Dance Central Spotlight for Xbox One
Harmonix has simplified Dance Central to its core dance experience, selling the basic game for $10 and hoping that you’ll buy lots of downloadable content. Because of the strong fitness capabilities, it’s definitely worth considering.
Many of us who played Dance Central and Dance Central 2 on the Xbox 360 have been waiting in anticipation for a new version of Dance Central on the Xbox One. The original Dance Central series was unique in that the Kinect was the first game system to really support full body motion tracking, but the Xbox 360’s limitations made it painful to play sometimes, most notably in the sluggishness of the graphics and the motion detection, not to mention the feeling of being bloated with a lot of unnecessary features and graphics.
Well, we all know the history since then. Xbox fans resented the fact that Microsoft forced them to bundle the Kinect with their systems and defected en mass to the PS4. Worse, while the hardware of Kinect 2.0 is impressive, developers failed to capitalize on it. While Xbox Fitness from Microsoft was a noble effort, the fact that exercise videos cost extra on top of an Xbox Gold account turned off a lot of casual players. And titles like Kinect Sports Rivals which were supposed to usher in a whole new world of motion gaming ended up being terrible games that seemed barely to be improvements over Kinect 1.0.
Despite Microsoft’s intentions to make Kinect ubiquitous, motion gaming on the Xbox One has very much become a niche feature. It’s in this climate that Microsoft and Harmonix no doubt decided to release Dance Central Spotlight as a downloadable-only game vs. one that’s available on disc in a retail store.
Harmonix has decided to take Dance Central in a completely new direction than before. Instead of bundling 30-50 songs in a $60 product, it’ll let you download the basic game with 10 songs for $10, and then if you want more songs, you’ll pay about $2 each.
Here are the 10 songs that come with the basic version:
- #ThatPower – will.i.am ft. Justin Bieber
- Diamonds – Rhianna
- I Wish – Cher Lloyd
- Show Me – Kid Ink ft. Chris Brown
- Titanium – David Guetta ft. Sia
- Counting Stars – OneRepublic
- Happy – Pharrel Williams
- Royals – Lorde
- Talk Dirty – Jasaon Derulo ft. 2 Chainz
- Wake Me Up – Avicil
When you start the program, you come to a splash screen with a bunch of silhouetted people dancing the the background. One thing I loved right away is that there were no “false positives” as there were with the original–the system wouldn’t respond until it knew that I was standing up and ready to go. Something else I LOVED is that unlike with the Kinect on the Xbox 360 where I had to be 10 feet away, I could put my Kinect 2.0 camera only 5 feet from me, and it would still let me play, even with my legs cut off a little.
The first time you play the game you’ll be brought through some remedial lessons of how to play Dance Central. Gameplay is pretty much the same as previous versions of Dance Central–you mimic the moves of the on-screen dancer. One improvement I love is that you can see a “swoosh” that indicates where the dancer’s hands are at any time. Unlike with Just Dance 2015, your whole body is tracked very precisely. The accuracy and speed of the motion detection is visibly improved over the original Dance Central–if even subtle things the angle of your elbows and your leg movements are off, the on-screen dancer’s limbs will glow red. As such, once you master the routines in Dance Central, you’ll basically be ready to wow them on the dance floor.
You’ll see “dance cards” on the right that show you what dance moves are coming up, and you’ll get feedback of how well you’re doing by the color and words rotating around the “spotlight” under the on-screen dancer’s feet, the number of stars showing up on the boombox, the number of points you accumulate. As you perfect moves you’ll collect “dance cards” and unlock more difficult routines.
Once you’ve run through some basic moves (side step and clap, torch, blazer) you’ll then dance to a real song, #ThatPower with will.i.am and Justin Bieber. Here, you’ll do the Stomp & Tap, the Stomp & Pull, Dedicate, Spirit, and Ichiban.
Once you get past the lessons you’ll get to the main menu that has three options: Fitness, Just For You, and Songs.
At first I thought “Fitness” was just going to be a feature that they just phoned in. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was in fact pretty well thought-out. You start by selecting the number of minutes you want to work out (10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 45, 60, or 90). You then select from a selection of “Routines”–when you first start the program you’re limited to 10 Beginner, 10 Cardio, and 10 Strength routines, but as you master the moves you’ll unlock more. You’ll also enter your height and weight so the program can properly calculate the calories you burn. But once that begins you’ll start dancing the routines, each of which is specially designed to get you sweating and your heart pumping. Even on the beginner routines, I found my heart rate elevated and I felt motivated to get the moves correct, not just so I could look cool on a dance floor (if you look at the video, you’ll see I have a ways to go on that), but also so I could unlock other routines. When you’re done you’ll see the time you danced, the calories you burned, and the number of routines you danced.
The “Just For You” selection lets you start dancing on a song selected for you. Every song has 8 routines including both “real dance moves” ranging from Beginner to Pro and fitness routines. This means you get 80 total routines in the 10 songs that come with the basic program. You’ll be able to unlock new routines as you collect “dance cards”. If you prefer, you can also choose “Songs” to select a song.
Like I said, you start out with 10 songs for the $10 intro pack, and then you can download more at about $2 each. As of this writing, there are about 120 songs to choose from, including Justin Bieber, Janet Jackson, Iggy Azalea, LMFAO, Ne-Yo, Lady Gaga, and many more.
Obviously, Harmonix is going with a Gilette-type of strategy here–get people “hooked” by giving them the razor for cheap or for free, and make money off the blades. Logically it makes sense.
That said, there are a couple problems I see with this approach right off the bat. First of all, while I’m not at all complaining about the $10 price tag, ironically, paying so little for Dance Central Spotlight makes me wonder right away if I’m getting a lot less than I was, say, for Dance Central or Dance Central 2. Plus, when Just Dance 2015 is “giving away” 45 tracks at less than $1 a track, it really makes you question whether it’s worth it to pay $2 a song, even if you do get 8 routines with it. Even when you compare how many songs you got with the original Dance Central (plus other features like different scenery, which were removed from Dance Central Spotlight), the $10 for 10 songs seems less and less like a “deal”.
That said, the fitness routines in Dance Central Spotlight are excellent and in my opinion are one of the best ways to work out on the Xbox One, better than Just Dance’s fitness steps, having more mainstream musical variety than Zumba Fitness World Party, and even better than Xbox Fitness, in fun if not in intensity. If you’re looking to use your Xbox One for fitness, you could do worse than buying a Xbox $50 Gift Card, spending $10 on Dance Central Spotlight, and Spending $40 on 20 songs you like, you’ll be getting about 240 different routines, which should be good for a lot of workouts.