If a party's good enough to keep going, then why the need to shut it down? For the past couple of years, Harmonix, a company that's usually known for rocking out with plastic instruments through its Rock Band games, established a mega-successful franchise for the Xbox 360 called Dance Central. Over the course of two games and various downloadable content packs, the developer has found an ideal way to make use of Microsoft's Kinect device without looking like a complete idiot, as you dance along with on-screen characters the best way you can, mimicking their moves. (Thankfully, none of them include the Funky Chicken – not yet, anyways.)
Keeping up on a good thing, Harmonix is putting the finishing touches on the third game in the series, Dance Central 3. But this isn't just a flashy add-on with no substance. Nope, for this game, you can actually dance across various eras in time, with hits stemming from the 70's, 80's, 90's and today. So if you ever wanted to shake your tail feature to Kool and the Gang or, dare we say it, the Backstreet Boys ("Backstreet's back, alright!"), here's your prime opportunity.
Microsoft and Harmonix recently released a three-song demo for the game, packing a number of modes for players to try out without needing to drop a dime on it just yet. Like the good, Kid n' Play inspired dancers that we are (that doesn't mean we're getting a foot-tall haircut, though), we decided to give it a go.
First off, the demo doesn't really offer much in terms of variety for the song eras included in Dance Central 3. They're all current radio hits, consisting of Jennifer Lopez's "On the Floor", Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger" and (sigh) Nicky Minaj's "Starships". It would've been nice to see some 70's funk thrown in there, like Kool and the Gang's "Jungle Boogie" or something.
Regardless of song selection, Harmonix continues to dial in on what makes Dance Central tick with its third game. Dancer detection feels better than ever, and the variety of moves you'll partake in are interesting, especially if you bump up the difficulty setting. You'll break a sweat in no time bopping along your arms and legs, using simple on-screen instructions that indicate what dance moves are coming down the line. And if something's a little too tough for you, hey, try and improvise the best you can. You don't have to be perfect here. This isn't Broadway. (Just try to be at least somewhat good, though. Heh.)
Out of the three songs offered, "Moves Like Jagger" seemed to be the most upbeat during our hands-on (?) time, as we moved around to the beat without any sort of moves being out of rhythm. No doubt Harmonix staffers had a ball practicing these moves to see if they would be an ideal fit for the game. Clearly, from what we've seen, they are. And still no Funky Chicken. Whew.
Along with the traditional single player and co-op dance options (through the Perform It! mode), Dance Central 3's demo also provided a number of other modes. The new Party Time mode, for instance, allows up to eight people to take part as a team in various competitions, including Battle and Crew Throwdown. It sounds like something that would come out of the Step Up movies, but it's not nearly as frantic when it comes to performing triumphantly as a crew. It's more about having fun with others and simply following the moves, as a group, the best you can. And it's an insane party mode that's bound to be even bigger when the final game releases in just a few days. (Sadly, there are still no online Xbox Live options, but hey, sometimes a local party is the best way to go, right?)
In terms of graphics, Dance Central 3 appears to be the most pleasing in the series to date. The variety of dancers you get to choose from vary quite a bit, whether you want someone that looks like they came out of an 80's rap group or a go-go dancer who doesn't mind shaking her tail feather, if you will. The backdrops are energetic as well, with neon lit walls and floors that really make the atmosphere of the game come to life. And, as expected, the menus are pretty savvy, with easy-to-make selections available through a simple hand swipe.
Like we said, Harmonix knows how to party, as we've seen from their track record, and Dance Central 3 simply adds to it, by keeping what worked so well in past games and adding new songs and modes for more toe-tapping fun. Even with Nicky Minaj. (Ehhhhh…)
Check out the demo now and look for the full game in stores on October 16th!