Apr 17, 2012

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Country Dance All-Stars Kinect Review

Country Dance All-Stars Kinect Review

Since the Kinect launched a year-and-a-half ago, the majority of its titles have been minigame collections or dance games. No one would argue that since the peripheral released, it’ best title has been the hit Dance Central, which of course has since been replaced by its superior sequel. Though Konami tried, as did Ubisoft, with Just Dance 3, none have been able to dethrone Harmonix’ Dance Central as both the best Kinect title and dance game to date. With Country Dance All-Stars released recently, does it have the chops to survive in a Harmonix-ruled world?

Make no mistake about it, Country Dance All-Stars will in no way replace Dance Central 2 as the definitive dance experience on the Kinect. To be perfectly honest, though, it’s not really trying to or even necessarily competing with Dance Central or Just Dance. Country Dance All-Stars knows its intended audience and makes every effort to specifically target them with the look, feel, and overall design. From the initial start up it’s obvious that Country Dance is aimed towards those who watch the CMAs, prefer to line-dance, or enjoy a good old hoe-down. Though there are definitely songs within that everyone should like, the fact of the matter is that your enjoyment of Country Dance All-Stars is directly connected to your affinity towards the country music genre.

While I’m not necessarily a country music buff, I’ve been to a line dance or two and do appreciate many songs within the genre. If you’ve ever line-danced before then you may feel right at home with the actual moves in-game. The routines literally follow the actual 8-step line-dances for the specific country songs chosen. The motion-detection is actually quite good and veteran dancing gamers should be quite comfortable. As a tool for preparing for a real life hoe-down, Country Dance All-Stars is excellent. Unfortunately, since the dance routines follow the actual dances move for move, the learning curve feels a little steeper then it is for other dance titles. This problem is primarily due to the glaring flaw of the game: the lack of difficulty choices for each song. Each song has a rating of difficulty from one to three, but there’s no way to ease the challenge or increase the difficulty per song. Perhaps I’ve just been spoiled with Dance Central 2, but this sorely lacking feature is one that may turn off a good amount of people.

The in-game instructions are easy enough to follow, with move cards akin to Just Dance 3, and a feel very similar to Dance Central 2. Body parts glow bright green when moving perfectly, and shine red when players are off. The spotlight circle underneath each player lets you know whether you’re doing well, or are completely butchering the moves. Country Dance All-Stars obviously steals the best parts of Ubisoft’s and Harmonix’s games, and for the most part, mechanically it succeeds. There are over 30 country hits to dance to and the song selection is pretty good. Each song supports a two-player mode as well as the single-player offerings, but it’s odd that not every song is available for the rehearsal mode. The single-player modes are typical, with the exception being the horrendous “freeze mode.” In the “freeze mode” game, the music randomly gets interrupted, and players must hold their positions until the music begins playing again. Though it’s nice that there’s a different game mode from what is normally expected, this mode is truly awful and the motion detection appears to be completely off when players freeze their moves. I would have much preferred a generic story or campaign mode over this garbage, and for those that do pick up Country Dance All-Stars, do yourself a favor and stay away from freeze mode.

Aesthetically the game is a mixed bag with bright (though generic) and lively backgrounds, behind bland and uninteresting characters. The backdrops and levels all seem to work perfectly, yet the characters are incredibly robotic and appear to be better suited as an original Xbox title. Faces look doll-like, characters oddly cartoony, and the entire roster is as uninspired as they come, with no character creator or even character selection. Though I believe the backgrounds are quite nice, they too can be uninspired and just plain bland depending on levels chosen. As a whole, Country Dance All-Stars is an eye-sore and could definitely have been better produced.

Perhaps the biggest issue I have with Country Dance All-Stars is the fact that there are other superior titles available on the market. Though this isn’t a direct knock on the title itself, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d much rather be playing a different dance game after a song or two. More often then not, I found myself wanting to eject the game and put in the far superior Dance Central 2–not just for song selection, but for actual enjoyment. Whereas Dance Central 2 is filled with energy, gets you pumped and excited to dance, Country Dance All-Stars just feels bland, uninspired, and sloppily handled. Call me biased against country music if you will, but if I’d rather dance along to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” then Rascal Flatts’ “Life is a Highway,” there’s definitely something wrong with your game.

As a complete package, Country Dance All-Stars is enjoyable, but definitely misses its mark. With much better dance titles available for the Kinect, Country Dance All-Stars is at best an after thought. The song selection is enjoyable, as are the routines, but the severely lacking modes, missing features, and overall unpolished feel make this a title that very few would love. If you’re a major fan of country music or enjoy line dancing, then raise my score two points and pick up Country Dance All-Stars. However, if you’re a passing fan of the genre, stick with the incredibly fun Dance Central 2. 

Country Dance All-Stars
Platform: 360 (Kinect)
Genre: Dance
Release Date: 03/27/12
Developer: High Voltage Software
Publisher: GameMill Entertainment
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)
MSRP: $39.99