Version tested: PlayStation 3
The world may have had enough of games involving plastic guitars and rubber drum kits, but that doesn't mean the music genre is dead. Dancing titles like smash hit Just Dance and Kinect-enabled Dance Central are making sure it's stayin' alive. But is there room for one more, or is SingStar Dance a step too far?
From the moment you boot up the game it's obvious this is a much slicker, more self-conscious offering than Ubisoft's effort Just Dance. There's a glossy intro movie starring a trendy man in a checked shirt (for the love of God, men, don't any of you own any other clothes?) and a hot lady who looks like a Latina Louise Redknapp. There she is again on the title screen, gob open, mic aloft, daring the world's filthy-minded Photoshoppers to do their worst.
Just as with regular SingStar you can play alone or with friends, competitively or co-operatively. You can battle it out online with people from your Friends list. And you can visit the SingStore to download extra tracks. At the time of writing, this wasn't worth the effort - there aren't any extra SingStar Dance tunes available.
Luckily there are enough great songs on the disc to keep you going until Sony releases the first update. There's a decent mix of classic floor-fillers (U Can't Touch This, I Like To Move It), contemporary hits (Poker Face, Hey Ya!) and golden oldies (I Want You Back, Celebration). Personal favourites include Sir Mix A Lot's Baby Got Back, for obvious reasons, and Day 'N' Nite, for the reason the video was filmed in the Budgens down Lordship Lane and the bloke behind the counter says Kid Kudi is a nice man.
In the Just Dance games, as fans will know, there are no music videos - just stylised footage of dancers performing the moves you have to copy. I can't say I've ever minded this. The dancers are great, their routines are excellent and their silly wigs and outfits are good fun. In SingStar Dance, all the songs are performed by the original artists and accompanied by the proper videos. The dancer you're supposed to copy appears in miniature on the right hand side of the screen. It's a bit like watching Top of the Pops with sign language.
You can see the dancers' facial features, which is a shame in some cases as they don't seem to be enjoying themselves very much. It's hard to let loose to Mr Boombastic when the person you're supposed to be copying displays all the joyful exuberance of a man taking a broken hoover back to Comet.
When it comes to background viewing, you have a choice of the proper music video or the PlayStation Eye feed. This can be a hard call. Opt for the video and you could end up disheartened – trying to pull off moves like Nicole Scherzinger while watching her actually do them just makes you wish you were hot like her and able to make your elbows do that. Pick the camera feed and you've got a constant reminder of just how ridiculous you look. Nicole it is then.
To play you hold the Move controller in your right hand and copy the dancers, and points are awarded according to how closely you mimic their moves. Because this is a SingStar game, you can also plug in a mic and have someone sing along while you dance. Technically, you can attempt to sing and dance at the same time. (Do not attempt this. If Cheryl can't sing live while dancing at half-seven on a Sunday evening, you can't do it at 4am on a Saturday after three pints of Pinot Grigio and a Jagerbomb.)
As with Just Dance, there's a bit of trickery going on – the dancers instruct you to move your whole body but the game is only really registering the movements of your right arm. However, the Move controller does a better job of detecting your motions than the Wii remote.
The catch is that SingStar Dance isn't quite pick-up-and-play. You have to calibrate the controller at the start of each session, and every time someone else wants to join in. Plus you have to make sure everyone's standing in the right position for the camera to register their moves.