When a genre of game saturates a market it's fair to expect that any new title coming out within that style of play must do a good impression of the leaders in the field, in the very least aping what made the forerunners successful, hopefully providing an interesting alternative. As the number of first person shooters, mini-game collections and cover-based action titles continue to grow, the overall quality within those niches has generally improved as developers realise that launching an inferior product will likely result in financial loss.
Nordic Games has followed up its perfectly functional karaoke We Sing series with a dancing entry it's calling We Dance. The concept itself is pretty novel, utilising both a Wii Remote to track the hands and a dance mat to determine the movement of the feet. Other than perhaps Dance Central on Kinect, this kind of "full body" approach to boogieing isn't really attempted elsewhere, giving it an initial aura of refreshing experimentation. It's a shame, then, that We Dance is plain terrible in execution.
Setting up the requisite hardware is a doddle, the mats jacking into the GameCube controller ports and requiring no calibration. Loading up a slickly designed and vibrantly coloured menu, you're first asked if you'd like to warm-up before playing to avoid pulling a muscle. After a few stretches and the profound realisation of just how out of shape you are, it's on to the real substance of the title, the We Dance mode in which you'll pick a track from an impressive catalogue and get your groove on.
Picking from Easy, Medium and Hard "difficulties" isn't as straightforward as you may think. In Easy you'll only have to worry about the Wii Remote, Medium just uses the dance mat and Hard has you strutting your stuff on both. Call us old-fashioned here at Nintendo Life but that's not "difficulty", they're “control options”, though the resultant increase in physical coordination will cause difficulty for some. Not having staggered levels of complexity for each track with the three configurations leads to some routines being completely out of your league to start off, with no facility to gradually build your proficiency. Songs will continue to play regardless of how well you do ,but for players that wish to improve it's irritating for a track to continue unabashed.
The game instructs you that it will monitor where you place your feet on the dance mat and how you move your hands to the on-screen dancer, but only one of these statements is true. The Bemani arrow-following of traditional dancing games is here, though instead of the precision of arrows flying vertically down, they emanate towards the screen, leaving you to judge for yourself what the game defines as perfect timing. Not that it has any right to make that decision, as the arrows make no attempt to follow the movements of your avatar, or even sync themselves to the beat in many cases.
However it's the tracking of the hands that We Dance claims to be doing that is a downright fib. It suggests that you should copy exactly what the character on screen is doing, yet there are two major flaws in this theory. The first is that you're given no forewarning of what the movement you should be doing next is, no indicator of whether you should be "raising the roof" or "doing the diva". The second is that the game is lying to you: it's not watching your exact movements, it's marking you on how in-time you can shake the Wii Remote to the rhythm. One sequence asks you to make a long, protracted circular sweep motion, the first occasion of which you'll copy and be awarded zero points. When you realise that you can just waggle the Remote in time with the beat and be awarded 1,000, the desire to learn and improve diminishes greatly.
Think about that for a second. This game asks you to mimic what's going on on the screen but penalises you for doing so, successful play involves stilted, off-beat country line dancing where you shake one hand constantly in time with the rhythm. That's not dancing, it's the video game equivalent of patting your head and rubbing your stomach.
The selection of tracks is a typically impressive bunch from the publisher, and 70s disco hits and current pop tunes make for a diverse and enjoyable listening experience. The accompanying music videos are less than ideal though: badly cropped and grainy, they further build upon the feeling that this is a sloppy, rushed product.
Nestled away are a couple of mini games too and though they're small in number they're ironically pretty strong. Games include running in place on the mat and then striking a pose to progress along a path and seeing how many barriers one can jump over in a single session. If the whole game had been this and not a clumsily designed dancing game, this review could be a lot kinder.
The most fun you'll have with We Dance is watching a low resolution video for MC Hammer's U Can't Touch This, which should succinctly sum up just how poor an effort this is. Disingenuous game design is the biggest fault here as We Dance is a title pretending it's something that it's not. It thinks it's a novel cross of DDR and Just Dance: in reality it's step-toe step-toe shovelware and a massive waste of £30.