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my challenge this week, should i choose to accept it, or not, was to push back the sofa, move the rug aside, put on my dancing shoes and get on point with Dance Central 2 for Kinect. and the level of cliché in that opening sentence should instantly give you an idea of just how tired of life it has left me. on a scale of one to protest-suicide, i'm at about a 7.8 right now.
following hot on the canned-heat-filled heels and closely in the jiving footsteps of its predecessor, Dance Central 2 probably delivers what fans have been waiting for, if that's what fans have been doing. as for me, i can't for a minute understand why this or any other dancing game is so popular.
don't get me wrong, i like to dance. i'm perhaps a little British about it at times, sure, but put me in a suitable context, in the company of suitable friends, within earshot of suitable music and preferably with a bloodstream filed with suitable boozes, and oh indeed, it's on. in summary, i like to dance when i'm happy. and, while doing it makes me happier still, from my perspective dancing is primarily a product of joy, not a path to it.
i genuinely find it hard, therefore, to imagine why anyone would want to play a video game that works on the understanding that dancing is a competitive activity that you might conceivably do when a) at home b) not drunk c) subject to someone else's (eclectic, at best) idea of good music. if your taste in music can be summed up by the phrase 'assorted popular' (i.e. 'just give me what everyone else is having') then generally, oh dear, but in this instance, congratulations.
if, by miraculous coincidence, you also happen to like the idea of on-screen avatars that look like Andrew Robinson from Neighbours, The Phreak from that movie Hackers, Ashley from early-90s episodes of The Fresh Prince and other annoying people, and spew dialogue that was presumably written by someone who failed to win their primary school writing competition (this time), then you ma'am/sir, just found your slice of heaven.
attempting for a moment to think a little more objectively, it seems to me that there is a certain amount of personality disorder going on in Dance Central 2. the design concept seems unable to decide whether it's more likely that you are playing the game ironically - in which case the retro-neon colour scheme, bright, busy sets, somewhat camp screen-sprites and the inclusion of tracks like What Is Love? by Haddaway might appeal - or have climbed very un-ironically into your velour tracksuit and matching sweatband, determined to beat your high score - in which case the roster of utterly ridiculous and often fiendishly difficult moves, the extensive range of game modes and tutorials and the mind-crushingly inane dance-to-save-the-world narrative will meet you where you're at.
the problem is that rather than being divided out, each player is confronted by elements from all over this odd assortment of potentially attractive facets, and, rather like the available music, i can't help but feel that the combination is, over time, bound to annoy and/or bewilder everyone except perhaps the very least discerning of players. although it's only a guess, my sense is that for every one or two things Javed and Julie Average might like, they will probably have to put up with four to six things that they do not.
aside from how tired this game made me feel i must admit that it did seem to be able to render my withering, yet occasionally impressive attempts to follow along
from a technical perspective, however, the game is undeniably impressive. i mean, it makes sense that if you do want to dance at home, with or without a small group of friends, with the lights on, in front of your telly, sober and closely following the choreographic cues of an annoying cartoon, then it's almost certainly more rewarding to do so with a system that accurately tracks your whole body's movements (rather than, say, one that guesses what the rest of you is up to from the no-doubt enthusiastic though physically-limited motion of one of your hands); although given that i never have wanted that, i honestly wouldn't know.
aside from how tired this game made me feel (clue: Rip van Winkle) i must admit that it did seem to be able to render my withering, yet occasionally impressive attempts to follow along with the on-screen pros surprisingly accurately. i can easily imagine it responding well to sustained enthusiastic engagement, although i cannot imagine it ever being able to make such a degrading experience even slightly worthwhile.
the menu, however, is a less successful technical achievement. yes, Harmonix, well done - the only other thing i want to do more than shuffle, slide, chassé and click along to the Numa Numa song is spend ten nobbing minutes trying to choose to do that from a large revolving menu that won't stop jerking about in ways that i do not wish it to jerk.
i think the most confusing aspect of Dance Central 2 from my perspective is that at the heart of what is a patently ridiculous concept wrapped in camped-up glitz and cartoonish glam, there is actually a very serious game trying to be taken seriously. there are some moments of light entertainment - the backdrops are fun, for example, especially the one that looks like the video to I'm On A Boat by The Lonely Island - but i found these to be almost always to be encountered through laughing at the game, not with it.
it's pretty clear i'm not the target audience.
if you love the idea of competitive, potentially complex video-game based dancing, then this might be the way to go. if, however, you find the idea of putting something like this on at a party (which seems to be one of the central ideas) to be almost vomit inducing, then i guess you're with me on team 'not for us'.
while, it's pretty clear i'm not the target audience, i must say that, being such an odd mix of elements, i find it hard to imagine that Dance Central 2 will fully satisfy anyone, although perhaps the natural audience will consist of people who will basically do/like/be anything if they think it's generally popular.
[if you'd like to see more of the weird and wonderful world of reallyquitetired then the door is always open at his semi-detached house/blog]
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: