3 Dance Games, 3 Consoles, 1 Big Conclusion

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Image by Flickr user Stéfan, used under Creative Commons licensing.

Over the past year, as motion-controlled gaming has gained a greater hold in living rooms and basements everywhere, developers have worked hard to find games that take advantage of using movement to control games. One of the most sensible applications has been the dance game.

While the big three game consoles have all approached motion control in a different way, each has a long list of dance games associated with it. These allow players to pixel polonaise — and a variety of other styles, from country to Broadway. They can even soft-shoe like Smurfs, proving that we’ve come a long way since arcade Dance Dance Revolution machines.

But could dance games be enjoyable to someone with only marginally more rhythm than a myocardial infarction? There was only one way to find out — I gathered my kids and jumped in with both left feet to try. The games that we looked at were Everybody Dance on the PlayStation 3, Just Dance 3 on the Xbox 360 and Just Dance Kids 2 on the Wii.

Overall, the games are quite similar in a number of ways. Each has about 40 songs. The interfaces are generally the same — there’s a model that the player attempts to mirror and a follow-the-bouncing-ball preview of upcoming moves that’s presented with stick figures. There’s some sort of feedback to tell the player how well he’s matching the dance moves. Lastly, all the games offer a way to ratchet up the difficulty. Now, on to the specifics.

Just Dance 3.

Just Dance 3 – tested on Kinect for Xbox 360, also available on Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3 with PlayStation Move controller. $40.

I’ve always felt like the Kinect was best suited for children’s games that require little more than pointing. But in Just Dance 3, I was pretty impressed at the Kinect interaction; the controller really seems to shine with this type of game. In addition to the user interface, described above, the Kinect adds a thumbnail of what the Kinect camera is seeing you do. This gives real-time feedback that you can compare to the dance model you are supposed to be mimicking.

We found Just Dance 3 to be pretty forgiving. It awarded us a lot of “perfect” scores even though we felt we were anything but. In fact, we felt the game was so lenient that we stepped up the difficulty a bit and discovered that Just Dance could be very critical. Still, the game was a lot of fun and our small group picked it as our favorite.

Because the Kinect was evaluating both arms and legs, we moved a lot more than with the other consoles, which only used a single controller. As a result, we really worked up a sweat. We also enjoyed the alternate game modes, including a freestyle mode where you can create your own dance, shorter versions of songs and a gallery mode where you can save your best dances.

Next up: Sony’s Everybody Dance.

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