Dance Factory Impressions
We check out an early work-in-progress version of Codemasters' upcoming dance mat game for the PlayStation 2.
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Currently scheduled for release in April, Dance Factory is a PlayStation 2-exclusive dance mat game that will let you get down to any song in your CD collection. Dance Factory's spectral-analysis system will take around 30 seconds to generate a step routine for a song of average length, and it will also give you the option to create your own routines simply by recording your steps as you dance to a song from one of your favorite CDs. We recently had an opportunity to spend some time with an early work-in-progress version of Dance Factory, and although the game is obviously far from finished, it's already a lot of fun.
Codemasters has recently confirmed that Dance Factory will ship with a total of five licensed music tracks, including Tim McGraw's "I Like It I Love It, Kool and the Gang's "Get Down On It," Bodyrockers' "I Like the Way," Rihanna's "Pon De Replay," and Pussycat Dolls' "Don't Cha." Dance Factory's biggest selling point, though, is that it will let you dance to any song that you have on CD--including those that you've burned yourself. After you've loaded Dance Factory, you can take the game out of your PlayStation 2 and insert a regular music CD. At this point, you'll have the option to scan an individual track or the entire album and have Dance Factory's spectral-analysis system generate dance steps for you. You'll also have the option to save the dance routines for music CDs you're planning to play regularly, so that the next time you put the CD in, you don't have to scan it.
The dance routines that Dance Factory generates for you are available in easy, normal, and pro flavors, and although none of the routines we checked out were nearly as challenging as those that are offered by the likes of Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2 or Pump It Up: Exceed, our choice of music no doubt had something to do with that. If you've played either of the aforementioned dance games, you'll find very little that's surprising in Dance Factory's normal (dance to one track), endurance (dance through an entire album), battle, and cooperative modes of play. You're expected to hit the arrows on your dance mat at the exact moment that the arrows moving up on the screen reach the top, and every time you hit one, you'll be given feedback that lets you know if your timing was bad, perfect, or somewhere in between. As you string together successful steps you'll be awarded combo bonuses, and as you fill up a rank meter on the left side of the screen, your score will increase and the animated visuals in the background will change.
In addition to the normal and endurance modes of play, Dance Factory will boast a fitness mode (your score is replaced with a calorie counter), a record mode (which lets you record and save your own dance routines), an EyeToy camera mode, and a slightly insane "creature" mode. The EyeToy camera mode will not only let you watch yourself on the screen as you jump around, but also adds two additional onscreen "steps," in the form of buttons that you have to hit with your hands. Having two additional buttons to hit on the screen definitely makes for a better workout if that's your thing, and it certainly makes the game a bit more challenging--although your biggest challenge might still be setting the game up somewhere with both enough room to dance and enough light for the EyeToy to function properly.
Fortunately, the creature mode isn't plagued by any such inconveniences. When you put a music CD into your PS2 while playing Dance Factory, you'll have the option to "locate" the creature that, according to developer Broadsword Interactive, has lived there all along. The CD that we inserted generated a Rayman-esque (limbless) blue ape, but we also got to see a bright-green alien (also limbless) that had been found on another CD previously. The creatures don't really have any impact on the gameplay, except that you'll get to see them dancing in the background while you dance to songs on the CD that they were found on. You'll also earn credits while dancing in creature mode that can be spent accessorizing your new pet with sunglasses, jewelry, portable radios, and such.
Dance Factory, then, is a game that doesn't mess with the tried-and-tested dance game formula, but boasts so many gameplay options and features that it could prove difficult to ignore when it hits stores in April. Even in its current unfinished state, Dance Factory has plenty to offer for newcomers to the genre; the game's real test, though, will be whether or not hardcore dance game enthusiasts find its automatically generated dance routines challenging or entertaining enough. We'll bring you more information on Dance Factory as soon as it becomes available.