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The Best Exercise Games for the Xbox Kinect

Review of Dance Central 3 for Kinect

Posted by steve on December - 28 - 2012 with 1 Comment

Dance Central 3

Continues to push the Dance Central franchise forward.

Dance Central 3 continues in the tradition of its two predecessors in providing a dance game that is not only fun to play, but will also provide one of the best video game workouts you can get, while also teaching you authentic and legitimate dance moves that you can show off on any dance floor.

Rating by steve: 5.0 stars
*****

I’ve already given rave reviews of the original Dance Central and its sequel, Dance Central 2, on this site. While not a revolutionary update, Dance Central 3 continues to push the Dance Central franchise forward, and continues to be the best dance video game on any platform from a motion sensing perspective, as well as for anyone who wants to learn serious, authentic dance moves of the kind that can be used in a club or any dance floor.

The opening menu consists of five choices: Dance, Story, Fitness, Live Challenges, and Buy More Songs. You can navigate three ways: through the classic controller, by swiping your arms, or through voice commands. I still prefer the classic controller. Still find it annoying that even in controller mode my random arm movements can inadvertently select songs.

Dance lets you jump right into dancing. The system supports one or two players. You can perform (1 or 2 players), rehearse (1 player), battle (2 players), have party time (multiple players, one at a time), or have a crew throwdown (multiple players, 1 player vs. 1 player at a time)

Here are the songs that are included. More are available through downloadable content. Skill levels are in parentheses:

Warmup:

  • YMCA – Village People (1)
  • Better Off Alone – Alice Deejay (1)
  • The Hustle – Van McCoy (1)

Simple:

  • Starships – Nicki Minaj (2)
  • Macarena – Los Del Rio (2)
  • In da Club – 50 Cent (2)
  • (When You Gonna) Give It Up (2) – Sean Paul feat. Keysha Cole
  • 1,2 Step – Ciara feat. Missy Elliott (2)

Moderate:

  • Disco Inferno – The Tramps (3)
  • Boyfriend – Justin Bieber (3)
  • Turn the Beat Around – Vicki Sue Robinson (3)
  • Cupid Shuffle – Cupid (3)
  • I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor (3)
  • Firework – Katy Perry (3)
  • Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice (3)
  • You Got It (The Right Stuff) – New Kids on the Block (3)
  • Boom Boom Pow – Black Eyed Peas (3)
  • Da Butt – EU (3)

Tough:

  • Stereo Love – Edward Maya & Vika Jigulina (4)
  • Let the Music Play – Shannon (4)
  • Electric Boogie – Marcia Griffiths (4)
  • Mr. Saxobeat – Alexandra Stan (4)
  • Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg – TLC (4)
  • Everybody – Backstreet Boys (4)

Legit:

  • Get Low – Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz feat. Ying Yang Twins (5)
  • Samba De Janeiro – Bellini (5)
  • Teach me How To Dougie – Cali Swag District (5)
  • Calabra 2008 – Enur feat. Natasia (5)
  • Bass Down Low – Dev feat. The Catarags (5)
  • Wild Ones – Flo Rida feat. Sia (5)
  • Take Over Control – Afrojack feat. Eva Simons (5)
  • Beware of the Boys – Panjabi MC (5)
  • Hello – Martin Solveig feat. Dragonette (5)
  • I Am the Best – 2NEI (5)
  • Scream – Usher (5)
  • Ching a Ling – Missy Elliott (5)
  • On the Floor – Jennifer Lopez feat. Pitbull (5)

Hardcore:

  • Now That We Found Love – Heavy D & The Boyz (6)
  • Around the World – Daft Punk (6)
  • Supersonic – J.J. Fad (6)
  • Moves Like Jagger – Maroon 5 feat. Christina Aguilera (6)
  • Sexy and I Know It – LMFAO (6)

Off the Hook

  • You Make Me Feel – Cobra Starship feat. Sabi (7)
  • Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) – Kelly Clarkson (7)
  • OMG – Usher feat. Will I Am (7)

“Freestyle” and “Photos” are enabled automatically, meaning that in the middle of the song there’s be a part where you’ll be able to dance freestyle and have your performance recorded and played back at high speed. Photos of your dancing will also be plastered all over the screen. Quite honestly, I prefer to turn these off, especially when playing alone.

