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Dance Dance Revolution Universe (Xbox 360) artwork

Dance Dance Revolution Universe (Xbox 360) review

"I appreciated being eased into the game, and as a result I was able to more fully soak in the Dance Dance Revolution experience. Konami took a risk by adding such simple songs right at the start, but it paid off."

Iím a scientific marvel that was born with two left feet. To the casual observer, it may seem that I have two normal appendages--one left and one right--but I assure you that all it wouldíve taken for you to believe my claim in the past was a quick Dance Dance Revolution session. You wouldíve seen a bumbling fool tripping over his own limbs and very nearly falling to the floor something like two or three times a song. It was grim, but thereís good news: Dance Dance Revolution Universe has cured me and it can do the same for any else who is similarly clumsy.

When Dance Dance Revolution Universe showed up in a massive box, I was somewhat concerned. Shipping it out to someone else to review didnít seem ideal, what with rising shipping costs and the time delay, and I knew already about my limitations that have kept me from tearing up the dance floor for years. Chaos seemed destined to follow. Yet when I started playing, I fumbled my way into the tutorial mode (probably because the game thrusts it at you so you canít miss it) without incident. As the little character on the screen danced through simple steps, I found myself able to follow with relative ease. I learned some things, like where my feet should be positioned for each arrow and yes, that paying attention to the musicís rhythm helps immensely.

These were facts that somehow had eluded me during my ill-fated attempts to play the game on the PlayStation 2. Yes, I was that bad.

Once through the tutorial mode--which was clearly designed just for dorks like me--I next discovered the beginner mode. This plays more like a standard round of Dance Dance Revolution, which is to say that you can select from a bunch of songs. . . provided youíve unlocked them. Naturally, you accomplish that by a stunning display of aerobics.

Or not. As it turns out, the beginning songs truly are for beginners. Whereas before I couldnít even finish a single song, I now found myself able to dance to the end with a passing grade. The tutorial helped me toward that accomplishment a great deal, but more important was the fact that the developers assume youíre a dummy for those first few songs. I appreciated being eased into the game, and as a result I was able to more fully soak in the Dance Dance Revolution experience. Konami took a risk by adding such simple songs right at the start, but it paid off.

Thatís good news for those of you who have been looking to latch onto the craze. Even if you havenít played a single game of Dance Dance Revolution at home or at coin-gobbling arcade displays, youíll be able to catch on to how things work within 15 minutes or so. The result is an experience with benefits to your sense of well-being (finally, youíre not out of the loop) and even to your health. Like its predecessors, Dance Dance Revolution Universe will burn away calories faster than you can say Ďhot fudge sundae.í

The game works this way: thereís a mat with four directional places. If you step on these arrows, itís like pressing one of the four face buttons on the Xbox 360 controller (so much like it, in fact, that one player can even play along with a standard controller if you donít have a second dance pad). In order to complete a level, you must press the right directional areas in time with the beat of whatever song is playing in the background. You stand at the center of the pad when a stage starts, then fling your feet this way and that as you might your fingers when playing a more traditional game. As arrows fly up the screen and pass under a sensor bar, your feet need to tap the correct portion of the mat so that your meter gets a boost. If you fail, some of your energy drains. If your meter empties, you lose the round.

Though the concept is simple, it allows for some pretty complicated stages. Early stages begin with a leisurely sense of rhythm that lets you tap the mat almost lazily, but the difficulty steadily builds until youíre barely breathing as you jump and spin in the air. While your eyes remain glued to the television set, your feet land in all sorts of odd positions like a game of Twister, only before you have time to consider where youíve landed youíre already working on your next move. Further complicating matters are arrows that force you to stand on them for a set period of time while your other foot hastily taps out assorted directions. If you land on such an arrow with the wrong foot, I assure you that earlier reference to Twister will make perfect sense. Itís no wonder the game menus warn you not to fall.

If youíve watched someone play Dance Dance Revolution, or if youíve played it yourself, itís not difficult to imagine how a quick session could melt away the calories. As Konami is fond of reminding the gaming press, Dance Dance Revolution is even part of the curriculum in some physical education classes. Itís fun and itís healthy, all because you donít want to stop playing. One more time, you tell yourself. Thatís all itíll take to boost your ranking for a given stage. Thatís all it will take to complete one challenge and move onto the next. Konami is fully aware of that fact, too. Thatís why thereís an included ďWork OutĒ option that tallies the calories you burn as you play. Just to test myself, I played a simple song through one time and burned an amazing 7 calories. Thatís not bad for a minute or so.

After singing Dance Dance Revolution Universeís praises, though, Iíd be remiss if I said nothing about the song selection. Itís nice, with the requisite Kylie Minogue and then a bunch of people besides her that I didnít care about like Depeche Mode and Sugar Hill Gang, but you only get samples of songs so that thereís less than two hours of music on the disc overall. Konami definitely could have included more, a fact made evident when you realize that eight additional songs are already available for download through the Xbox Live Marketplace on the day of the gameís release. Youíll have to spend $10 worth of points just to collect all of them. On top of $80, that seems unfair.

At least they made up for that by including some new modes, though theyíre not really my thing. I donít want to sit down and dive through menus to make custom dance steps and I donít want to play a marathon mode without breaks between songs. Even the opportunity to embarrass myself online holds only limited appeal. Theyíll satisfy veterans, but all I want to do is play some simple rounds and have fun. Dance Dance Revolution Universe lets me do precisely that, and that makes it a winner in my book.

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Staff review by Jason Venter (February 27, 2007)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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