Move it with Sony: Review of “DanceStar Party Hits” (PS3)

Summertime, party time. But if one is simply not in the mood to hit the local dance floor in the big city (or small town depending on where one lives) or one can’t decide which clothes to wear (if there are any), it’s high time to give Sony’s move system a go (or dust) with DanceStar Party Hits.

DanceStar Party Hits (PS3)
(UK 2012, developer: SCE London Studio, publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment, platform: PS3)

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Dance the day, night or morning away with some hip tunes and flashy videos.

The story is in the music
Writing about dance games is easy when it comes to storytelling. Except maybe for the Lego Rockband series or the quirky rhythm-action games like Parappa The Rapper or UmJammer Lammy, there’s usually not much of a plot with characters to be found. DanceStar Party Hits completely disposes of both and simply offers a setlist which has all the songs unlocked right from the start. The meat of the game is the variety of music on offer. Although most are of a radio-friendly pop, hip-hop and dance nature, there are also some tracks which will please the nostalgic ear. The full list is the following (not including all the typical DLC packages which can be bought and added to the game later):

Aloe Blacc – I Need A Dollar
Avicii – Levels
Avril Lavigne – What The Hell
Basement Jaxx – Romeo
Boney M – Rasputin
Calvin Harris feat. Kelis – Bounce
Cher Lloyd feat. Mike Posner – With Ur Love
Cheryl Cole – Fight For This Love
Chris Brown feat. Benny Benassi – Beautiful People
Dev feat. The Cataracs – Bass Down Low
Dizzee Rascal feat. Calvin Harris & Chrome – Dance Wiv Me
DJ Fresh – Gold Dust
Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl
Jay Sean Featuring Nicki Minaj – 2012 (It Ain’t The End)
Jessie J – Who’s Laughing Now?
JLS feat. Dev – She Makes Me Wanna
John Paul Young – Love Is In The Air
Kaoma – Lambada
KC & The Sunshine Band – Get Down Tonight
Kelis – Trick Me
Kelly Clarkson – Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)
Labrinth feat. Tinie Tempah – Earthquake
Lady Gaga – The Edge Of Glory
MIA – Paper Planes
Nelly Furtado – Maneater
Nicki Minaj – Super Bass
One Direction – What Makes You Beautiful
Paula Abdul – Opposites Attract
Pixie Lott – Boys And Girls
Reel 2 Real feat. The Mad Stuntman – I Like To Move It
Rizzle Kicks – Mama Do The Hump
Run DMC – It’s Tricky
Sak Noel – Loca People
Salt N Pepa – Push It
Selena Gomez & The Scene – Naturally
Taio Cruz – Break Your Heart
The Beach Boys – Fun Fun Fun
The Pussycat Dolls – Buttons
The Wanted – Glad You Came
Urban Cookie Collective – The Key, The Secret (Dancing Diva 7″ edit)

As can be seen, the emphasis really is on trendy dancing, smooth RNB moves rather than classic headbanging (although combining heavy metal and harder alternative rock with the Move system would make for an interesting concept). But gamers who’d usually prefer to stay away from mainstream music shouldn’t dismiss the package altogether, because they’d miss a lot of fun regardless of personal tastes.

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Learn by dancing
The gameplay is rather simple in theory, but like most music games, requires both a keen eye on the actions on screen and a sense of rhythm. Waving the Motion-Controller aimlessly around is just as successful as sitting on the couch without doing anything. Thus full body movement comes into play, so much so that, depending on the chosen song, one also has to move from left to right, backwards and forwards, up and down, with some arm and leg twisting, making it a pretty exhausting experience, although there’s a way to choose a shorter version for each song (which also means having a lower end score). It’s of course questionable how many of the body movements on screen are actually picked up by the PS3 camera, as only the Move-Controller is important, but imitating the virtual counterpart definitely helps. Apart from the different human dancers, there are also some visual signposts, although these can be quite difficult to follow as they quickly disappear until the next move starts.

