Konami's beat-happy Dance Dance Revolution
series is one of those things separating people into opposing camps. You either love it or hate it. And let's face it; the games give good reason splitting the populace. On the one hand, they make you sweat; something video game junkies just don't do. On the other hand, by being such a physical experience, they bring in the normal folk (read: hotties) that normally wouldn't play video games, let alone become hopelessly addicted to them.
So, you have the folks who wouldn't try the game for anything or anyone (mainly out of embarrassment) and then you have the other folks who end up marrying their beaten dance pads. Either way, Konami's string of dance titles achieved the impossible: it merged pop culture with dweeb culture. It's probably the closest the US will get to being Japan for quite some time. And now, Konami has just unleashed the latest iteration in the series, Dance Dance Revolution Extreme. It claims Eye Toy support and new modes, not to mention new modes. But will it be enough to convince dance veterans of yet another purchase?
After playing through Extreme (and losing two inches around my waste) I can safely say the latest in the series does its predecessors proud. While not entirely innovative, it adds just enough to convince those who haven't tried the latest thing in digital-groove to pick it up. It includes Eye Toy support, even though many of the features dependant on Sony's camera don't feel fleshed out or even relevant (but more on that later.) Of course, one of the biggest concerns is the song list.
Fans will be happy about song selection in Extreme. Konami has packed the game with more tracks than in previous titles, 46 of which are fully playable from the start. You'll groove to Move Your Feet from Junior Senior, Never Ending Story (Power Club Vocal Mix) from DJ AC-DC, Peace Out from dj nagureo, Simply Being Loved: Somnambulist from BT, So in Love from Caramel.S, The Reflex from Duran Duran and Waiting for Tonight from P.A.T.
Of course, the fun part of Extreme (aside from the whole dancing bit) is groovin' your way to unlocking the 26 hidden tracks. Like in previous games, you'll need to accumulate certain grades in order to unlock much of anything, but again, making the grade is the fun part. You also get a chance to unlock 44 different song "biographies" giving you some added insight into the artists and songs featured in the game. Nice little extra, but it's hardly something you'd want to break up a party for.
Extreme splits into eight main modes of play, most of which have appeared in previous Dance titles. You get to choose from Game Mode, Mission Mode, Lesson Mode, Training Mode, Edit Mode, Workout Mode, Endless Mode and Party Mode. Dance veterans are familiar with most of those modes. If you're buying Extreme solely for the new additions, then head for the Party Mode.
Calling it "party" mode may be a bit misleading. In fact, most of the game options in this mode are much less bonified party activities than the regular Game Mode, where players square off by dancing to three successive songs. If by "party" Konami means that hordes of people will laugh at you as you struggle with the Sony Eye Toy, then it's pretty accurate; otherwise, it's a no go. Let me explain.
Party Mode comes in two different flavors: Eye Toy and non-Eye Toy. Having said that, it's obvious Konami cooked it up as very camera friendly option. Here's why: gamers deprived of the Eye-Toy only get two games to choose from where Eye-Toy owners get five. The first of the non-camera games is Hyper-Dash, a racing mini-game which can be played solo or with a live opponent. Hyper-Dash offers some amusement, but it's nothing that will tear you away from mastering dance steps in the regular game mode.
You need to stomp on the left and right arrows of the dance pad as if running for your life. Since there's no camera, the game represents the race as a split-screen, 2D sidescroller. You can even launch fireballs. Once you've picked up enough speed, either player can stomp on the forward arrow to launch a volley at the other player. The attack makes a hole in the ground, so players need to jump over the gap quickly by pressing the up arrow. Again, it can be fun, but it's nowhere near as addictive as the dancing portion.
The only other game for the Eye-Toy deficient is called Feeding Time. Basically, you'll need to feed a dog, rabbit, frog and cat using the dance pad. The game cycles through a picture of each animal and it's up to the player to feed it by stepping on the correct directional arrow. The forward arrow represents fish for the cat; the left arrow represents a bone for the dog, etc. The game shakes things up a bit by sticking a small number above some of the animals, so at times you'll need to give the rabbit three carrots instead of one. Not very exciting.
While the non-camera games feel gimmicky and under developed, most of the "real" Eye Toy applications are frustratingly difficult. One of the games, "Clean the Screen," forces you to dance while wiping away leaves, fog and other random crap off the screen. This may sound like fun for true dance aficionados who laugh in the face of murderous dance numbers, but novices need to dance clear of this one.
Another such game, "Coconut Panic," mixes the running of "Hyper-Dash" and the crazed hand waving of "Clean the Screen." You'll need to run by stomping on the left and right arrows while deflecting coconuts falling from palm trees. Boy, if you thought people looked stupid playing the regular dance mode, you owe it to yourself to watch some poor fool play "Coconut Panic." Then again, if you're playing during a real party, then most onlookers should be smashed beyond reason anyway.
Yet another Eye-Toy game, "Magic Ball," is a Breakout style game. You need to destroy blocks by using your hands as paddles and tossing a ball around the screen. Problem being, the ball seems possessed most of the time. You can strike the ball to the left and it'll shoot to
the left. Not cool. What's more, you can tap the ball once, sit down, and just watch the ball bounce around and finish the game by itself.
The only cool option in party mode is "Hands and Feet," where you'll dance to each song using your --you guessed it--hands and feet. Those of you who've played Eye-Toy Groove and loved it, will absolutely adore this mode. It features all the arm-extending, hand swiping action from Groove and marries it with dance action of the Dance universe. The last mode, Watch Me Dance, is pretty self-explanatory. You get to watch yourself dance using the Eye-Toy.
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