Regular readers will notice that the following article is a slight departure from our usual preview style. For gamescom 2010 we've adopted a streamlined structure, allowing us to cover as many games as possible while giving you the important juice and info. In many cases we'll be running longer, more detailed previews upon our return to the UK.
What is it?
Dance Central is the newest addition to the MTV Games/Harmonix family. The standard rhythm game formula has now been fitted to a controller-free format with Kinect, offering you 90 dance routines to perform in the comfort of your living room.
What was shown?
I saw games journalists spasming to Rhianna's Pon de Replay like it was some sort of Ibitha stag-do. Imagine that, a game that has the ability to take people who spend their time analysing Alan Wake and make them into fairly respectable dancers.
The game has a basic simon-says approach to choreography. Watch as an upcoming dance move drops to the side of your screen for you to re-create. Elbow Throw, Hitchhike, guitar, Rock Out. There's over 650 more of those for you to try out, too. It's all easily interpretable for the layman in the form of still images, and then is recreated in fully animated choreography as you dance along in-time with the steps. As you continue to successfully lay out the moves you'll begin to rake in points that go toward a final score out of five stars. For anyone interested in pretending they're in a mid-Noughties night club, the 10 new songs announced include Basement Jaxx's "Rendez-Vu", Benny Benassis's "Satisfaction", Kool & The Gang's "Jungle Boogie" and technocratic "Pump up the Jam".
The game is a literal interpretation of what is possible on Kinect. It's a pure and simple movement game devised for rhythm game fans and anyone tired of the clutter of a DDR mat. But it suffers from the typical problems of having to use the body as the sole controller.
While the dance moves are intuitive, the menu system is not. Dancing in a controller less system is a seamless plan but using your arms to scroll through pages of songs, options, and other menu items feels tedious and clumsy. Having to wave your arm up or down to scroll through the roster of songs, then wave left horizontally to choose the song, inevitably means you've moved your arm up or down once more and selected something entirely different. It's a hassle but it's incredibly awkward when compared to the theme of the game which is to create a tight correspondence between the player's actions and the game.
There's a point in games when the body can be integrated too much, and that's when there is no particularly positive result to using your arms as a controller when a simple button could do just ask well. It reminds me of that anecdote of the Yanks that spent millions on producing a pen that could write in Space, and the Russians who simply brought a pencil instead. Dance Central is looking good when you're playing the game, but getting to that stage might proved irritating.
Dance Central is due for release on November 10, exclusively for Kinect and Xbox 360.