With the release of Kinect Microsoft has secretly brought back the dance genre of gaming. Originally dominated by Konami’s DDR, this new technology now allows us to literally follow the steps of dancing perfectly. There are two titles available at launch that suggest you stand up and shake your booty, and one from the fabled publisher of the DDR series. DanceMasters is Konami’s latest foray into the world of motion gaming. After having spent ample time with Harmonix’s comparable effort this one definitely takes on a different style. While not quite as mainstream and fluid, DanceMasters definitely gets some of the core concepts right.
The biggest differentiator between this and Harmonix’s latest is the method in which it tracks your movement. Dance Central uses the moves to actually check you as you dance. DanceMasters uses a more videogame conventional process that instead tracks various things you do. For instance there may be circles onscreen to mimic or poses to put yourself into before the game matches it up. There are also spots on the screen that you have to hit in time with the rhythm. It feels more like a full-body Dance Dance Revolution as opposed to actual dancing.
On the harder difficulties this changes a bit as you are tasked with so many onscreen motions you literally have to memorize the choreography in order to pass each song. This wouldn’t be so bad with a practice mode of some sort much like Dance Central, but alas this game enforces trial and error. On the easier difficulties the game works fine for novices, but once you bump it up it really becomes less of a casual fun experience, and more of a serious game built for dancing machines. This blurs the line between being accessible and competitive. If you simply mimicked motions as opposed to having to memorize and practice, it wouldn’t be so bad, but as it stands the game can definitely be frustrating for novices.
The soundtrack is definitely ripped right out of DDR. These are fast-paced Japanese techno tunes that you should be familiar with if you have played any of the previous Konami dance games. Yes they are cheesy and definitely niche, but they work. Even if you haven’t heard most of the songs you can certainly dance to them. Another really cool feature for DanceMasters is that it can record your movements with the Kinect sensor and display you in the game with the other dancers. Sure it isn’t perfect and the resolution is borderline awful, but there is something novel about seeing yourself in the game alongside the other dancers.
You can play locally or online with multiple dancers at the same time. The downside to local play is that it can become confusing as to which moves belong to which player. As for the online I wish I could comment. I could not find one game to play online during our review. It was literally a ghost town that kept searching for matches, or creating ones that no one ever joined. Still if you manage to get some friends together and take turns, there is a lot of fun to be had at the expense of your pride.
DanceMasters doesn’t come without some nagging issues though. First off is the motion detection. Kinect being new technology developers are still getting accustomed to the hardware. There were times where my motions were dead-on and it ranked me fairly low, whereas there were other times where I was completely off-base and nailed it. The game is also extremely challenging considering there is no way outside of trial and error to learn the routines. Failing a song for lack of skill is one thing; failing it because you have no idea what moves to prepare for is another.
DanceMasters is not a terrible game, just one that has been overshadowed by its competition. Still if you are a veteran DDR player there is definitely things here you will enjoy quite a bit. The quirky soundtrack and style scream to the roots of the genre, and the challenge is definitely a step above. If you are simply a dancing fool that needs two games for your Kinect you won’t be disappointed in DanceMasters as long as you know what to expect going in. It may not be the most original or well-built title, but it certainly has its moments of pure enjoyment.
Review copy provided by publisher.