Video Game News

Dance Game Dance Off!

Just in case you haven’t noticed, there are a LOT of video dance games that have come out lately vying for your hard-earned cash for Christmas 2011.  Here are the titles that have been or are pending release since October 2011. (I’ve linked each title if there’s a review on XboxFitness.Org, Nutwiisystem.Com, or PS3Fitness.Com).

Big list, right? Let’s add in the “dance games for kids”

  • Nickelodeon Dance for Wii
  • Just Dance Kids 2 for Wii
  • Just Dance Kids 2 for Xbox
  • Nickelodeon Dance for Xbox
  • Just Dance Kids 2 for PS3

And I’m not even counting other new games that incorporate dancing like Happy Feet 2, Victorious Time to Shine, and Zumba Fitness 2.

It’s enough to make you want to shake these game companies by the throat and say “WE GET IT. DANCING GAMES MAKE YOU A LOT OF MONEY”.

Now, if  you had all the money in the world, you could certainly shell out $40-50 each game and all three consoles. But of course, these days none of us have that luxury. So this post is intended to help you figure out which dance game reigns supreme, so you know which dance game to spend your money on.

And in the process, we’ll talk about platforms as well. Since I have all three platforms (Wii, Xbox, PS3) and I love all of them, you can rest assured that everything I say here will be completely unbiased (go onto other message boards and you’ll see fans of each platform defending theirs with near-religious ferocity).

So what’s the verdict? Which Dance Game reigns supreme? I’ll do this in the form of an awards show.

Best Motion Tracking
Dance Central 2 for Xbox Kinect

Hands down (and arms, legs, and torso all over the place) the best platform for dance games in general is the Kinect, and the best dance game as far as accuracy of full-body motion tracking is Dance Central 2. Now I should say that I have (and love) my Wii and PS3. I love the Wii for its fun graphics and I contend that it’s still by far the best system for families and groups of people. I love the PS3 for its superior graphics and the amazing accuracy of the Move controller, which makes it the perfect title for any game which requires you to hold an object like a sword, a tennis racquet, or a baseball bat in your hand.

But at the end of the day, dance games for those platforms require you to hold a controller in your hand, while the Kinect just lets you dance freely, and the system knows not just when your right hand is or isn’t in the right place, but evaluates your whole body.

Best Multiplayer Game
Just Dance 3 for Wii

Dance Games are fun to play alone if you’re exercising or learning how to dance, but there is nothing better than being in a group of people and competing against each other; the players get to see who the better dancer is, and bystanders can enjoy a “dance-off”.

As much hype as the Kinect and the Move are getting (deservedly so) for their groundbreaking progress in motion control, the old trusty Wii still is by far the best platform for multiple people to play. Why? Because the Wii remote control uses radio signals to transmit the user’s motions,while the Xbox and the Playstation both rely on a camera. Granted, the Wii will probably never approach the sheer accuracy of the other two systems. On the other hand, unlike the other two systems, the Wii doesn’t require two people (or four) to squeeze within a small 8-10 foot space. So while two people can play the same game at opposite sides of a room on the Wii, the same two people will have to squeeze together on the Xbox and Playstation and try to figure out how not to hit each other.

Just Dance 3 for the Wii has songs that are choreographed for two, four, and even eight independent players. It makes for a ton of fun at parties.

Best Choreography
Dance Central 2 for Xbox Kinect

This is a subjective call, of course, but overall I found the choreography in Dance Central 2 to be the best of the lot. When I look at the individual dance moves (as depicted on the “cue cards” that appear on all the games), I find that Dance Central 2 is the only one which really depicts real “dance moves” that I see performed by professionals and in clubs.

If you spend enough time to learn them (and there’s are great training sessions which will break down the moves for you very well), not only will you excel at the game, you’ll wow people the next time you’re on the dance floor.

