It's hard not to have fun with Dance Central when you get up in front of the camera and try your best to frantically match the avatar onscreen or follow the flash cards on the side. Harmonix has had this idea for years but was only able to create the game once Microsoft announced Project Natal. Gone are the dance pads and Wii Remotes; this is the real deal. Even though there is no failing in Dance Central, which means you'll never be booed off stage or kicked out, you can't get a very good score by just winging it. Kinect detects all of your body's movement so you're going to need to put your back into it to get that gold star.
If you don't have the dancing chops needed to make it into a music video, the game's Break It Down mode will help you learn all the steps. With more than 600 unique moves in the game, it'll be awhile before you learn them all. Break It Down does what it says it does; it breaks down the song for you and takes you through it step-by-step. It slows down the avatar so you can follow at a much more manageable pace, and you have to nail the move three times before it'll let you do it again at normal speed. Once you're able to do the move correctly, you'll progress to the next move of the song and eventually be able to string it all together. The venue changes as you improve your performance, so you'll start off on a boardwalk with a small audience looking on, but once you get your groove, your audience transforms into a happening night club. Every song can be broken down this way, so you can learn the individual choreography for any of the game's 30-plus songs. We were told that downloadable content is in the works, so you'll be able to shimmy to a lot more songs. There are 10 venues in the game, as well as eight different characters to lead you.
Harmonix also released several songs that have been added to Dance Central:
Basement Jaxx - "Rendez-Vu"
Benny Benassi - "Satisfaction"
Cascada - "Evacuate the Dancefloor"
Fannypack - "Hey Mami"
Kool & the Gang - "Jungle Boogie"
Kylie Minogue - "Can't Get You Out of My Head"
Nelly Furtado - "Maneater"
Nina Sky - "Move Ya Body"
Pitbull - " I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)"
Rihanna - "Pon de Replay"
Technotronic - "Pump Up the Jam"
All the songs will be available on the easy mode, and harder difficulty settings will be unlocked as soon as you complete the one below it. There's only easy, medium, and hard, but the reason that you can't jump into hard right away is so that you don't get in over your head. These moves match what you see in the music video so some of them can get quite challenging if you've never had any dance training. But if you have and feel like you know the entire choreography by heart, you can also dance with the flash cards turned off.
Another mode that was shown was Dance Battle, where you and a friend can switch off during a song to see who has got the better moves. The song is split into four parts, so you'll take turns performing, and your score is tallied at the end. Only one person plays at a time because in order for Kinect to register two players at the same time, the move set will have to be simplified. Harmonix decided to go with more complicated moves instead of bringing down the difficulty to accommodate two players. There's another mode where you can track your calories so if you'd rather just dance nonstop for 30 minutes, you have that option.
It looks like you'll need quite a bit of space regardless of whether you have Kinect in your room. Depending on how tall you are, you could be standing up to eight feet back from the camera with Dance Central for it to register your entire body, as well as your arms if you were to raise them above your head. You'll also need at least three feet of space around you to be able to perform all of the moves properly. But regardless of where you're at, the game is a lot of fun. In our experience, it has always been in a room full of other journalists who were looking on, and it's quite entertaining. Show off your moves when Dance Central is released with Kinect on November 4.