Game Review: Let’s Dance with Mel B.
I’ve often wondered if Dance Central had any real competition besides Just Dance. I mean, are there any other dance games that set themselves apart from Dance Central by bringing something new to the table, by being unique, by taking the whole experience one step further?
I’m afraid I was kind of disappointed by Let’s Dance with Mel B, partially because Dance Central set the bar rather high for a Kinect dance game, but mostly because this game seems to miss the bar set for an average game made sometime during the last generation. What does Let’s Dance do so wrong? Let’s start with gameplay, shall we?
Gameplay in Let’s Dance is confusing, and not in an endearing, puzzling way, but in the “I just jumped in and I have no idea what I’m doing” way. The trouble is, there’s no tutorials for any of the dances- you’re just unceremoniously dumped into a dance with very little explanation and plenty fast, baffling moves. Frankly, this is pretty intimidating- even the most shameless of extroverts might be a little nervous about playing this game at a party. What’s really confusing is that you’re supposed to mirror the moves you see performed
The game’s visuals are, to be honest, kind of unsightly. What really pops out at me are the backgrounds- I felt my stomach clench as a strangled cry broke forth from my mouth when I first laid eyes upon them- the best way I can describe them is as really painfully bright wallpaper that’s just lying there. You see, during gameplay there’s essentially just some footage of the moves being performed by actual people (not a bad thing), and watching them I could tell that essentially, some moves were choreographed and put in front of a green screen, which got a quick & dirty backdrop laid beneath it and… Yeah. I really wasn’t thrilled in the least as to the way the game looked.
In spite of the way it looks, however, I must admit that I like the game’s presentation. While Mel B. of Spice Girls fame seems just a little bit too enthusiastic at times, I thought she did a pretty good job at presenting the game itself. You see, Mel shows up at the start of the game and invites you to start dancing- and it’s really Mel B. Something about this makes me want to go back in time and enjoy an FMV-based video game from when “interactive movies” were supposed to be a thing, and another part of me just cringed at the suggestion, mostly because most of those games were so shoddily executed. Moving on, however, I have to say that I like the slightly minimalistic approach to most of the game’s elements, and I wish that was the case with the game’s visuals. The game’s menus are pretty easy to use, which is another plus, although sometimes controlling them is very slippery- a pretty big problem.
What upset me particularly about the presentation, however, is that during a performance, you’ll see a big, fuzzy shadow dancing next to the on-screen dancers- that shadow is you. You see, the effect that was supposed to be there was you- body and all, cut into the game, just like the dancers and Mel B. The trouble is that unless you’re very well lit, you’re just going to get a big ugly shadow.
As for the game’s music selection, I wasn’t disappointed at all- there’s quite a good variety and while it’s not quite as expansive as The Competition, it’s just as good. I especially loved hearing No Speak Americano. Something about that just put me in a better mood, and if Yolanda Be Cool isn’t exactly to your liking, there’s also Lady Gaga, Rose Royce, Maroon 5, Pixie Lott and Rahman Feat. Pussycat Dolls. Oh, and the Spice Girls, I should’ve mentioned them earlier.
So should you completely and utterly write this game off? Not necessarily. My mother enjoyed this game more than Dance Central. Why? I suspect it was the lack of any noticeable structure that drew her in. Of all the things to get somebody’s adoration. Overall, this game is pretty badly flawed- I’m really sad about that. It had an interesting premise and an excellent tracklist, but at the end of the day it manages to fall down flat due to unappetizing graphics and unexplained gameplay that pretty much plops the player on in. So if you’re willing to subject yourself to learning a dance the hard way, you can tolerate the visuals and you don’t mind being a freakish shadow beast, go ahead and play this game to your heart’s content. Otherwise, you may want to look into something else.