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High School Musical 3: Dance! is the dancing half of Disney's pair of performing games. Along with Sing It, it offers a slick way to enjoy dancing with friends. Add to this the 360 version's dance mat and you have the basis for a lot of fun.
Rhythm action games combine the enjoyment that comes from creating music with the challenge of video game scoring. The player is usually tasked with dancing on a mat, tapping a touch screen, pressing a button, singing into a mic or strumming a fake guitar controller in time with the music.
High School Musical 3: Dance! may appear to be a simple movie tie-in based solely on the popularity of rhythm action dance games, however there is much more here that meets the eye. The level of innovation and quality make this an engaging experience.
Whereas the Wii version of the game used controllers to choreograph the dance moves, on the 360 players benefit from a dance mat. This enables the player to make a variety of dance moves by simply stepping on the various marked out squares on the dance mat. This ranges from some basic dance steps in a particular direction to combinations and runs of steps that will challenge even the most agile.
The 360 game doesn't offer as much variety of the Wii's spins, jumps, hops, poses and pointing. But the physical jumping around nature of the experience makes it feel more like the real thing and burns considerably more calories.
Like on the Wii and PS2, the game includes around 30 songs from all three High School Musical films, which are unlocked by scoring enough on each level. Along the way you can choose which dancer you want to control, and dress up with clothing that is won with good performances.
You can play alone or with one other player. The two player game provides both co-operative and competitive dancing. As you play through the songs each player is assigned separate moves and if they perform well enough they can trigger a special move that blocks out the other player from scoring - whereupon they have to shake their Wii-mote to break free.
Although the game's Disney movie title will first attract players, it is the quality and presentation of the game play that is the real draw. The variety of interactions we've outlined above give some sense of the innovation here, but it's not until you play them all together that things really start to get exciting.
Pulling of a change of 20 perfect moves to finally block out the leading dancer sets up a nail biting close to the performance. As the end approaches each player does their best to punch out each move before collapsing in a giggling heap on the floor exhausted and out of breath - ingenious!
Each song takes no longer that three minutes to play, although there is a little more time taken up with the pre-game character customisation and song selection deliberations. New players will also want to spend a bit of time acustomising themselves tot the controls.
Our daytime sessions always seem to last a good half an hour in our house. When we play after dinner with friends though, things seem to easily stretch on for a couple of hours.
Young players may struggle to get the timing right for their moves, although the dance mat makes this a little more accessible than the other versions. Even those a little older will need to get into the rhythm of using their feet to control the game.
Intermediates should find this a good way into the rhythm action genre, although the selection of songs is quite limited (with the title in mind).
Experts may balk at the kiddie focus but should really try and get past this. As a classic dance mat interpretation of High School Musical's favourite songs it is a lot of fun, no matter how serious a gamer you are.
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