I’ve never played a dancing game before, instead finding it more fun to watch some dolt try to ’freestyle’ on a Dance Dance Revolution cabinet and hurt themselves. Yet the Kinect seems like an obvious venue for dancing games, so reviewing at least one of them was perhaps inevitable. Unlike some other launch line-up titles, DanceMasters works just fine and is pretty fun; the worst thing that can really be said against it is that serious players can go through most of its content in just a few sessions as you go through several synchronized dance routines alongside the game’s performers.
As you might expect for a game whose formula is ’dancing plus Kinect equals dancing without a controller or mat’, the main point is to follow the cues in each song/routine. The screen shows you what to do next, then you have to do it quickly enough to keep in sync with the routine. This tends to involve striking various poses (some of which require you to do gestures like clapping at the end to make some noise), moving in step with the characters on the screen, tracing patterns with your arms, and so on. Do well and you can proceed, a few mistakes aren’t a problem either, but too many errors will end the track and require you to play it again.
DanceMasters comes with about thirty songs across a variety of genres and tones, none of which I recognize though research suggests they are from other Dance Dance Revolution games. They offer a good mix and are fun both to listen to and dance to, though each one is only a few minutes long. This is a problem since dedicated players will plow through the available content in just a few sessions, leaving mastery of each track as the only obvious reason to come back. DanceMasters does support DLC, though as of the time of this review’s writing none seems to have been published yet and it isn’t immediately clear how this will be handled.
The controls work quite well, correctly reading most of your poses and gestures. The game is pretty generous in its definition of ’correct pose’ however; so long as you’re clearly trying to do what’s shown on-screen it usually gives you the benefit of the doubt, with only a few certain motions being unreasonably hard to pull off (or have the game recognize that you did them right, at least). When your whole game is built around this idea, it needs to work and DanceMasters does pretty well here so the only serious issue is one of play space. Due to all the stepping around and broad gestures you’ll be making, DanceMasters needs a lot more room than most other Kinect games and this is doubly so if you plan to play with more than one player. Online play is also offered, though I was unable to locate anyone to play with and thus cannot speak much for this part of DanceMasters.
Overall, DanceMasters does what it sets out to accomplish. It uses the Kinect to have players go through an approxomation of dancing (how close you get to real dancing depends on what difficulty mode you’re on; higher levels get to be pretty convincing) and accompanies this with an excellent variety, albeit low quantity, of songs. I found DanceMasters to be reasonably entertaining, and that’s despite having no real fondness for the genre; fans may be even more pleased. Kinect is no doubt going to be home to a lot of dancing games and their quality is going to vary wildly, but if you have any interest in them at all then take a look at DanceMasters... it may fit your needs just fine.