Since the launch of the Kinect, no other genre has been more successful on the device than the ever-popular dance genre. While simple in concept, these titles have delivered the goods time and time again, letting fans jam out to their favorite artists to the best of their ability. Country music honestly has a fanbase of it’s own though, and with the millions of Kinect units now in the wild, it was only a matter of time before we seen a tribute of sorts delivered to those who crave to boot scoot to their own flavor of music. That is exactly what Country Dance All Stars is all about, but does it leave it’s mark in the now over-saturated market, or is it just another dance game that even the most famished country music fans can ignore? Here is my review for Country Dance All Stars for the Xbox 360 Kinect.
I really don’t have to introduce the whole point of Country Dance All Stars, as the name of the game states exactly what players can find on this shiny little disc. Dancing to some of the biggest country music songs of all time with the Kinect sensor tracking all of your own movements as you match the actions seen on the screen. Once you are actually playing the game though, things become fairly obvious quickly that this dancing romp only has it’s one purpose on display, and never takes the focus away from the genre of music it’s built around to take any other risks. Now, that may sound a bit bland to those of you who crave a ton of extras in your music games, but there are just enough modes included to make this one worth checking out, with all of those special techniques on display that you could only see at a hoedown.
The first mode to choose from is the very straight-forward “Play” Mode, which has players simply dance along with one track and attempt to match every move as it is shown on the screen. As the avatars perform moves, all the player has to do is mirror along with what is shown, while little cards pop in add assistance to show just how to pull each technique off successfully. The main goal to keep in mind while boogieing down is to avoid missing any steps and to get as many “Good” or “Great” rankings as possible in the process, which in turn raises your overall score. It’s nothing elaborate and a little too forgiving, but thankfully, it works and I rarely had a moment where the Kinect failed to pick up my own movements successfully.
During my outing with Country Dance 2 last year, my main complaint was that it took almost no effort to win at the game, as the most work that was needed was to simply waggle the Wiimote to the beat. That was my biggest worry going into to All Stars, and after many moments of just standing still just to see what would follow, I can easily say that this title demands your physical actions in order to be victorious, but still provides a good time to all rookies involved by never punishing the player for their own mistakes. Yes, you still need to mimic all of actions shown to get the best result at the end of a song, but All Stars seems to be content with being simple, and never puts any emphasis of winning over just having fun. Those who crave for a challenge might not be impressed, but the “accessible to all” nature of the game is sure to win those over who were born with two left feet.
If the 30+ routines and songs don’t fulfill your need for variety, you’ll be happy to know that some older modes from the franchise have been included to mix things up a bit in Country Dance All Stars. Freeze mode works exactly as it did on the Wii, but has the player completely freeze their entire body at the right time in order to score. These freezes are done at complete random and can catch you during some crazy poses, but much like the entire game, is a lot of fun to play with friends involved. Perfection mode is also as it sounds, and only scores movements that are considered “GREAT”. To add in a bit more involvement, players can also choose to add in lyrics to sing along while they dance, which is a light but effective touch in bringing about some extra interactivity for those involved. The centerpiece of the entire country dancing experience comes in Normal Mode, and has players pick out their own setlist of 3, 5, or 10 songs and then play them out until the finish.
As solid as Country Dance All Stars is gameplay wise, it’s biggest flaws can be found in the rather boring presentation shown throughout the game. The avatars definitely fit into the whole country fried theme, but lack any charm to provide much entertainment to onlookers. I know most dance titles just feature generic models to begin with, but these western heroes of the dance floor are a bit hard to enjoy and look a bit too over the top when it comes to their southern attires. Thankfully, the animations these generic models perform are more up to par, and flow quite well with every song, making each selection feel unique as players get a completely different routine with each track they pick. Backgrounds are decently crafted as well, setting the stage for whatever song you may be playing, and there is thankfully quite a few of these opry-styled environments mixed in to please your eyes as you dance to your heart’s content.
Music is of course the biggest thing this title has going for it, and if you are a fan of any type of country music period, you will be pleased to know that Country Dance has covered all bases with this outing. Younger fans are sure to enjoy seeing more modern stars featured such as Blake Shelton, Miley Cyrus, and Carrie Underwood, while older players will surely have a nostalgia trip, dancing away to the likes of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and Brooks & Dunn’s “Boot Scootin’ Boogie”. These licensed tracks all sound clear and vivid, and with the large quantity of artists and variety involved overall, no one can complain that High Voltage didn’t pull out all their cards when it came to bringing in the heavy-hitting talent.
At first glance, Country Dance All Stars doesn’t look like it would live up to any of the Dance Centrals or other dance games that have already graced the Kinect. Underneath it’s rough exterior though is a simple yet enjoyable experience, jammed packed with all of the tunes that country music fans have been dying to shake their belt-buckles to. Yeah, you could easily say that the competitors have more to offer in terms of features by comparison, but High Voltage have made it clear that this franchise is not just about dancing, but also about having fun and being easily accessible to all that choose to join in, which is the exact type of experience that the Kinect is built for.