Best Choreograph-Your-Own-Dance Feature
Everybody Dance for Playstation Move

For aspiring choreographers and people who have played dance games and said “I could design a dance better than these people”, the new trend in these games of being about to choreograph your own routines will be a welcome new feature. This was a toss-up between Just Dance 3 for Kinect and Everybody Dance for Playstation, but at the end of the day the winner is Sony. It’s a seamless process to record your own video and share it with friends (or the world). The fact that the Move controller is used is actually a bonus in this case, as it makes motion detection for people who play your routine seamless, something that is a bit more complex to do on the Kinect especially in different lighting levels, camera angles, and body positions.

Best Workout
Dance Dance Revolution II for Wii

This winner is going to surprise a lot of people, but I found that the best dance game for just working out is Dance Dance Revolution II. This is not to say you can’t get a great workout with the “real dance move” games, especially if you put a lot of effort into learning the precise moves and do them over and over again. But DDR has been and continues to be a game where you’re constantly in motion, stepping and stomping faster than any aerobics or step class. It’s not a surprise that schools around the country have begun to use DDR in their phys ed classes. Dance Dance Revolution II brings some long-awaited new features to the franchise, including the ability for one player to use two dance mats, and an upgraded workout mode. Yes, the concept is dated, it’s no longer as “fun” as a real dance game, and you won’t “wow” anyone on the dance floor with any moves you learn in DDR. But it’s still the best sweat-inducing dance title out there.

Funnest Game
Just Dance 3 (all platforms)

For this award I did a little experiment. I brought all three major dance games to different gatherings and sat back and watched how easy it was for them to pick up the game and start playing, how much the players enjoyed it, and how much the spectators enjoyed it. The winner was no contest. Just Dance 3 had the most people wanting to jump up and take their turn, and had the most people on the floor doubled over with laughter, especially during the multiplayer routines.

I really admire how Ubisoft has kept the franchise “true” to itself even amid other games encroaching on the “turf” which it invented. It could have tried to be like Dance Central and focus on precise dance moves (even on “Easy” level, Dance Central 2 is not easy and will take several repetitions for you to start matching the moves, something people at parties will not have much patience for). But instead, it kept true to what it was–a game that did a passable job at motion control but focused on bright and happy graphics, whimsical and fun choreography, and just plain fun. In many ways, Dance Central 2 and Everybody Dance sometimes feel that they’re games which take themselves a bit too seriously, but Just Dance 3 is content to just be fun.

Best Song Selection
You Make the Call

Ultimately, I can’t choose which game has the best song list because musical tastes are very subjective. You can view the complete song lists on my review of Just Dance 3,  my review of Dance Central 2, and my review of Everybody Dance, and make your own call!

And if you’re the fan of a particular niche, say the music of the musical Grease, ABBA, The Black Eyed Peas, Michael Jackson, Broadway showtunes or country music, you’re going to be better off buying the specialized dance games for those. (Although be forewarned, all of those standalone dance games are definitely far less polished than Dance Central 2, Just Dance 3, and Everybody Dance–the developer obviously felt they could make more money selling standalone games rather than as downloadable content for one of the top dance games).

Overall Best Dance Game
You Make the Call

Again, I’m going to weasel out of making a call here. 🙂 The choice for which dance game is best for you really depends on your goals. If your goal is to learn real dance moves that you can take to a dance floor, Dance Central 2 is the way to go. If your goal is to have a lot of fun, Just Dance 3 is the winner. If your goal is exercise, DDR still provides the most exhausting workout. For the best social networking features, Everybody Dance has set the bar that hopefully others can meet in the future.

Bottom line, if you’re planning on using a video game for fitness, the rules are and have always been the same. Can you get your heart rate elevated for a sustained 20 minutes a day? If so, you will lose weight. But like any other workout, you need to be committed to doing it. IMO, the challenge of perfecting dance moves helps a lot more in the commitment than repetitive actions like walking on a treadmill or an elliptical machine. But it’s up to you to keep it up and not sit down after every 4-minute song 🙂

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