Harmonix is trying something new with Dance Central Spotlight by taking the “less is more” approach. You won’t be time-traveling to solve dance crimes like you did in Dance Central 3. This time Dance Central Spotlight sticks to what the franchise does best: shaking your booty.
Dance Central Spotlight puts your Kinect through its paces by accurately tracking your dance moves as you awkwardly mimic a bunch of rotating dance cue cards that appear onscreen. Harmonix managed to yet again work to get the most out of the Kinect still making their games the only valid reason to invest in one. In true Dance Central fashion, each song is well choreographed and super enjoyable to dance to, even for someone like me who refuses to do anything that makes me sweat. The onscreen dancers all look like they came back from their first rave which I love. My favorite was the default dancer, Emilia, with her mismatched kneepads and her care-free demeanor.
Every song has eight unlockable routines that get increasingly more difficult dance moves in every new routine. A beginner song may only have a handful dance moves while a Deluxe tosses in everything but the kitchen sink. The higher difficulties keep you on your toes and are especially fun to play against other people. So in reality that’s eight different dance numbers for every song. That’s a lot of dancing.
The fitness routines will do its job by wearing you out and making look foolish. You enter your height and weight and you can set up a fitness session to up to 90 minutes. Playlists get progressively more difficult with dances that focus more on cardio and strength training. I won’t lie, I didn’t I lasted more 20 minutes without the need of oxygen after trying a cardio playlist. Clearly I’m out of shape and Dance Central Spotlight reminded that I should probably get my life in order.
As a non-dancer, I found that Spotlight was surprisingly lenient in its appraisal of my
sick god-awful moves. If your arms aren’t quite hitting the mark but your hips are on point, you’ll be awarded points. The red outlines on the failing limbs on your dancer are still a great visual cue for correcting your erroneous actions. I was able to 5-star a lot of the beginner and even managed to 4-star the more challenging routines.
If you’re struggling with a particular move, you can actually stop mid-song and and work on that move before diving back in. This is a great addition, considering my biggest problem with previous Dance Central titles was that feeling of helplessness when I knew a move was coming up that I just couldn’t nail. It’s smart and it keeps from making the player overly frustrated without losing their progress during a song.
Visually, Dance Central Spotlight seems to have taken a step back. The dancers all look great while the stages seem to cycle through typical dance-movie locales like warehouses, street corners and and airplane tarmacs. As a song progressed each stage evolved into a mess of neon lights and dancing silhouettes of nameless background dancers.
That being said, the interface is clean and easy to work with the Kinect controls. During a song, the cue cards are large and easy to see. I still think they should be animated since seeing a new move for the first time being queued up is intensely stressful and threw off my rhythm. I’m aware that you just have to mirror the dancer but a little hint ahead of time would be killer.
This trimmed-down version of Dance Central includes ten songs and two modes. More songs will cost you two bucks a pop with the option to purchase albums at around ten dollars. All the music are current dance hits with almost no clunkers. Tracks like “Happy” and even Lourde’s “Royals” are fun to dance offering very distinct dance styles for each song. Enrigues Ilgesais “Bailando” have all have Latin and Caribbean flavors you need; my favorite is the “Swagga Chest.” which is essentially a seductive chest pump. I of course made sure to immediately purchase DJ Snake & Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What” with no regrets.
There are over 50 songs already available for browsing. I’m shocked that dancing games haven’t got down this route sooner since it’ll let you build the game with the tracks you want. At the end of the day Spotlight might cost you more than ten dollars, but at least you have a choice in what your library should be. I’d like to see some sort of season pass that will grant you access to all the tracks as an alternative to the a la carte platform.
Playing with friends is really where you will get most of the mileage for this title. It’s still a good time dragging someone in front of the Xbox for a dance-off. You can even adjust the difficulty level for each dancer so that a novice can still play against a veteran at the same song without feeling discouraged.
At ten bucks, Dance Central Spotlight is too good to pass up. Fans might be a bit upset with lack of of game modes and mini-games that usually get packed into a Dance Central title but this price I think they’ll be able to appreciate the trade-off. It’s definitely worth picking up if you want something fun to do with your Kinect besides telling it to go to Netflix.
Here’s the track list for the base game in case you’re wondering:
Counting Stars – OneRepublic
Diamonds – Rihanna
Happy – Pharrell Williams
I Wish – Cher Lloyd
Royals – Lorde
Show Me – Kid Ink ft. Chris Brown
Talk Dirty – Jason Derulo ft. 2 Chainz
#thatPOWER – will.i.am ft. Justin Bieber
Titanium – David Guetta ft. Sia
Wake Me Up – Avicii