As with previous versions of Just Dance, motion detection is excellent. Unlike other dance games like Just Dance, the system does do full detection of your arms, legs, and body. If you’re not performing the dance entirely correctly, the offending body part will glow red. You’ll get a decent score if you put in minimal effort on most of the songs, but to get the highest scores you really do need to learn the choreography, something you can do pretty easily by playing the song over and over again and using the various features in the game to learn the song.

Something else I’ve always liked about the Dance Central series is that your Kinect Sensor can be as close as 6 feet away from you and still pick up your moves, something I wish more Kinect developers could take note of for those of us in small apartments. Granted, the motion detection is not perfect unless the system has a full view of your entire body from your head to both of your feet (which for me requires about 8-9 feet), but I appreciate that even at 6 feet away I could still get “into the game”.

A lot of people ask whether to buy this dance game or Just Dance 4. For me, the answer comes down to what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for the game that’s the most fun and accessible for any level, I’d have to give the edge to Just Dance 4, where the choreography tends to be more frivolous and fun. On the other hand, the choreography in Just Dance 3 continues to be the most authentic in terms of dance moves that you can take out of your home and directly into a club or party. For example, you’ll really be doing the letters in “YMCA” and you’ll really be moving like Mick Jagger in the eponymous Maroon 5 song. So if your goal is to learn how to really dance, you can’t do better than this game.

While seeing a lot of red when you first start dancing can be frustrating, the game does have some features that’ll help you out. First, you can select difficulty level of Beginner, Easy, Medium, and Hard, which will simplify the choreography for you on selected songs. As you can see in the list above, each song is already broken into skill levels, but this is a further way of customizing the dance to fit your individual level.

Here’s the Village People’s “YMCA” at Hard mode.

Second, you can choose practice mode for any sing which will let you break down the moves one move at a time to rehearse the moves.

One thing the Kinect version of the game will likely never be able to do is support more than two players at a time. This is of course due to logistical reasons; the Kinect camera simply can’t detect more than two people at a time. But Dance Central 3 is still a viable party game, as “party mode” and “dance crew mode” allow you to form teams of people and do individual dance-offs.

Story Mode is an “adventure” mode of the game that starts off by saying you’ve been “invited to a mysterious underground dance party”. You can choose easy, medium or hard levels and then start the story. This story is an almost embarrassingly contrived plot of how you’re a special agent called in to fight “dance crime”. As you can see from my performances below on “Bass Down Low” and “Sexy and I Know It”, I could easily be considered the worst offender in terms of dance crimes, but the game is pretty lenient in scoring, at least at the beginning; I can imagine as the story goes on it’ll get tougher.  Overall, story mode seems a cute way to try to keep you motivated to come back and play the game over and over, but for me it was a little unnecessary.

Fitness Mode is of course the one I’m most interested in on this site, and it delivers. You can turn on “Fitness Tracking” to track the calories you burn while playing the game (there’ll be extra meters on the screen showing your total calories burned and your total time played). The calorie level does take into account the height and weight you put into your profile, but at the end of the day it’s really just an approximation, as your actual calories burned really depend on how much energy you put into each performance.

You can choose from Fitness Playlists that let you dance to specific songs organized by era, dance style, or fitness level, or even set up your own Fitness Playlist. Here’s a playlist of two songs I put together consisting of “Moves Like Jagger” and “Macarena”.

You can also set weekly goals for yourself, for example which days to work out and how many calories you want to burn for the week. Statistics are tracked both by the session and cumulative across the lifetime of your play. Happily, statistics are also captured in Kinect PlayFit.

Overall, Dance Central 3 retains the 5 of 5 stars I gave to both of its predecessors. But having said that it’s not necessarily for everyone. I think for family play, especially involving younger kids or older adults, you’ll be much better off with the more fun and frivolous Just Dance 4, which tends to be simpler and fun in its choreography and its playlist in a way that’ll appeal to a wider audience. On the other hand, Dance Central continues to be the one to beat for those who want a more hardcore dance experience and to learn and perfect actual moves that could be done on a dance floor as much as a living room floor.