Rhythm games are a bit of a curious breed. While they’re great fun to play, they’re very tricky to design. The Rock Band series of games upped the ante by adding more songs and features to each sequel.
Dance Central Spotlight, on the other hand, has choosing to take a different path. Developers Harmonix have managed to carve themselves a nice little niche with their Dance Central series of games. A few games in the franchise had elaborate story modes. Dance Central 3 even had some time-traveling shenanigans in the middle of all of the dancing. With Dance Central Spotlight, Harmonix has decided they want to go back to the basics and focus on the element that makes the games so much fun – the dancing itself. As a result, this game is a leaner, yet deeper dancing experience. The $10 price tag gets you a few basic songs, and you can visit the store to add more tunes to your library. The excellent pricing, the highly refined and improved dance experience and the great interface makes this a highly enjoyable game.
In terms of content, Dance Central Spotlight is more like an evaluation version. The basic purchase allows you to dance to 10 hit songs spanning various genres. You have Lorde with her deep voice singing “Royals” and you also have David Guetta bringing the house down with his fantastic “Titanium”. All of these songs are represented in game by creative choreography, fantastic moves and slick animations that really bring the tunes alive. Dance Central doesn’t just stop here though. Each song offers you a lot of extra gameplay.
The Game Play:
Most games have a dance routine set to every song, and these songs are grouped up into difficulty levels. Dance Central Spotlight takes this concept and elevates it several notches. Now you have not one, not two, but four separate dance routines set to each song, each of which represents a different difficulty level. In addition, these primary routines are supplemented with two bonus routines and even some nifty cardio moves for the more fitness-oriented gamers. Each of these routines is a completely different animal, and they all give you a unique experience of the same basic musical track. This adds a lot of replay value to each of the tracks and gives you more bang for your buck, since you can continue exploring different dance routines even after you’ve finished one or two.
The core-dancing element of the game is largely unchanged. Players have to follow a series of dance moves that are flashed on cue cards at the sides of your screen. Each of the dance moves are performed by a huge roster of playable characters, and you’ll find yourself grinning as you try to keep up with your favorite one. All of the characters are animated extremely well and have their own flair and movement pattern that is distinct from the others. If you get a bunch of friends over and have a dance session where all of you are playing different characters, don’t be surprised if your popularity suddenly shoots through the roof.
The game rewards you for correct dance moves by spreading fireworks and glitter throughout the screen. When you’re not doing something correctly, your character’s limbs get outlined in red. This may not be the best way to handle negative feedback, but the unobtrusiveness of this mechanic is one of the reasons why it has persisted. This system works well for the most part, but when you’re playing on a higher difficulty level, it might be a problem. The game allows you to unlock additional routines for each song by executing certain dance moves perfectly. There are lots of moves that you can try and get good at, so you can always move to a different move if a particular one is giving you trouble. However, in the rare case where you really want to learn a specific move, this feedback system doesn’t give you enough information about where you’re going wrong.
The game also features some welcome improvements to the dancing experience. For example, now you have the ability to pause a song and put in a little bit of practice before you resume it. If you see a challenging move coming up, you can pause the song, try out the move and even slow the pace of the move down until you see exactly what you should be doing. Once you’re done, you can just resume the song from the place you paused without having to go through the entire routine again.
Dance Central Spotlight doesn’t have too much in the way of game modes, but you can’t really hold that against it. There is a fitness mode provided where you can create a playlist around specific types of movements or exercises. The game will even show you how many calories your moving and shaking burnt.
For a $10 price tag, Dance Central Spotlight offers a tremendous amount of value. It doesn’t try to one-up its rivals in the story department and instead delivers a fantastic dancing experience. You get 10 songs bundled with the game, and you can buy new ones for $2. This is a fantastic way to appeal to gamers who have different tastes. You don’t need to pay $60 immediately for a bunch of songs you may not like. You can now pick and choose the tracks and create a library catered to your specific interests. This kind of freedom is a fantastic way to approach rhythm gaming. What more could you possibly ask for?