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Dance Dance Revolution Universe

Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Rhythm/ Party/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Dance Dance Revolution Universe is the first game in the series to show up on a now-gen console. It doesnít do much to shake up the series, though at the same time, thereís really no reason to reinvent the wheel. So, while the game does stick to the formula found in past games, DDR Universe is still worth a look.

It wouldnít be a DDR review without first mentioning the gameís soundtrack. Much of Dance Dance Revolution Universe's soundtrack has a heavy techno-flavor, though it does manage to hit a number of other music tastes as well. Some of the highlights include a remix of Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride" and Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight", as well as Chris Brown's "Run It" and the requisite Kylie Minogue and Chemical Brothers songs. There are even a few tracks to appease everyone's inner-geek, including a remix of the Castlevania theme.

All total, there are over 70 songs included on the game, many of which need to be unlocked. A few songs are available for download on the Live Marketplace for about 100 points a pop, which is about a dollar each. On one hand, having new tracks available is great, though it does feel like a cheap shot since many of the downloadable tracks are already on the disc.

Each song is accompanied by visuals. Many are stylized CGI/ Anime weirdness, while others are just a bunch of flashing lights and other visuals. Most of the time the visualization doesnít interfere with gameplay, though a few times the flashing lights can become too distracting. Some songs are accompanied by a video. These aren't as distracting as the CGI visualizations, though the video that accompanies Cascadaís "Everytime We Touch" is just unfair. Maybe its just me, but it is hard to concentrate on hitting the right patterns while a short-skirted blonde shimmies and slinks around in the background.


Gameplay:

Dance Dance Revolution Universe is meant to bring newcomers into the game, which is evident by the inclusion of Basic mode, which everyone needs to complete before jumping into the gameís main modes. After completing this mode, you can then jump into other modes like Party, Master, Challenge and Quest.

Though each of these modes has its own quirks, they all stick to the same familiar mechanics found in the rest of the games. As music plays, arrows begin to scroll to the top of the screen. Once they reach the top, you step on the corresponding arrows on the included dance mat. The additions that come with each play mode are minor. In Challenge, youíll have to meet certain requirements, while in Quest you face a series of dancers as you make your way across the country.

There isnít much to the Quest mode, other than to obtain unlockables. However, the mode is poorly planned and pretty confusing. The point of the contest is to fill up a meter, which requires you to complete several songs in order to do. If a song ends and the meter isnít filled, you get a "Failed" message, adding unneeded frustration. Some contests include a "Fanbase" meter that drains between songs. Thereís potential within the mode, though better in-game documentation would help.

Two of the more interesting modes are Workout and Edit. Workout isnít so much its own mode, as it is a mode that overlays the other modes. All it really does is keep track of your steps and approximate how many calories you burned while playing. In Edit, you can customize dance steps for songs.

Party mode isnít all it is cracked up to be, mainly because it requires a substantial financial investment. Not only does the mode require the purchase of three additional dance mats, but it also requires the purchase of a USB hub so youíll have enough USB ports to plug the mats into. Then, of course, you may also have to expand your living room so you can fit all four pads. Thankfully, if youíre the competitive type, online multiplayer is also available.


Difficulty:

Again, Dance Dance Revolution Universe is clearly meant as a tool to try and pull newcomers into the game, while still appeasing hardcore followers. The introductory Basic mode does a good job of getting newbies up to speed while serving as a good warm-up for vets, as well as a way to break in the new 360 dance mat.

Every song includes multiple difficultly levels, so even if you arenít rhythmically-inclined, you can still enjoy all of the songs. An on-screen dancer shows up during the Basic mode to help show you how you should move your feet Ė which is a nice bonus. On harder levels, the steps become more complicated and should offer a nice, challenging workout.


Game Mechanics:

Dance Dance Revolution Universe comes with a dance pad which connects through the USB port. The padís quality is on par with past pads, though for some reason I have to put a couple of weights on this one to keep the side from bunching up during games. I mainly had problems with the left side, which would fold up and make steps hard to hit, or start hitting steps for me. This was a rare occurrence, and generally the only times I didnít get a response was when I lost my spot in the center of the mat.

DDR Universe is every bit as good as previous games. It offers enough to get newcomers interested, while at the same time it gives 360-owning fans of the series the chance to face a growing list of new songs (for a price, of course), challenge other players online and even rack up a few Achievements.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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