If there is one thing I can say about games in 2011, it was the year of the dance games. Off the top of my head I can think of nine titles released in 2011 that were dance games. Since we are coming to the close of the year, what better way to go out than with a big dance party. Here is a quick look at four of those dance titles.
Dance Central 2
The sequel to the surprise hit from Harmonix, Dance Central. This one may be the breakout of the bunch. Using what they learned from the Rock Band series (for a small fee) you can import all 32 songs from Dance Central into Dance Central 2. Combine those with the 44 that comes with Dance Central 2 that gives you a minimum of 76 songs. That is not counting downloadable songs. The song styles cover a wide variety of genres from disco to hip-hop to pop.
Dance Central 2 uses the Xbox Kinect to track your whole body. Match the movements of the dancers on screen and depending on how close you match, that will determine the amount of points you are awarded. There are three levels of difficulty a player can choose; easy, medium, and hard. The higher you go the more complex the moves and smaller the margin of error. Because the Kinect is tracking your whole body it makes Dance Central 2 the game that you have to get up and dance for!
New to the series is the simultaneous two-player gameplay and the ability for the second player to drop-in/drop-out at any time during a song. They have also improved the "Break It Down" mode so you can practice the moves better.
New to the field of dance games is Everybody Dance. It comes with 40 hit songs that include their music videos. It also covers styles from disco to hip-hop, pop, to pop-punk. More songs can be downloaded to expand the selection.
Everybody Dance uses the PlayStation Move to track your dance moves. This means in theory you might be able to get away with just moving one hand. But where's the fun in that? In actual practice there might be more to it, but the game is reading where the move controller goes. Match the moves with the onscreen dancer to gain points. The better you are the higher the score. Each song has three difficulty levels and a two player competitive and co-op. The co-op is interesting in that you will actually be coordinating some moves arm in arm.
Not into dancing that much? You can sing along with the song instead while another player dances. Everybody Dance can be set up to use either the microphone built into the PlayStation Eye camera, your Singstar microphones, any USB microphone, or even your wireless headset. Singing along will boost the overall score
Three things that Everybody Dance has that the others don't are; Dance Creator, Party mode, and sharing via Twitter and Facebook. In Dance Creator mode you can tap into your inner choreographer and make your own dance routines to any of the songs. In Party mode you can have up to 20 people playing through a number of rounds, with the winner being the person with the highest score. While you play Everybody Dance the PlayStation takes random photos and videos which you can then share via Twitter and Facebook to show how good you are or embarrass friends.
ABBA You Can Dance
Based on their Just Dance series, Ubisoft's ABBA You Can Dance is a spin-off tailor made for ABBA fans. It has 27 ABBA songs (technically 25 as Dancing Queen has two extra versions) that players can dance to. The routines were designed with groups of up to four in mind with each song having players select their dancer from the group on-screen. You can play solo, but some moves might feel a bit silly without a partner. Surprisingly there is no difficulty levels. Dancing is determined based on where the WiiMote is, so again in theory, you could just stay still and move it, but the game does throw in some moves like spins and slides so you won't be standing still for long.
ABBA You Can Dance has a karaoke mode if you just want to sing your favorite ABBA song, but this has no scoring to go with it. You just plug in a USB microphone and sing. It shows the music video with lyrics scrolling along the bottom like any standard karaoke machine out there.
One cute thing exclusive to ABBA You Can Dance is the Mini-Musical mode. This mode tells the story of a couple falling in love through choice ABBA songs. Up to four can play through this mode and it has different routines than those used in the regular mode.
Grease Dance has the fewest songs at 20, but it does have quite a few modes with dancing, karaoke, and a selection of mini-games. Of those songs not all are from the movie Grease, but from that era to pad out the number.
The review copy I received is for the Xbox 360. That means in dancing mode Grease Dance uses the Kinect to track your movements. Fans of the movie will instantly recognize many of the moves, which may or may not give them a slight edge. There are harder difficulties for each song, but you have to play through all the songs at the easier difficulties to unlock the harder ones.
Karaoke mode can be played by itself or while someone is dancing. It is more like many of the singing games out there with it tracking your timing and singing pitch. In the dancing and singing combo the dancer gets all of their onscreen prompts while the singer is relegated to a small corner. It only lets the singer know how well they did after they have sang a section.
The mini-games are random so getting your favorite one will be a luck of the draw. They also feel a bit tacked on and not completely fleshed out, with some just being variations on the main dancing. Like "Frenchie's Sleepover" were you do small dances and special gestures.
If you are planning a party and want the most bang for your buck, I would suggest Dance Central 2 or Everybody Dance. These have the best selections of music and just feel tailor made for a party. ABBA You Can Dance and Grease Dance on the other hand feel more designed for themed parties or die hard fans, and they are limited in music selection. ABBA You Can Dance being even more limited with only one difficulty level for the dancing.
While all the games will get you up and moving, only Dance Central 2 and Everybody Dance also have workout modes so that you can shed pounds and get into shape.
So how do they rate on the "booty-shaking" meter? I give Dance Central 2 a 5 out of 5 for a the largest selection of songs, ability to read how your whole body moves and the most fun. Everybody Dance gets a 4.5 out of 5 for also a great selection of music and the ability to create your own dance routines. Grease Dance gets a 3.5 out of 5 for good variety of things to do, but lacks in music selection. ABBA You Can Dance trails with a 3 out of 5 for being a great game for ABBA fans, but really not much more.
Dance Central 2 is rated T for Teen for Lyrics.
Everybody Dance is rated T for Teen for Lyrics and Sexual Themes.
ABBA You Can Dance is rated E10+ for Everyone 10 and older for Mild Lyrics and Tobacco Reference.
Grease Dance is rated T for Teen for Lyrics and Tobacco Reference.
All ratings are provided by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).
Dance Central 2 is available now exclusively for the Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect. For more information see the Dance Central 2 web site.
Everybody Dance is available now exclusively for the Sony PlayStation 3 Move. For more Information see the Everybody Dance web site.
ABBA You Can Dance is available now exclusively for the Nintendo Wii. For more information see the ABBA You Can Dance web page.
Grease Dance is available now for both the Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect and the Sony PlayStation 3 Move. For more information see the Grease Dance web site.