Review: Dance Central Spotlight (Xbox One)

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The music game connoisseurs over at Harmonix know how to keep the party going for sure. The original Dance Central was a launch title for the first Kinect and was successful enough to spawn two more iterations, each improving upon the last. Dance Central was the standout series for Kinect and was one of the biggest reasons to own one in the first place.

Dance Central Spotlight has two modes: Perform and Fitness. In Perform mode, you can select any of Spotlight’s ten available tracks and dance to them. Each song has eight separate routines, but only Beginner is unlocked at the start. To unlock new routines, players must “collect” moves within the routine by performing them perfectly. Once a certain amount of moves are collected (this number is shown on the right side of the routine selection screen), more routines open up. The level of difficulty scales appropriately – I never felt like I had jumped too far ahead of my skill level – and each song even has a routine for Cardio and Strength.

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Spotlight, like previous Dance Central games, supports two players. A second player can join at any time simply by raising their hand in the middle of a song. What’s neat is that each player can select their own routine at the selection screen, so while I’m dancing Pro, my partner can dance Cardio, allowing players with different goals and skill levels to enjoy dancing together.

At any point during a song (outside of freestyle sections), you can use the Kinect voice command and say “Hey DJ, Practice That!” to practice your moves. Spotlight gives you feedback by outlining the parts of the body that are out of alignment in red so it’s easy to identify what you’re doing wrong. While practicing, you can say “Hey DJ, Slow It Down” to try dance moves at a slower pace or “Hey DJ, Got That!” to return to the song you were on, it’s actually really awesome. The only downside here is there isn’t actually a dedicated Practice Mode to rehearse in like in previous Dance Central games – you can only access it after you’ve started a song.

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In Spotlight, “Hey DJ” commands take the place of your normal “Xbox” commands. Simply saying it in the menus will allow you to use voice commands to navigate. It works well, but you’ll find it quicker and easier to have a controller nearby for navigation. Gestures work fine too, so long as you’re able to keep a steady hand.

Fitness Mode does exactly what it’s supposed to, which is wear you out. You can choose intervals from 10 to 90 minutes and the game randomly chooses songs and routines from your collection, transitioning from one song to the next with no breaks. Spotlight tracks how many calories you burn in the mode, too. I’m not sure if it’s an estimate or what, but it felt just right. The only downside is you can’t collect any moves while in Fitness Mode.

As mentioned earlier, Dance Central Spotlight comes with 10 great tracks. It doesn’t seem like much, but with eight routines per song, there’s plenty of content to keep you busy. That said, there’s a ton of songs already available to download, and each of those songs will also have eight routines. There’s a great variety, and each song is only $1.99, making them cheaper than before (Dance Central 3’s songs were $2.99 per track) and a better value (8 routines to 4). If you’ve previously purchased DLC in a past Dance Central title and it’s available for Spotlight, you’ll be able to download it for free. Unfortunately, exporting songs that were on-disc is not supported unfortunately.

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Aside from the lack of additional game modes, Dance Central Spotlight’s transition to collecting moves has made the stars and scoring systems obsolete. The stars offer about as much function as an appendix and scoring is only useful during co-op sessions. Once you leave the results screen, they’re gone – they’re not stored anywhere for viewing later and there are no leaderboards to compete with friends online.