Dance Central 2 Review

By Dana Vinson - Posted Oct 14, 2011

While a ton of fun, the first Dance Central game lacked a bit of polish. Now with time and knowledge under their belt, Harmonix comes back hard and fast with a fantastic second installment of their kinect-enabled dance franchise that will knock your little socks off.

The Pros
  • Simultaneous two-player dancing
  • Improved Break It Down mode
  • Make your own playlists
  • There's a story now
The Cons
  • Figuring out why you're missing moves can still be tough
  • Free-4-All minigame is hit-or-miss

Dance Central 2 Review:

Look, I'm not going to sugarcoat it: Dance Central is not a game that everyone's going to like. I could write this review and try to convince you to try it, but if you're one of those people that hates fun, this game isn't for you. For everyone else, sit back and buckle the f&#k up, because Harmonix has crafted an awesome follow up to last year's Kinect hit with Dance Central 2.


Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

It's been a strange year for rhythm games. While we've seen the "official" demise of Guitar Hero and Rock Band has seemingly been chained in a basement somewhere, traditional franchises have been cast by the wayside to make room for movement-based games as Kinect continues to grow into a viable platform.

You can feel the way you want to about how the success of Kinect has caused a shift in focus for many developers, but it doesn't change the fact that Dance Central 2 is great. For me, it's bittersweet, because I was a big fan of Rock Band, and while it isn't in the ground yet, the buzz has gone silent; however, after experiencing Dance Central 2, I'm not just a fan of Rock Band and Dance Central, I'm a fan of Harmonix.

There's been a metric crap ton of shovelware for Kinect, but Dance Central 2 is not one of those titles. Not only does it contain the same magic that made last year's debut genius, Harmonix has also taken huge steps to make it everything aspiring living room Lady Gagas could want.

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This Is, Apparently, How You Do It

I played the original Dance Central until there was a worn spot on the floor in my living room, but after a few months, its appeal slowly faded, because when you got right down to it, there wasn't much to the game. (Don't worry: I filled my crazy dancing quota by watching Abby Lee Miller scream at 8-year olds on Dance Moms. I know you're relieved.)

It's different this time. The biggest overall addition is simultaneous multiplayer. In the original Dance Central, you could only have one dancer competing at a time. With Dance Central 2, you can have two dancing side-by-side, participating in either "Perform It" mode (working together), or "Dance Battle" (where you try to wipe the floor with them).

Perform It mode features drop-in/drop-out gameplay, making it perfect for a party setting. Anyone can hop in at any time and it actually works pretty seamlessly.The only thing is that when you jump in, you automatically start dancing at whatever difficulty level the first dancer chose, which isn't a big deal and could lead to some very hilarious "Hard" performances from ignorant partygoers. 

Dance Central 2

Dance Battle is the classic head-to-head situation. You both dance at the same time, racking up points. Occasionally, the spotlight will shine on your character, and you'll have a chance to perform flawless moves and pull away from your competitor.

Another aspect of Dance Battle is the "Free-4-All" mini-game. It's sort of tough to explain, but single moves will appear on the screen and the first person to perform them will get a set number of points. I found that Free-4-All didn't always work the way you'd expect it to, and some moves were easier execute to get the points than others. Of all the things in DC2, this seems like the most unnecessary addition, but it can still be fun when it works.

Unfortunately, you still can't battle others online with Dance Central 2, but you really won't notice the game lacks this feature, because of all the other things it offers. Plus, it's way more fun to own your friends in person, anyway.

Harmonix did a good job of designing a track list that has a good mix of songs, which will appeal to a large number of people. You might not love every track, but if you appreciate pop music, you'll appreciate the lineup. You can also import your songs from the original Dance Central, so you'll have all that awesome content right at your fingertips.

Dance Central 2

Who Do I Complain To If The Club Can't Handle Me Right Now?

