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There are certain activities in my life that I thought I would never do, let alone embrace — take, for instance, fist pumping. The call of Arsenio’s “whoop, whoop” never made me crank one from the couch in late-night TV viewing solidarity. Jersey Shore by no means stirred my inner guidette. Even the sweetest of sports victories has failed to incite the repeated thrust of my clenched hands. Spirited forms of public gesticulation just aren’t my bag. Yet, here I am in the wake of my first premeditated fist pump sesh and the only appropriate response to this strange and unfamiliar feeling is an Enrique Iglesiasm: “Baby, I like it. Come on and give me some more.”
Dance Central 2, the sequel to Harmonix’s first Kinect offering, is an impressive update and solidifies the series as a first-rate franchise. The mainstays of the original return with polished tutorials; expanded features like personalized playlists; an even richer song selection (now you can finally “Get Your Freak On” to some Missy Elliott); and an intelligently designed two-player mode. Missy be puttin’ it down, but as far as rhythm games go, Dance Central 2 is the hottest ’round.

Click the image above to check out all Dance Central 2 screens.
The greatest achievement of Dance Central 2 is the improvement of its multiplayer function evidenced in Dance Battle. Rather than taking turns and performing moves on an individual basis, you can now destroy your competition as they struggle miserably at your side. The Kinect technology has improved in its ability to track multiple players — my partner was able to jump in and out of the competition relatively seamlessly, and upon returning to the game his character was tracked to the appropriate side of the screen with score intact. Now, there were moments when we squished toes, bumped donks, and nearly punched each other in the face, but that only added to the illusion of being in a packed club. Pass the Courvoisier, I say. Dance Central 2 may be fixed on a two-player format, but the intensity of the routines and quick pace of the Free-4-All minigame are reason enough to keep it pared down; more bodies in the mix is simply a recipe for disaster.

Moderation has never been my strong suit and for a lack of better judgment I powered through the Crew Challenge campaign — an exhausting alternative to the original Perform It quickplay mode, which left me in need of a shower and electrolytes. When all is said and done, the campaign consists of a minimum of 30 songs that need to be performed with four or more stars to earn bragging rights. The objective of this challenge is to move up the ranks, earn street cred for each crew, and ultimately squash a Steampunk madman’s dream of dance dominion. If unlockables are your thing, Crew Challenge is where it’s at for new characters and venues.

If you haven’t been blessed with the ability to imitate Usher’s fancy footwork, all hope is not lost. The much-improved Break It Down tutorial allows you to tackle an entire dance routine or an individual move, depending on your preference. The overall goal is to successfully hit each practice move three times, but should the problem areas outlined in red persist, Break It Down offers a new option to record video and witness firsthand where your movements have gone awry. Initially, the idea of recorded footage of my dance moves terrified me. The “Star Search” fantasy that I envisioned all these years did not depict me as a stinky, sweaty mess in pizza stained pajamas. Nevertheless, I sucked it up and was pleasantly surprised by the results. The ability to see yourself mimicking dance moves is by far the most accurate representation of Dance Central’s mirroring concept.

More Dance Central 2 VideosDance Central 2 has remedied its initial co-op mode misstep, increased its post-dance feedback, and now boasts customization options like the ability to personalize fitness routines with handpicked soundtracks, but its weakest link is the voice command interface. The voice-enhanced menu, which requires you to hold your right arm at a 45-degree angle to prompt the technology, is at times unresponsive or inefficient. For instance, to select a song you simply need to say the prompt “song” and follow it with the title, but every time I tried to retrieve Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love”, I was met with Justin Bieber’s “Somebody to Love.” No thanks — I’m not a Belieber. All things considered, I don’t anticipate I’ll ever don an Ed Hardy tracksuit or Snooki-inspired bouffant (never say never, right?) but if the early signs of tennis elbow are any indication, I’ve got fist pump fever and the only prescription is more Dance Central 2.

 

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