THQ enters the popular Dance genre with Dance Paradise for Kinect. But can this contender put the moves on the highly popular Dance Central? Or are their shoes just made for walking?
THQ’s Dance Paradise is a dancing game geared with the “party game” aspect in mind. Of course, there is the single player mode available to practice your moves and progress through a challenge style game; but multiplayer was clearly in mind when this game was being created. But first things first; let’s look at the single-player for a moment.
Upon starting the game, the single player mode gives you three options. You have a Tutorial mode which teaches you the rudiments of the game. Then there is the Career mode which progresses you through a series of songs and dance moves of increasing difficulty. And finally, you have a Free Play mode which allows you to select specific songs to dance to.
The premise of the game is fairly simple: follow a series of silhouettes as they make their way to the stage and copy the moves that they are performing. Your score will be graded on how closely you can follow the on-stage silhouette. At the end of the round, you will be graded on your performance overall. Your performance is typically graded by accomplishing a certain challenge during the routine (e.g. – Perform X number of good to perfect moves or use Dance Power, the Dance Paradise version of Dance Central’s Star Power). When a dance challenge is completed, you move on to a new song with more difficult dance moves than the previous challenge.
While you can access the songs and the routines in Free Play mode, it was disappointing to see that this was really the only way to be able to practice a song and its associated routine. This requires you to back out of your Career Mode, jump into Free Play mode, and then practice the song until you are comfortable with it. Moreover, you can’t practice the individual moves like you can with Dance Central’s “Break It Down” mode. Instead, you must practice the song’s routine over and over again, waiting for those specific moves to show up to practice them.
Another difficulty experienced during the game was with the silhouettes. It was problematic to follow them because of how generic they were. If you can imagine, think of the Blockheads from the old Gumby show, and this is what your silhouette looks like. The problem is determining how they are exactly moving, especially at the lower legs and arms. Fortunately, ever present on the right side of the screen is your avatar, and I had a much easier time following that instead of the silhouettes. My only wonder is why they would use such a generic looking creature for you to follow if you already have something much better readily available and onscreen.
The routines feel disjointed as well. Unlike other dance games that I’ve played, it feels like there’s no flow between the individual moves during the song. And while they may look good together technically, you’ll feel like a robot at times moving from one step to the next. Although it’s possible that the operator may have had something to do with this (I’m from Detroit, and this white boy just can’t dance), I had no problem being able to get the flow between steps. It’s just the groove I was lacking.
However, Dance Paradise does have plenty of good tracks to help you get your groove on. Over 40 popular songs from the 80’s to current date are available to dance to right off the bat. And while no DLC has been announced as of yet, I can’t imagine that THQ would just throw the game out there and not update it with additional tracks.
Another interesting feature is the availability to watch the music videos that accompany the songs on their own. You can create a queue or playlist of videos to watch through the Video Box. However, the lack of full screen video takes away from the experience quite a bit. It might be nice for a party to have some background videos and music going while people aren’t gaming, but a lot of the real estate goes to the Dance Paradise themed background when it should be the video taking more space.
Where Dance Paradise does seem to shine however is in the multiplayer. While you could participate in Dance Battles with friends by taking turns in Dance Central, Dance Paradise allows two players to take each other on in a versus dance match simultaneously; Similar to the single-player mode, you get graded on your performance, while additionally you can use special attacks against your opponent to throw them off. These attacks range from stealing your opponent’s vitality (stamina), switch up the tracks on them, or make their silhouettes become almost completely invisible.
Dance Paradise has a lot of interesting features to make for a great party game, but it lacks the spit and polish that Dance Central has, which keeps this game from being truly great. And although the ability to have multiplayer matches is a useful feature to have, the preference in my living room would be to stick with Dance Central. Although with Harmonix out on their own, perhaps THQ could look for a new developer to pick up a sequel, no?