• Kinect has been on the market for almost a year now and I think it is safe to say that the original Dance Central was the “killer app” for Microsoft’s new device.  Well Dance Central 2 is now here and it improves on the original in almost every way.  There are a bunch of new songs in the game along with the ability to import the music from the original Dance Central giving you a really big library to choose from.  When you purchase this game new they even give you 240 Microsoft points so that you can pick a song that you like on Xbox Live and download it for Dance Central 2.  After spending some time with the game I was happy to see that it was more responsive than the original and that it had a bunch of new features instead of simply putting on new music and calling it a new game.  Dance Central 2 also has voice commands that you can utilize in addition to some new multiplayer modes.

    As my time began with this title it was evident that Harmonix was paying attention to what their community wanted and put in what they could.  One of my favorite new features is the “Team Up” mode.  I had a tremendous amount of fun with this new mode and it brings something to the table that everyone wanted from the original Dance Central, simultaneous multiplayer.  I had quite a bit of fun jumping into and out of songs whenever I felt like it and the game didn’t miss a beat.  This should be a really popular feature when you have friends over and it is fantastic that the action doesn’t have to be interrupted if someone needs to leave or decides they want to join in halfway through the song.

    Another new feature is the Crew Challenge.  This is essentially the “campaign” for Dance Central 2 where you get to meet different crews and put your skills to the test.  There are even boss battles in this mode where you will have to battle them on the dance floor.  Going through this mode you will have to pass a number of challenges.  As you meet different crews you need to prove yourself and earn enough stars to get their respect.  I had quite a bit of fun with this mode and it was a pleasant surprise.  Initially I was a bit concerned about their being a “campaign” in the game but it worked really well .

    Among the many changes that Harmonix made for Dance Central 2 is that it will now work with voice commands.   Anytime you see a small microphone icon in the lower right corner of the screen then Dance Central 2 will respond to voice commands.  Putting it through its paces it seemed to work pretty well, although, it could be better.  At the beginning all I had to do was say “Xbox, Dance” and then it pulled up a list of songs for me to choose from.  Once I verbally picked my song all I had to do was say “Xbox, Dance” one more time and the music started playing and I immediately started dancing.  The voice recognition can still get better, however, it was really nice to be able to verbally pick what I want.  On the other side of the spectrum Dance Central 2 also features “controller mode”.  You go into this mode simply by pushing a button on the controller and then you can scroll through the menus like you would in a “normal” game.  While the song is playing you still have to be in front of the television dancing, but if you just want to scroll through the menus to see what the game has to offer you can sit back and use the controller as well.

    Multiplayer is a big addition to Dance Central 2 and, in addition to the multiplayer I described above, there is also head to head competition in a dance battle.  In this mode you and friend have to pick which crew they are going to represent and then go to the dance floor to battle it out.  It should be noted though that I noticed some crews weren’t immediately available to be picked.  I had to earn the right to represent them first during the campaign.  There are obviously people out there who can dance really well and then others that have absolutely no rhythm.  It seems like Harmonix realizes this too and they solved this problem by letting you have your own difficulty.  I was playing against a friend that had quite a bit of experience with the original game so he immediately started getting great scores in Dance Central 2.  He was able to choose the Hard difficulty while I selected Easy as I was just learning how the game worked at the time.  Another great gameplay mode was “Dance Any Move”.  This one can get highly competitive as you try and get points by capturing moves from the routine before your friend.  The first person to complete the move successfully will get 10,000 points.  This was really a lot of fun and we had a bunch of laughs as we continually tried to outdo each other and probably looked like fools in the process.   If you are amazing at the game and you want to show it off then Kinect will allow you to do just that in a couple of different way.  For starters you can select your favorite pose and share with your friends via Kinect Share.  Your photo will include song, score and difficulty info and show you in action styled with the look of Dance Central 2.  You can also record video of yourself dancing a move and compare your video with the onscreen dancer to see what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong.

    Harmonix has also redesigned their “Break It Down” mode which should help out people who don’t know how to dance very well.  With the new revisions you can make a list of the moves that are giving you the most trouble and keep practicing them in more detail.  If there is something that you just can’t quite get then you can tell the Xbox to slow down the current move, ski p to the next one, go back to the previous one and more.  You have total control over your experience and how you learn the moves.  That is something that I definitely utilized and it helps to build up your confidence if you are getting frustrated by not being able to hit a specific move or set of moves.  Yet another addition that I found extremely useful was their fitness mode.  This mode has a bunch of different options depending on what you are looking to do.  There is an “Easy Start” mode that will take about twenty minutes to complete, a “Cardio Groove” that will take you about twelve minutes to complete, the “Long Haul” that will take you about fifty minutes to complete and much more.  The game keeps track of the duration of your session and how many calories you have burned in that session.  Additionally, the game keeps track of your lifetime totals with how long you have played the game, calories burned, songs played and number of calories burned per song.  It is a really great way to get people to exercise without them really thinking about exercising.

    Overall, Dance Central 2 is a pretty amazing Kinect game.  Harmonix has packed it full with features and it should keep you busy for quite a while.  This is by far the best Kinect dance game and a pretty good leap from the original Dance Central.  All of the new modes work really well and the game is surprisingly deep.  My only complaint, as I mentioned above, is that the voice recognition could still use a little work, however, I am not sure if that is because of the Kinect itself or something Harmonix can do in development.  If you just recently picked up a Kinect unit then be sure to pick up this game too.  It doesn’t matter if you can’t dance.  The tutorials are incredible and you’ll be dancing like a pro in no time. If you enjoyed Dance Central (or any dancing game for that matter) then you definitely need to pick up Dance Central 2.

    Score 9.5/10

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