Videogames requiring a person to sweat attract a lot of attention. Especially those that make people playing them look like fools. Just take a look at the Dance Dance Revolution series. When DDR originally hit arcades back in 1998, it drew scores of spectators simply because it looked so absurd. Or looked so cool, depending on who you asked. Either way, it had mass appeal and attracted seasoned gamers and non-gamers alike. Seven years and nine console editions later, the DDR series retains a mighty grip on the gaming populace.
The latest installment, Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2, takes the basic gameplay from earlier versions and adds new music, challenges and game modes. It's your basic DDR sequel, in other words. The musical selection sounds far sweeter than usual, namely due to a handful of genuinely groovy tracks, but for the most part it's DDR through and through. Fans of the series know what the previous statement means. And so do those who want the DDR series to burn in hellfire. More to the point, it's a dance game, folks.
In the odd chance someone doesn't know the series, here's a quick refresher course. Players dance in rhythm to onscreen commands using a digital dance pad. Basically, the dance pad acts like a jumbo controller players can step on. Each DDR game has used officially licensed tracks from world-renown DJs, so the music has always leaned toward the beat-happy, ecstasy dropping rave crowd. And no, not all DDR players digest harmful drugs or frequent raves, but there's no denying the connection between dance music (trance, jungle, house, etc) and raves. And, of course, there's always the tie between raves and drugs. So there.
Players can expect many of the same modes from last year's Dance Dance Extreme, including Workout and Free Play modes. DDR Extreme 2 also boasts the same EyeToy Support for players who want to use their hands and feet when playing in specific modes. EyeToy support added a nice twist in the last game, but here it's just more of the same. It's still a nice addition to the franchise in general, but for any veteran EyeToy players this quickly loses its appeal.
DDR Extreme 2 carries over Lesson and Training modes from its predecessor as well. All four of these modes include the same customizable options as seen in the original DDR Extreme. A good thing since they all featured cool options. And just having Training and Lesson modes at all is a gift to the rhythmically challenged.
Lesson Mode in DDR Extreme 2 splits between three levels of varying difficulty. The first teaches you how to step on two arrows at once and to step on three arrows consecutively. The second stage takes things up a notch and throws in a little rhythm. In the third mode, the game teaches advanced techniques like how to move your center of gravity and tackle advanced beats. Training mode plays out differently than Lesson mode in that players dictate the flow of the beats for a greater level of focus. So if there's something specific players need practice with, then Training mode comes into play.
Like the two practice modes, Free Play Mode doesn't offer anything new. What it does offer is a chance to jump in and start playing quickly. Players choose between Single, Versus and Double matches. Single means one player dances on a single dance pad. Versus has two players battling on two pads. And finally, Double has one player using two dance pads to bust out advanced techniques. Then there's character selection. DDR Extreme 2 offers 22 unlocked characters to start and an equal number of locked characters. From there, players hop over to song selection which includes 24 unlocked songs. Players need to unlock the additional 50 songs through the game's Dance Master Mode.
Most players will want to blast through Dance Master Mode to unlock as many songs as possible. As previously stated, song selection in DDR Extreme 2 is the best in the Extreme franchise and it's one of the best in the series. Of course, this all depends on personal taste. If you hate electronic music then you're totally out of luck. But for those that like, and especially for those that love it, then DDR Extreme 2 packs a decent mix of tunes. Some of tunes sound a little stale, namely due to hits from outdated artists such as Ricky Martin and (to a lesser degree) Britney Spears. Plus, some of the song just seem a little old now, such as "Block Rockin' Beats" from the Chemical Brothers and "Genie in A Bottle" from Christina Aguilera.
Of course, the game includes a slew of noticeable tracks as well. Some folks will love "Spin Spin Sugar" from the Sneaker Pimps and "Happy Wedding" from ASKA. Also, there are the ultra groovy "As the Rush Comes" from Motorcycle and "Boom Boom Dollar" from King Kong & D. Jungle Girls. And, of course, who can forget "Captain Jack" and "Wonderful Night" from Fatboy Slim. These are all great tunes to dance to so there's plenty of good dancing to be had in DDR Extreme 2.
Lastly, there's the all-new online component. The game offers two main online components, one being a straightforward head-to-head mode and the other being a cool new ranking system. When it comes to head-to-head competitions, DDR Extreme 2 gauges your skill level by scanning your PS2 memory card. The longer you've been playing the higher your rank will be. Playing against fellow PS2 broadband users is slightly less fun than dancing against a live opponent, say inside an arcade, but it's a nice substitute. Plus, you don't look stupid when a dance king wipes the floor with you in front of a crowd. The only real downside is the current lack of player available for head-to-head competitions. The crowd is sure to pick up however, so there's hope.
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