The Kinect and dancing games are a natural fit. The success of Dance Dance Revolution was a clear precursor, and after subtracting those constantly shifting/sticking/breaking mats, and you’ve got a sure winner. So it’s only natural that the creators behind DDR, Konami, have released one of the first games for the Kinect: Dance Masters.
Like its predecessor, Dance Masters is a club-centric, techno-dominated experience. The avatars are upgraded versions of those from DDR, and Konami definitely sticks with the Tokyo nightclub theme.
But Dance Masters is not DDR, namely when it comes to the significance of your skill level. Sure the first time you stepped onto that arrowed mat and played on “light,” it wasn’t easy, but soon enough you were able to stomp precisely when you were supposed to. If you have a set of decent motor skills and feet, you could eventually beat a song on “Standard.” Dance Masters really ups the ante. There’s no preview of steps to come, so it really is about repeating the same songs and their choreography until your muscle memory kicks in.
Users are also required to use their upper bodies. Neon targets indicate clapping, and punching movements for hands and arms, and they light up to signal kicks as well. It’s not the type of game you can sway to the beat of and join in for the easy parts – Dance Masters requires committed movement.
That said, those who maxed out on DDR quickly thanks to superior rhythmic abilities or years of dance class will be thankful for a dancing game that keeps them engaged. Even after easily beating a song, there are small nuances in the avatars’ movements that can pile on the points. Dance Masters has a lot of replay value and gives users a lot to work up to so you won’t burn out on it in a handful of weeks.
But for the average users with little to no dance experience who are less interested in the long term, the better choice is Dance Central. It’s a Harmonix production (the makers of Guitar Hero and Rock Band) that features current songs with rhythms we’re all familiar with, “break it down” instructions, and the ability to see upcoming moves while you’re playing. It’s easier without being boring, and within minutes of playing you’ll be able to make it through an entire song. The “break it down” setting takes you through all the moves you’ll see, and while you’re playing, there’s a scroll on the side showing what to expect next. True beginners will appreciate that it counts you into the song.
Still, Dance Central’s song quantity falls way short of Dance Master’s. And Dance Master has the 10+ age requirement that Dance Central doesn’t for a reason – it’s not that being over 10 makes Dance Central less fun, it just makes it less challenging over time. But if you bought the Kinect for your kids, Dance Masters is just going to be too frustrating…not to mention some of the choreography is better left to those over the age of 13.
Score: 7 out of 10
If you’re interested in the Kinect system then check out our Microsoft Kinect review.
(This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 on a copy provided by Konami)