, a series of annoying and bland 'club tracks.'

Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy me some dance music and for a game titled Dance Central it's something that's pretty much expected. But it's not the songs that you'd expect, it's not the titles that are tearing up the clubs, and it's not enough of the nostalgia mix of the other games that Harmonix has created. It kind of falls flat in every direction that you try and follow it into, it's an unfortunate state for the game and provides an experience at the end of the day that feels a little unfinished. Of course, it makes for plenty of room for DLC, something that Harmonix has become masters of over the last few years with their Rock Band franchise, but with a list this short and unappealing it becomes more of a tease of a game then a full experience.

At the end of the day, the game makes most of the improvements that the fans were crying out for. It is an improvement over-all in the technical department, and makes a lot of steps forward that help to take better advantage of the technology that Microsoft dropped a year ago. It's just a shame that the track-list didn't receive a little bit more of a starring role in the series second instalment, so maybe a good idea would be to pick up a discounted version in a month or two, and use the pocketed coin to get some additional DLC content when that ramps up.

This review is based on an Xbox 360 copy provided by the Publisher.

Dance Central 2
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Harmonix
Platforms: Xbox 360 Kinect
Release Date: October 25, 2011
Price: $49.99