Also new to Dance Central 2 is a story mode. You play an up-and-coming dancer who is trying to earn the right to rep for different crews around town. You have to show each crew that you're worthy of a spot by earning stars on the songs you perform. Each crew has a different vibe, and it's a very fun way to cover all the songs in the game.

Although the premise is a little ridiculous, the story mode's inclusion is definitely welcome to give both casual and hardcore players something to focus on while progressing through the songs. There could be more to it, but it's nice.

As a side note, I never thought that I would say that something in Dance Central 2 creeped me out, but the premiere crew in town, The Glitterati, is super weird. They're ripped albino twins with a certain strange affection for each other. It's not bad, just creepy. I imagine that if they existed in real life, they'd be close talkers who liked to share pairs of underwear. They're the Jaime and Cersei Lannister of virtual hip-hop dance!

Dance Central 2
(The Glitterati Twins. See? Creeeeeeeeepy.)

How Do I Get To Carnegie Hall?

When I said Harmonix had really improved on Dance Central, I think I was understating how incredibly rich Dance Central 2 is compared to the original. This review is turning into a laundry list of things that Harmonix has made better.

Break It Down mode has gotten a much needed overhaul. Now, instead of slogging through all the moves in a song, you can pick and choose the ones you need to practice and just focus on those.

In addition, one of the challenges of learning moves in the first game was trying to understand what you were doing wrong when you couldn't pass a move. Now, Break It Down allows you to record a video of yourself trying to do the move that plays next to the animated dancer, so you can see exactly how what you're doing is different. It's not as helpful as having an instruction video of an actually human being doing the move would be (ala Michael Jackson: The Experience), but it definitely makes it easier to see what you're doing wrong.

It's important to emphasize the importance of Break It Down mode for serious Dance Central 2 players. If you want to do all the moves flawlessly, you're going to have to practice and really make sure you're doing it properly in Break It Down mode, because the game doesn't always give you the best feedback while you're actually playing. Occasionally while performing a song, your limbs will glow red (indicating that you're doing something incorrectly), but you'll still score a flawless rating. I think it's the nature of the beast: the game moves too fast to provide feedback that your brain can comprehend and correct at the same time.

Dance Central 2

"Xbox! Get Ur Freak On!"

Along with simultaneous multiplayer and story mode, Dance Central 2 also features a lot of small, but mighty, improvements. You can now use voice commands to do just about everything in the game for starting a song to pausing the game play. It's a tremendous help and can be a lifesaver if you're trying to do something quickly. (Also, just a little pro tip, voice commands is a must while in Break It Down mode, because the other option of holding out your right hand to bring up the menu, doesn't always work.)

This time around, you have the option of turning off the "Freestyle" mode. Freestyle is the little bit where you dance on your own, or if you're like me, run around in a circle, because without the little cartoons telling you what to do, you're sunk. I was happy to end that farce, personally. Dance Central 2 will also take your picture at the end of every song, but you can turn that off too, or upload it to Kinect Share. You pick!

Dance Central 2

That's not all though, you can also expect to earn more points this time around, thanks in no small part of the golden flashcards you'll encounter while performing songs. These are worth bonus points, so nail those moves and you'll see you're high scores rocketing into the millions.

"Oh and did I mention that you can now make your own playlists?" she said in a sly voice implying that she knew she didn't, but asked anyway. You can and it's glorious. As you get to know the moves for different songs, stringing them together into one performance is awesomely fun. Plus, for you fitness buffs, Harmonix built-in pre-made playlists for you to use for your workout, or you can always make your own. The calorie counter will now track the calories burned during the current session, plus your lifetime total. Also, you don't have to enter your weight anymore. Thank you, Harmonix. It's the little things that make me love you more and more.

Dance Central 2
(Yup. Still Creepy.)

If You Don't Like This Game, You're A Jerk

Dance Central 2 is a triumph. If you were a fan of the first game, or even just someone who casually enjoyed it, you owe it to yourself to pick up Dance Central 2. With all the improvements, plus the universal appeal of the core gameplay, Dance Central 2 should be the life of every party now, and for years to come.