When it first launched in 2010, Dance Central was highly praised by critics and gamers alike for being a huge breakthrough in music rhythm video games. For the first time, gamers could dance in their front rooms without the need for a controller or a dance mat (remember them?), thanks to Kinect. It was revolutionary.
Following on from its success on the Xbox 360, it came as no surprise when Harmonix (the game’s developer) announced the series would be launching on the Xbox One, in the form of Dance Central Spotlight.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of the game, the Dance Central series utilises Kinect’s motion sensor, requiring players to mimic the on-screen dance moves. Points are awarded for accurately replicating the dance moves, with an overall rating out of five stars rewarded for completing the track.
The series’ latest outing contains ten well-known tracks in total, all of which have achieved chart success within the last three years. They are:
- Avicii – “Wake Me Up”
- Cher Lloyd – “I Wish”
- David Guetta ft. Sia – “Titanium”
- Jason Derulo ft. 2 Chainz – “Talk Dirty”
- Kid Ink ft. Chris Brown – “Show Me”
- Lorde – “Royals”
- OneRepublic – “Counting Stars”
- Pharrell Williams – “Happy”
- Rihanna – “Diamonds”
- will.i.am ft. Justin Bieber – “#thatPOWER”
Whereas the tracklisting in previous titles has been questionable, Harmonix has managed to incorporate a solid line-up in Dance Central Spotlight, despite being on the short side. Nevertheless, in addition to the core tracklist, further songs are available from the in-game store, priced at £1.59 each (with song packs available from £2.79). While many gamers may have been sceptical about purchasing additional tracks in the past, this isn’t necessarily the case with Dance Central Spotlight.
The title’s £7.99 price tag allows gamers to customise their tracklisting with songs they want, as opposed to a pre-determined list of tracks that are hit and miss. Think of it like a buffet where you can pick and choose the items you want. It’s a clever system, which works in the game’s favour.
Unlike in previous editions of the game, each song contains eight different dance routines of various difficulties. The beginner routines contain limited, simple dance moves, whereas more complex routines contain more difficult moves.
One of the main problems with having multiple routines is that, at the start of the game, harder routines are locked, with players being forced to complete the easier ones in order to advance. This isn’t necessarily an issue for beginners, although returning players will find it incredibly tedious, especially when they have to do it for every track. On the other hand, it does come with some positives. The introduction of multiple routines adds further replayability to the title, as well as a sense of progression – something that previous titles in the series have struggled with.
If players are performing well during a track, freestyle is activated, which allows the player to improvise using their own dance moves. Weirdly, there are no real benefits, apart from a score boost, and the freestyle isn’t recorded like it has been in previous editions (apparently due to licensing issues). You can’t help but feel Harmonix has missed a trick here.
Another change that has been made for Dance Central Spotlight is the implementation of Dance Cards – prompts that show players what move to perform next. Successfully replicating the move on the card adds that Dance Card to your collection, with bonuses and unlockables available for reaching specific milestones. With over six hundred Dance Cards to collect, it’ll certainly keep gamers occupied and is a welcome addition to the series.
Dance Central Spotlight’s only real game mode is “Fitness”. As the name suggests, the mode focuses on improving the player’s fitness levels, with specially authored routines that focus on cardiac and strength. Surprisingly, it’s actually quite enjoyable, despite being a tough workout, and it’s ideal for gamers who are looking to shed a few pounds.
In terms of multiplayer, Dance Central Spotlight contains support for up to two players on one console, as they share the screen. The multiplayer works well and provides a real competitive edge to the game. Just be wary of the amount of space you’ll require, especially during some of the more complex routines.
In addition to Kinect’s camera tracking, Dance Central Spotlight also utilises the Kinect microphone, allowing players to interrupt routines in order to rehearse the dance moves. Known as “Practice That”, the mode is activated when the player shouts: “Hey DJ, practice that!” The feature itself is a bit of a novelty, especially for those who simply want to get on with it. Nevertheless, it works without any issues and has been well implemented.
Graphically, Dance Central Spotlight isn’t a huge improvement over its predecessors and it does suffer from the occasional frame rate drop, which can be hugely distracting mid-routine. The title also features the usual environments you would expect, including the likes of school corridors, airports and subway stations. While they don’t particularly stand out (mainly because players are focusing on the instructor in the foreground), they suffice.