Microsoft Studios’ full-body motion-control device is benefiting from a great deal of support this winter. After a year on store shelves it seems that third parties are finally ready to support the device with brand new franchises and adaptations of existing ones. Alongside familiar videogame names such as Rabbids and Forza come some more commercial properties, one such title being Grease Dance from 505 Games.
Following the success of Grease: The Video Game on Wii, Grease Dance is a brand new title developed specifically for Xbox 360 Kinect. It cannot be played without the device in any manner, but does offer more than the traditional videogame dancing mechanic alone. Players still move in accordance with the on-screen instructions and avatars, learning specific moves and building routines, but there’s more to Grease Dance than a simple dressing-up of Ubisoft’s Just Dance in 1950’s attire.
The main gameplay mode is simply entitle ‘Dance’, and throws players straight into the action. Pick a song, get dancing. There’s no tutorial or warm-up section, but of course Grease Dance does start with the easiest selection of songs. To unlock more challenging dance routines and mini-games players must complete the previous selection, slowly building a repertoire of songs not just of those performed by the cast, but also tracks that featured on the soundtrack to the original motion picture but may not be traditionally considered part of the Grease library. It’s an interesting design decision, and one that will surely please more than just the core Grease audience.
Another interesting addition to the familiar dancing videogame formula is that of the Karaoke mode. A separate microphone is required, which is a little disappointing considering Kinect’s built-in voice receiver, but nonetheless the gameplay mode is a welcome addition: after all those years of Rock Band releases and bespoke karaoke titles, it’s more than likely that most interested parties will already have invested in a USB microphone anyway. The Karaoke mode allows for dancers as well as singers to be scored, allowing for up to four players to play simultaneously. Of course, the scoring system works just as it does in the aforementioned Rock Band, which is near-identical to any other karaoke videogame on the market, but again it’s the selection of available songs that differentiates Grease Dance from the pack.
Party Play is a multiplayer gameplay mode designed for quick drop-in/drop-out gameplay sessions with friends of differing skill levels. Light-hearted competition can be found here, but it’s really intended as a design to encourage everyone in the room to get onto their feet. It’s an ‘anything goes’ gameplay mode in which any tracks or mini-games unlocked in the Dance or Karaoke modes are available, and are randomly selected for players to take part in.
The mini-games themselves can be found on the ‘Extras’ option on the main menu, along with clips from the original motion picture that the player unlocks through the Dance gameplay mode. Eight mini-games are available, ranging drastically in their quality, though they will provide ample entertainment if considered nothing more than a minor distraction; as the name ‘mini-game’ suggests.
The technical quality of Grease Dance is far in excel of what might be considered the average for such a title. A relatively low budget and a licence not aimed at the core demographic usually leaves the impression that the videogame will be full of half-baked ideas and inconsistencies, but nowhere in Grease Dance is this ever the case. The visual design is remarkable, maintaining the character of the original motion-picture elegantly despite its cartoon aesthetic, and the decision to include smaller characters and locations will only further please the fans. The fact that the original soundtrack hasn’t be included – all the songs featured in Grease Dance are cover versions, though it must be said, pretty accurate covers – is more likely a budget constraint than a design decision, and is an issue that will surely be overlooked by most.
Grease Dance isn’t alone in the dancing videogame line-up for Kinect this winter, but while Dance Central 2 may be technically superior and Just Dance 3 has already proven popular with a mainstream audience, neither title has such a charming personality as Grease Dance. 505 Games’ adaptation of the motion-picture packs so much character into its dancing agenda that even gamers who aren’t particularly invested in dancing videogames will struggle not to get involved when Grease Dance becomes the focal point of an evening’s entertainment, and for any Grease fans, there will be many such evenings.