Reviewed: September 19, 2006
Released: September 1, 2006
Ever gotten tired of the Dance Dance Revolution tracks and dreamed of playing DDR to music of your own choosing? Codemasters’ Dance Factory allows you to do just that. Dance Factory allows you to put in any CD you own and, using patent-pending technology; it generates the steps for you so that you can dance to unlimited tracks of your own choosing. Read on for more information on this innovative dance game.
Dance Factory incorporates an original idea into the tried-and-true traditional dance mat game: after loading the game onto your PS2, you can insert any music CD you own and choose any track, and the game will generate dance steps for you so that you can rock out to any music you like.
The game also includes some other standard dance game features, such as multiplayer/solo modes, a workout (“fitness”) mode, and an endurance mode; as well as some unusual features, such as the ability to call forth unique “creatures” from your CDs (a la Monster Rancher) to dance with you, or the Tetris-like puzzle game Cubrix that you can play while Dance Factory is "converting" songs from your CDs.
Well, like any Dance Dance Revolution veteran who has gotten tired of the same old songs or even disliked some of the tracks I was given, I found this idea intriguing, so I gave Dance Factory a go.
I started by dancing to the handful of included starter tracks provided with the game (only five tracks are included because the game assumes that you will make your own tracks by putting in your own music). The steps were fine, though uninspired, and included the occasional freeze arrow to break up the monotony – but I wasn’t daunted yet. Having gotten a feel for the game, I went all out and converted a number of tracks from various CDs—from Daft Punk to Yo-Yo Ma—to see how it would react.
The result? The steps generated weren’t much different from those that went with the starter songs, honestly, and after a few songs you start noticing that many of the patterns repeat from song to song. Granted, Daft Punk made for better dancing than Yo-Yo Ma (which was an odd dance experience, as much as that cellist rocks), but the strange part was that it didn’t feel much different from song to song. Unlike DDR, which includes fun dance steps that sometimes manage to imitate real dance moves, Dance Factory’s steps just felt like straight aerobic exercise.
I also tried all three difficulty levels included with Dance Factory, but I was not duly impressed with this, either. “Normal” is very easy compared to normal-mode in DDR, though it’s probably a bit more challenging than easy-mode in DDR. “Easy” is slightly simpler than “Normal,” but my guess is that if you can do the Dance Factory steps on Easy, you can probably also do them on Normal too, since they are not much different.
As for the “Pro” difficulty level – well, it’s not DDR on heavy-mode. Instead of increasing difficulty by generating more challenging step patterns or steps on unusual beats, Dance Factory’s Pro mode seems to basically be the Normal mode steps, except twice as fast, which renders some of the step patterns nearly impossible to actually perform. As a fairly capable DDR player who can usually handle the heavy-mode stuff, I found this to be pretty disappointing.
Moreover, the same difficulty mode is applied to both players, so both players must play on the same level. This wasn’t a problem for me, since I tested the game with someone of approximately equal skill, but the two players aren’t always at the same skill level, and Dance Factory doesn’t provide the flexibility of DDR, which allows each player to select his or her own difficulty mode when playing together with someone else.
That being said, Dance Factory isn’t as terrible a game as I may have unintentionally made it sound. For one, it’s a valiant effort at doing something new with the dance game genre, and it does succeed in creating danceable steps to any song you please. My main complaints are as a seasoned DDR player who prefers the complexity of preplanned dance steps that can only be achieved in a game where each track has already been specially choreographed. Because of this, I probably have not enjoyed this game as much as many other players will.
For beginning dance game players, however, the game could be great fun because it provides such doable dance steps (to 100% customizable music, no less) at the Easy and Normal levels, whereas DDR seems to have a much steeper learning curve. As such, it’d probably be a more accessible party activity than DDR, since more people will be able to play it and enjoy it.
Meanwhile, the Creature mode is somewhat diverting. Using an idea first pioneered in Monster Rancher, Dance Factory can create a unique creature from any music CD that you insert into your PS2. These creatures can be purchased with points you earn by dancing. The creatures I encountered ranged from angry purple gorillas and cheery red alligators to boxy robots and gangly dancing girls, all of which may be accessorized further as you earn more points and buy optional items. You can also use these points to buy additional backdrops to dance to.
Plus, the game gives you a number of neat little options that may make Dance Factory a fun party game. You can choreograph your own steps if you don’t like the ones they give you, and you can play as DJ. There is even a tournament mode that allows for up to 16 different dancers, if you have enough friends who want to play.
The graphics in Dance Factory are passable, but not exceptional. Most importantly, the arrows could be displayed a little more clearly; they are smaller than DDR arrows and harder to see on the screen, which makes it more difficult to concentrate on dancing. Fortunately, though, the text is very clear and crisp – I like it when you accidentally get displaced on the mat, and the game tells you to “check your feet.”
Less importantly, the background graphics look all right and creatures are pretty cute, but they also look fairly simplistic and generic. It’s all fine, but don’t expect to be blown away.
The game sounds themselves are pretty average, also. There is no obnoxious announcer or crowd praising or dissing your dancing as there is in DDR, but some of the game’s sound effects are admittedly still a little annoying because they tend to disrupt the music. It’s not terrible, though, and I still gave the sound an 8 because most of the sounds coming from the game are your own music, and who can really complain about that?
Retailing for $39.99, Dance Factory is a great value if you enjoy the game, as it provides for an unlimited selection of music. Even in this day and age of MP3 music, players can always burn their MP3s to audio CD format and go at it. Sounds like a good deal to me.
While Dance Factory lacks the complexity and polish of Dance Dance Revolution’s well-choreographed dance steps, it makes an admirable attempt at pushing the boundaries of the dance game genre by making it possible for players to dance to any music CD in their collections.
Though this game may not appeal as much to dance game veterans who prefer the more complicated step patterns and higher challenge level offered by the DDR games, other players might greatly enjoy Dance Factory’s straightforward steps, customizability, and playability.