XBOX 360 Kinect Review: Dance Masters

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DanceMastersIf you are a fan of Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) then you may enjoy upgrading your experience to their new evolution of DDR for the XBOX 360 Kinect; Dance Masters.  Firstly, I want to tell you that I am kind of a ‘move and groove’ aficionado, in my opinion, and taking on this game review would be a piece of cake. Well, not exactly the whole cake, but a piece of it—maybe even a cupcake. Let’s get into the dynamics of game play before I begin to embarrass myself, shall we?

Pacing, Controls, Visuals, and Variation.

Balancing the controller, which would be you, the player is excellently in sync with the Kinect system’s ability to track your full body movements is nothing like limiting your movements to the foot pad used with DDR. The Kinect stays in-step with you as you attempt to mimic the character dancers’ on screen actions. Timing is key here. The movements (choreography) are more challenging and trying to make the dance “cue’s” are nothing like following the “notes” on-screen in DDR.

Manipulating the Kinect’s sensor was too easy. I could just stand still and move my body, arms and feet by just being sure to catch the green silhouettes and the orange glowing prompts (I only realized this after a dance routine and was tired to “fully move” to the music). But doing this zeroes your chances at scoring any points in the game. In addition, I found that even when I kept up with the characters on-screen and moved awesomely and in time and tune to the dance set I failed to score, or earned hardly any points at all. Yes, this was indeed frustrating.

Visually, it was amazing to watch the characters dance about on-screen and the game environment was reminiscent of watching a concert dance performance—with explosions, lights, and the concert sounds. What really thrilled me was that I could see myself in the crew of back-up dancers ‘mirrored’ on screen. Scared me a little at first. For a couple of the songs, I was thinking that person in the background was such a terrible dancer and  wondered how the hell  they got in on this game.

The difficulty levels are light, standard, extreme, and stealth. The lighter difficulty was still as difficult as the extreme option because the pace of the movements does not change. The inter-active on screen elements were only a matter of trying to ‘match up’ with the on screen cues, streams, and posing opportunities to score points.  In stealth mode, you do not get any of the glowing and ripple cues and streams. You just have to keep up with the dance character’s movements on screen—at which I failed horribly. To my “enjoyment,” after the song finishes there is the option to view “snap-shots” of your game play. If you danced the way I did, prepare yourself for some embarrassing images. If there is an opportunity to play with friends, do so because this is probably the best aspect of the game experience. The option to go online and play with other XBOX Live “Dance Masters” is also available. However, good luck trying to find someone.

Customization…what is that?

The lack of opportunity for customization proved as another annoyance in that I was unable to create a personalized ‘song set’ list. There are over 30 different songs (Pop, R&B, Techno, & Hip-hop) and it would be a great  advantage to be able to set a play-list of favorite songs or dance routines across genres. The music included in Dance Masters is phenomenal. Many of the tunes are catchy and extremely motivating—but short. Just as I was feeling the groove, the song and set was over.

In addition, the method for scrolling the menu is a bit dodgy. It was difficult to manipulate the on screen settings. Developing a technique when scrolling the song menus and difficulty selection takes some practice. I worked out doing a type of “palm-punch” type motion to scroll and select. The selection screen menus were too small and became annoying selecting specific menu options.

Come on–let’s sweat!

Balancing between the character movements are tricky because they continue on with their movements–and the song keeps playing–so I found myself always a step behind and trying to keep up. This is a huge flaw in my opinion of the game—not having the ability to pause and go back to check a step you may have missed. Since the dance routine within the set repeats, there is the chance to “re-do” the moves in the song the next time the move comes around. This makes it very challenging to master a dance song and routine because of the inability to “break” the dance experience. Much of the time it felt like I was flailing around, doing “full body dry heaves” (I remember hearing this said somewhere). I just wish that there was a better option to actually learn the dance moves–in slow motion–without it feeling too repetitious. I will not take anything away from the choreography skill of the game. The character’s moves are brilliantly choreographed. There is however, the option to use “lesson mode,” but it is really just like dancing on the lighter setting.

I got lucky a few times and went ‘super saiyan’ on-screen, where the characters were catapulted to a vortex of amazing outer-space-type glowing back drop, complete with comets and stars, when I finally nailed a few combos and got the dance meter up. It resembles the reaction you get when you hit your meter max in Guitar Hero or Rock Band—where you can ‘lift’ your guitar or ‘scream’ when the appropriate indicator comes up.

Simply put, there are no good teaching tools or tutorials. I believe people who may have an opportunity to play Dance Masters will develop their own opinions of the game—overall responses to the game are subjective, really. However, the benefit of attempting to groove to Konami’s Dance Masters is that you are getting a fantastic workout—so make plenty of room and be prepared to sweat!

Look Mom I can dance! Well, sorta.

Konami’s Dance Masters is most definitely “the” game for those hardcore game-dancing fanatics who are ready for a challenge. I am not in a hurry to go out and perform what I learned from the game in any dance competitions or dance clubs. Should you find this review to be a bit disappointing, do not despair, there are better dance games out there. Overall, my desire to want to “master” Dance Masters is about as short as my attention span.

Konami’s “Dance Masters” in-game features:

  • Dance freely, no peripherals to tie you down!
  • You can choose different modes for the ultimate dancing experience.
  • Play your favorite songs.
  • You can unlock additional songs by clearing a set list.
  • Can play with up to 4 players.
  • The ability to view “snap shots” of your dancing accomplishments.
  • The option to save your dance moves as a “back up” dance partner.
  • Multiple difficulty levels: Light, Standard, Extreme, & Stealth.
  • Different varieties of music within the music genres: Hip-hop, R & B, Techno, and Pop.
  • The opportunity to purchase downloadable content for your XBOX Live avatar including dance sequences, icons, and theme packs.

What you waiting for? Let’s Dance!

Everyone10+(E10+)Konami’s Dance Masters is rated E (10+) for some music lyrics and suggestive dance moves and themes. Dance Masters is only available for the XBOX 360 Kinect system.

Image credit(s) and game info: Konami. ‘Super SaiyanCartoonPicsAnimation.


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