IGN Review of Dance Dance Revolution Universe
Stepping on arrows has come a long way through the years. While stepping-on-arrows purists may scoff at the idea of futuristic, high-definition, wide-screen stepping-on-arrows action, fans of traditional stepping-on-arrows gameplay will be pleased to know that Dance Dance Revolution Universe holds true to its roots. Even though there are new songs, new modes and new features, in DDR Universe, the answer is yes: you still step on arrows.
It's a strange mystery why stepping on arrows is so fun and addictive, but even IGN editors duel-wielding left feet can, um, step right into DDR Universe, perhaps the most accessible game in the franchise yet. That's because DDR Universe, the first foray on the Xbox 360 of this hot-stepping franchise, is focusing on gamers new to stepping on arrows with the addition of several beginner modes. So for those of you that were intimidated by the challenge of stepping on arrows, fret not. Stepping on arrows has never been so easy.
DDR Universe takes a "crawl before you can dance" approach, throwing you into tutorial-focused Basic Edition. There, you're given one option: How to Play. Experienced players can jump right to the Master Mode that makes available all the normal game modes. How to Play actually teaches you how to dance -- I seriously felt like Chris Penn getting a lesson from Kevin Bacon in Footloose. From there you advance to Lesson Mode, a series of 22 tests that teach you every technique in the game. A cute little cartoon chick shows you how you should be stepping, although we don't recommend the 360-degree full twist. You start out tapping your feet to the rhythm and eventually advance to difficult 90-degree jump turns and freeze steps. It's a big help for clumsy game editors, and learning the basics immediately improved our scores in Game Mode Lite.
Game Mode Lite starts you out with one song on beginner. Pass it and you'll unlock the next song. By the time you've completed the full series of 15 tunes, which features some Jamiroqui, Steppenwolf and Depeche Mode, you'll be ready for Master Edition.
Master Edition features a laundry list of modes: party, quest, workout, challenge, training, quest, edit, jukebox and Xbox Live. You can hook up a second dance pad and go for eight panel dancing -- not for the faint of heart. Or you can plug in a total of four pads in Party Mode and a try a variety of challenges like power (test your endurance), speed (test your quickness), attack (send fireballs across the screen), bomb (pass a bomb around and don't get caught with it), sync (co-op mode that ends when one player makes a misstep) and so on. Where DDR falters is in gamemodes for people that only have one dance mat. Being able to compete for a high score by taking turns with your friends would have been nice, especially since most people don't have a stockpile of dance pads around. Also, the dance pad is designed specifically for the 360, so you can't use your old Ultramix pad. But, on the plus side, you can go on Xbox Live and eventually download all the songs of previous Ultramix titles, although they are not yet available.
There's a ton of customization in Universe, though. You can create your own backgrounds for any of the songs using a rudimentary editor tool. You can also create your own dance steps to any song -- bonus points if you can make your friends fall over. Unfortunately, you can't upload your own mps3 and create your own dances and background videos. As rad as that would be, it would surely put a damper on sales of the upcoming downloadable songs on Marketplace, of which there will be many.
Visually, DDR Universe is likely to burn holes in your eyes with some of the bright, kaleidoscope backgrounds. Some of the more popular tracks will have the music video playing in the background, like Jamiroquai's "Feels Just Like it Should." One small problem is that after you step, words like "awesome" and "boo" will appear to let you know how you timed your step. But they appear right in the line of arrows, sometimes blocking them from view. On expert level, on which we have yet to successfully complete a song, this can be a problem as the arrows are blazing across the screen.
The song selection features more mainstream tunes than in past DDR titles, and it's all the better for it. While most songs are hot DJ mixes that can play nonstop in hot nightclubs, others are remixes of recognizable artists like Steppenwolf, Depeche Mode, Sugar Hill Gang, and even Earth, Wind and Fire. Nice.
Online plays well and we didn't notice any lag in our matches. You can take on three other dancers in attack, bomb, score (measures accuracy of steps) and point (most total points wins).
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