Review: Dance Central Spotlight

The fourth instalment in the hugely popular Dance Central series, Dance Central Spotlight arrives on the Xbox One to fill that music rhythm shaped hole in your library of games. But is this version of Dance Central really worthy of the spotlight or is it time to call it curtains for the series?

Dance Central Spotlight doesn’t have a story. There’s no two ways about it. Where previous Dance Centrals had some workings of a story – with Dance Central 3 having a fully voiced campaign that involved time travel, of all things – Dance Central Spotlight is purely focused on song quick play. You choose from a selection of tracks, pick a difficulty, select one of six returning characters, and dance. It’s Dance Central at its purest and that’s not a bad thing.

The official track list for Dance Central Spotlight can be found here.

Now while that does seem rather paltry, keep in mind that the game sells for about $15 and will feature DLC songs and song packs. Instead of being saddled with 20+ songs you might not like for full price, gamers can pick from a list of their favourites as they become available. Previously purchased songs from Dance Centrals 1-3 will also be made available for free as they are put up for purchase.

Aside from that, what more can I say about the audio other than everything sounds as it should? If you have a nice set of speakers Dance Central Spotlight should not disappoint. Try not to bother your neighbours too hard as you Turn Down for What.

Graphically, Dance Central Spotlight is a very nice looking game. As is usual for the series, characters animate well and backgrounds often explode in flourishes of neon coloured sparks the better you perform. While the visuals don’t exactly scream “next generation” they do their job admirably. The front end of the game now more closely resembles a music streaming service with album art displayed prominently into three sections: songs that are trending, your album, and the music store, with sorting options for each. It’s easy to navigate and looks quite professional.

For those unfamiliar with the series the goal of the game is to mirror an on screen dancer and perform given moves which are tracked by the Kinect sensor. These moves are scored for accuracy and at the end of each routine you are awarded a final grading of up to five stars. Dance Central Spotlight reworks the difficulty curve of the previous games by ditching “tiered” dance routines in favour of a  “master routine” for each of the ten songs included in the game – which is divided up into Beginner, Standard, Deluxe, and Pro difficulties – as well as four other routines which will include moves not found in the “master” set. Its a great change to the formula of Dance Central and because these routines all have a natural feeling of progression to them players who aren’t as rhythmically inclined as others should feel a bit more comfortable with this entry.

And regarding the precision of Kinect: its good. Quite good, in fact. The game had me do a quick calibration of the sensor upon booting it up for the first time and from then on I had no trouble with moves failing to register or with loss of tracking. The Kinect is extremely reliable here and will have no problems keeping pace with you or your dance partner, should you have one. It’s all incredibly fun, in part because the tech just works and because there is a definite feeling of mastery once you get a move down just right.

It can’t help you if you’ve got two left feet, though. That is to say, practice mode is back and its still a pain to use. I’d go so far as to say it got worse, even. Where Dance Central 3 allowed you to pick and choose which moves you wanted to focus on prior to having a proper go at a song, practice mode in DC Spotlight is only available once you’ve already started a song. You must either say, “Hey DJ, Practice That” or hit the Y button to enter this mode.

It’s disappointing to say the least. No new feedback systems have been added to help you better understand what you’re doing wrong – no viewing a move from multiple angles, no step by step voice over, none of these features I’m sure players have wanted for years now are available here. Spotlight is still very fun and accessible for newer players thanks to the aforementioned splitting of dance routines, but practice mode is an area where more could have been done, in my opinion. An oversight perhaps, but given Spotlight’s smaller downloadable nature its hard to fault it too much.