While the vast majority of games require some strong hand-eye coordination skills to pull off intricate moves and nail the high scores, the Dance Dance Revolution
titles have taken the foot-eye coordination tactic. By tapping the squares on a dance pad players could match the arrows on screen and dance their way to success. Sessions with these games were sure to make anyone sweat, but Roxor Games has decided to up the ante a little further with In the Groove
and introduce some hand-and-foot-eye coordination. The result is a game that's not quite as user-friendly as the DDR games, but instead adds some new variety to the genre with more songs and some hardcore moves to pull off.
Published by Red Octane, the same folks who produce several different dance pads on their own, In the Groove has support from a company that is already devoted to the dance game community. With Konami taking a multi-year break from putting new mixes into its thousands of arcade units across America, In the Groove started out as a retrofit for DDR cabinets to provide some new songs and moves for players. If this sounds a little sketchy, apparently Konami felt the same way and recently filed a lawsuit to put a stop to all this. The little guy here was trying to put out some more variety for players, but Konami wasn't too happy that the expensive systems they built and sold were being used to promote another company's product. Especially since that product is now coming to the PS2, a console where DDR games sell in excess of a million copies each year.
As a product that was initially developed for the DDR fans out there with a thirst for more, In the Groove has many features that are worth checking out for those who want some more variety. Instead of using sprites for the arrows, the pointers here are polygonal. This makes them a little easier to see than the DDR arrows and it allows Roxor to put in dozens of different modifies. The arrows can spin, bounce around, look like they're going down a hallway, and do several more things that throw dancers for a loop. But if that still sounds a little too gimmicky, there are a couple other features to change it up even more.
In the Groove throws in some triples and quads where one or two hands need to be used to hit all the needed arrows on the pad. There are also some mines that, if stepped on, can wreck a combo. With these new features, In the Groove makes the songs, especially the level 13 ones, much more of an all-body workout. Beginners will still be able to play many of the easy modes of the songs that don't have the features. Still, it's a good feature that mixes up the action more and has a Twister-like appeal in dropping down to the pad to slam the arrows with one's hands.
But when going beyond the hardcore aspects of In the Groove, even though the game is a very solid effort in the dance genre, it doesn't quite match up to the DDR franchise. It could be a matter of money and resources that were available to be thrown at the project, but the feel of the game isn't as flashy and fun to play through. There's also a lack of licensed songs that help to flesh out the list of anonymous tunes. The songs on their own are practically on par with a typical set of DDR songs and are helped out with more trance songs and less J-Pop, but it's still a shame to not hear at least one song that's familiar in here.
Even though the polygonal arrows help out in terms of visibility and increase the number of possible multipliers, the overall presentation is a little lacking in energy and usability. The DDR games always had the feel that there was a party going on and when switching to In the Groove's more simplified approach it's hard not to notice that the feeling is not quite there. Players who are "graduating" from the DDR games and are coming for the new songs and moves this might not have as much of a problem, but overall In the Groove doesn't have as much liveliness that certainly helps to set the mood.
Beyond the regular game, In the Groove has a cool workout mode where a set of songs are set together and have some modifiers included to keep players on their toes (all right, that was terrible). These set up longer runs so that players can get tested on both their memory of the step patterns as well as their own stamina. The only downside is that there is no edit function for creating some of these on one's own. Win some and lose some.
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