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Like real dancing, practice makes perfect, and as there’s no real tutorial, the only way to progress in the game is to learn the moves by heart. Diving into a song without knowing it will result in awkward situations when one is simply overwhelmed by the sheer amount of actions, even in the easiest difficulty. It’s possible to play specific sections of a song in Dance Class to help trying out the most difficult parts. What’s even more casual-friendly is that, unlike Rockband and Guitar Hero, failing a song is impossible. Except for a low score, one can dance until the end without being forced to restart.

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Dancing together
Obviously, the real fun begins when playing together with or against friends. Either as a team with another player performing different actions or in Battle mode with both competing against each other with the same actions on screen, much sweat and laughter ensues. Especially when the camera takes random pictures and videos, it’s always a joy to see one’s gestures and facial expressions. It’s simply a lot of fun playing together even if one is usually not well-versed in the art of dancing in general. The selection of songs also influence the Dance Partner mode in which one is sometimes forced to face the other or change positions. This can obviously lead to some room and coordination problems, but more often to more fun.

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Choose your music styles
Something even more interesting is the creation of one’s own dance routines with the Dance Studio. By recording movements throughout each individual songs with the camera, these videos can be saved and then used in the main game, giving it a much more personal touch. Of course it would have been nice to add more effects to the video, and editing isn’t possible either, but it’s still a neat addition.

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Another interesting idea is the Dance Workout which allows the player (after typing in his body weight) performing a series of songs without a break. Not aiming for specific points but for calories which are burned during this exercise is certainly another motivating and recommendable feature, although some people will probably never bother using this mode, because it’s even more exhausting than simply choosing one’s favorite songs.

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Longer play sessions without the fitness touch can still be started in the Party mode which is suitable for 2-20 people, although this doesn’t mean so many can be on screen at the same time (although this would be a very interesting idea for crowd surfing scenes), but rather working in teams. Playing online isn’t possible, but this is understandable, because it’s really a local party game, although there are some ways to incorporate the community idea with the help of the Galleries.

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Represent and share
The Galleries don’t only save one’s own videos, but also feature other people’s dancing moves. It works a bit like YouTube in which one can rate them and watch the most professional or most amateurish (and more fun) endeavors. It’s obviously up to anyone if he or she wants to let other people see this, but it’s a nice distraction and maybe a way to learn something from the more advanced and serious players.

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Presentation-wise, DanceStart Party Hits plays it very safe with the original music videos filling one part of the screen, while the other part presents a human instructor video (which can also be unintentionally funny depending on the clothes or facial expressions). Other than this, there’s only a bit of flashy background visuals, but no fancy or elaborate graphics like in the Rock Band or Guitar Hero franchise. As the eyes of the players are usually on the action on the screen in concert with the body movement and the spectators typically have a blast watching their friends dance, more animations and special effects would probably have made it all a bit too overwhelming and distracting anyway.

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In a Move nutshell
Of course, all the modes, set lists and other flashy videos aren’t the most important thing in a rhythm-game. The pertinent question is: Does the Move control system actually work? It does. Except for some instances when the actions on screen are so fast that the camera is unable to cope with the input as much as the player has trouble keeping up, it’s pretty accurate. Not having Kinect to compare it to, it’s safe to say that the integration of the Move-Controller is satisfyingly fun, even if there are some song sections with clapping hands or getting near a team player which can result in some unfortunate accidents if one isn’t careful enough.

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A fun party game with groovy tunes
With DanceStar Party Hits, SCE London Studio presents a nice dance alternative to Microsoft’s Kinect experience. The Move system works quite well and the song selection is satisfyingly comprehensive. Even if the modes and presentation lack some identity and the music’s reliance on contemporary radio tunes can feel derivative and turn off some people, the title is an accomplished party game and even succeeds in letting alternative rock and indie fans have fun if they’re willing to overcome their shyness or coolness.

Rating: 8/10

Buy the PS3 game on
Amazon Germany
Amazon UK
Amazon USA (UK Import)

Official Website

If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every Facebook LIKE or comment is appreciated :).

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About nufafitc

Being an avid gamer, cinemaniac, and bookworm in addition to other things the internet and new media present, I'm also very much into DIY music, rock and pop in particular. Writing short or longer pieces about anything that interests me has always made me happy. As both an editor for German website "Adventure-Treff" and UK website "Future Sack", I like to write reviews and news about recent developments in the movies, games and book industry.
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