After dinner, my girlfriend casually asks if I would like to play video games. To most guys, this is the best post-dinner proposition second only to sex…and possibly ice cream. Yet, I know that when she says "video games," she doesn't mean slaughtering zombies in Call of Duty: Black Ops or seeing who throws a meaner red shell in Mario Kart Wii. She means, "Let's work off some of the calories we just ate with Dance Central!"
At this point, I deflect the question and think about my issues with the game that rarely leave me in the mood to get my groove on. But now, with the new co-op mode in the upcoming Dance Central 2, developer Harmonix will soon take away all of my excuses not to play.
How does a simple multiplayer mode make such a difference? Well, I had two main grievances with the first installment of the Xbox 360 Kinect's premiere dancing title that this addition addresses. For starters, I loathed the flow of the game when playing with more than one person. The first dancer goes through the list to pick a song and then usually transitions into the Break it Down mode to repeatedly practice and master each individual move. Then, he finally performs the four-minute song.
The session lasts for what feels like at least 10 minutes, which is a bit more of a commitment than I'd like to make for casual play. On top of that, in a group setting, everyone has to sit around for a similar time period to allow for friends to go through the same process before it's their turn again. I'm aware that we could just skip learning the moves and just fake it, but the gamer in me isn't too keen on getting a half-assed score.
A co-op mode — particularly with drop-in and drop-out features — really helps to minimize these frustrations. Now, while dancing, if I realize that the Club Monster, Double Rainbow, or Man Swagg maneuvers are more physically demanding than I was prepared for, I can tag out with a friend. This makes playing less of a commitment to see the level through to the end and at the same time invites people to easily jump in (no Kinect pun intended) or take a breather. Best of all, two people shaking it simultaneously (with individually adjustable difficulties) means players don't spend as much time waiting in-between turns.
The other issue I have with Dance Central that the sequel looks to fix is a little more embarrassing. Having to suggestively sway my hips and put that extra little sass into each move for a "Flawless" ranking — especially when all of the attention is centered on my performance — leaves me feeling a bit silly and uncomfortable. So having two players boogie together shifts the focus from the individual to the duo. This way, spectators are less likely to notice my stiffness or exaggerated flamboyancy. Plus, if it's just me and my significant other, we'd be too busy trying to land each move ourselves to bother paying too much attention to what the other is doing.
When I originally told her about these new features in Dance Central 2, her first question to me was, "So, does this mean you're gonna start playing it now?" My gut response was, "Pssh, no," but then I had to stop and reflect. I realized that the complaints I had with the first game would soon be non-issues. I'm running out of excuses to avoid playing Dance Central with my girlfriend, but maybe that's a good thing. I always gripe about not exercising enough, and truthfully, dancing can be pretty damn fun.