Dance Central: Spotlight Review
Dance Central: Spotlight Box Art
System: Xbox One
Dev: Harmonix
Pub: Harmonix
Release: September 5, 2014
Players: 1-2
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p Mild Lyrics
Just Keep Dancing
by Angelo M. D'Argenio

Name an awesome Kinect game. OK, now name an awesome Kinect game that isn’t Dance Central. It’s been several years since the Kinect came out, and Dance Central is still the best reason to own the motion control peripheral. This franchise has completely steamrolled over Rock Band as gamers’ rhythm game of choice, and every installment has just gotten better and better, with bigger track lists and more modes. However, Dance Central: Spotlight, the newest installment of the series, didn’t try to blow up the experience. Rather, it was cut down, pulled back to its core gameplay and marketed as a downloadable only title. On the upside, you can now get Dance Central for an absurdly cheap price, but on the downside, you are just getting much less game.

The most notable absence in Dance Central: Spotlight is a campaign mode. In previous Dance Central titles, there was always a single player mode in which you followed some stupid story about saving the world with dancing. It wasn’t exactly Shakespeare, but it kept you playing, working up the difficulty levels, unlocking new dance moves and new routines, and eventually allowing you to become a living room dance master.

No one really swore by the single-player mode. They basically looked at it as a chore to be completed in order to get to the rest of the game. However, while the campaign was taken out, the grinding for new moves and routines was left in. You still need to complete different songs at different difficulty levels in order to unlock all the game’s content, and without a campaign mode to at least give this some framing, it feels even MORE like a chore this time around. If the idea was to trim the fat in order to get players enjoying the modes they love quicker, then the fact that you still have to play songs and routines you don’t like just to unlock content basically undermines that decision.

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In fact, this may be the biggest and most glaring flaw in the game. Each song has eight routines and the core package only comes with 10 songs. Unfortunately, all but one routine for each song is unlocked at the beginning of the game. These routines are, appropriately enough, the most basic. They include very few moves and really rarely even require you to move from your spot. While these are all well and good for newbies to the game, anyone who has played Dance Central in the past will be bored out of their mind playing these routines. I also don’t like the focus on “dance cards” which require certain moves to be done flawlessly in order to unlock more routines. You can play through an entire song and still miss dance cards, which is frustrating. Eventually you’ll unlock routines you actually want to play, and at that point you’ll completely ignore the rest.

Dance Central: Spotlight Screenshot

The major problem with Dance Central: Spotlight is a question of value. The game is only ten dollars which is very alluring to people on a budget, especially people who wanted to try out earlier Dance Central games but didn’t want to drop full price on them. Getting only ten songs is… kind of disappointing, but translating that to a dollar a song really isn’t that bad, especially considering other songs on the Dance Central Marketplace are two dollars each. You can also import all your previous Dance Central DLC which goes a long way toward expanding the track lineup, but since you could already play all those songs without Dance Central: Spotlight anyway, it doesn’t really add value to the game. You also can’t import any of the base tracks and routines from previous Dance Centrals as well, which is tremendously disappointing.

The gameplay itself is fortunately still fun. The Kinect 2 is really an astounding piece of hardware. Frequently, in prior releases of Dance Central, I would run into situations where I swore I was doing all the moves right but the game still marked me off. This is not the case with the Kinect 2. The peripheral is incredibly sensitive, allowing very discrete movements to be detected. In addition, the game is really good about telling you which of your errant limbs is screwing up your dance routine. This instantly makes you a better player of the game… though I wouldn’t go as far as to say it actually makes you a better dancer.

Dance Central: Spotlight Screenshot

The game’s fitness mode is also a lot of fun. In fact, I’d hazard a guess and say that it’s more fun than the actual dance modes. Routines that focus on exercising instead of technical difficulty are a great way to get some good cardio without making it seem like a chore. There are a lot of options here keyed in to the purpose of fitness. You can alter routine length, routine focus, and difficulty. There are even specially designed routines meant for strength and cardio training. However, you once again can’t select routines you haven’t unlocked, so grind out those routines alone.

The tracklist is also pretty decent as well. My personal favorites are Counting Stars by OneRepublic, Happy by Pharrell Williams, Royals by Lorde, and Talk Dirty by Jason Derulo. I have to say I wasn’t entirely impressed by the current DLC offerings. Love Shack by the B-52’s is kinda goofy, but none of the other songs really made me want to get up and dance. It’s also worth noting that there is a very deep pop and techno skew to the whole game. If you are looking for more hip hop or disco or other interesting styles of dance, you are probably out of luck.

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