Dancing Stage Fusion
Dancemat plus EyeToy equals the ultimate way to make yourself look stupid?
Order yours now from Simply Games.
There are three ingredients for humiliating yourself beyond redemption in the world of gaming. One of them is a Dance Mat, curious for its association with the word 'dance', another is the EyeToy and its insistence on arm waving antics, and the other is the warble monitor otherwise known as the SingStar microphone. Fortunately in the case of Dancing Stage Fusion the humiliation merchants at Konami haven't quite yet spotted the unique possibilities of combining all three peripherals for the show-off pranksters out there. We can't imagine it's far off, but for now we'll have to make do with merely annoying our neighbours with our clown-footed marauding while being reminded of our lack of co-ordination with some cursory EyeToy support for the first time.
Five or more incarnations in, there's little more to be said about the Dancing Stage series that hasn't already been waxed elsewhere at length, so we'll keep this relatively brief if only to refresh you on what's new rather than explaining the symbol-matching concept for the gazillionth time. The most impressive aspect is undoubtedly the number of tracks in the game this time around - over 20 licensed past and present pop gems (and some predictably dreadful ones in there as you might expect), as well as some laughable Konami-penned Eurotrash to provide a slew of filler material.
I believe in a thing called co-ordination
On the plus side there's the likes of The Darkness' 'I Believe In A Thing Called Love', Electric Six's 'Danger! High Voltage!', Junior Senior's 'Move Your Feet', The Sugababes' 'Freak Like Me', Jamelia, and even some old '80s pop gems in the shape of Kim Wilde's 'Kids In America', Toni Basil's 'Mickey', and Sugarhill Gang's ' Rapper's Delight'. But it rapidly goes downhill thereafter, with some utterly anonymous recent Kylie tracks, and some reasonably hummable Daniel Puddingfield, Basement Jaxx and Moloko numbers, before it descends towards Hades itself with Pet Shop Boys' contender for the Worst Song Made In Human History otherwise known as 'Go West', and some unmentionable tat from those legends of the pop landscape Geri Halliwell, Atomic Kitten, Big Brovaz, Mint Royal. Then there are some hilariously bad Europop stompers from Sho-T (shouldn't that be Shi-T?), and other made-up rubbish from DJ Taka, D-Crew and various other jokers Konami paid two bob and packet of Polos for (or worse, composed in their studios; it's hard to even imagine there are living breathing human beings making music this bad and getting paid in any Earth-related currency for doing so).
Curiously, or perhaps even mercifully, Konami still persists in editing tracks down for reasons we can't quite fully understand (just give us the choice guys, like Sony does with Singstar), but at least it bothers giving us the music videos to stomp along to. In basic gameplay terms there's absolutely nothing discernibly new here; just everything you've come to know and love over the past six years, including the ability to dance with two Dance Mats at the same time, or against one another in versus mode (still no four player support for maximum insanity), and at eight levels of difficulty. And if dancing over three rounds isn't enough for you, there's always the keep fit Calorie Counter mode and even Non Stop if you're ODing on banned substances, or just mentally ill.
The promise of EyeToy support and ritual humiliation are dashed somewhat once you actually get to grips with it, and realise it extends to little more than a handful of fairly pointless mini-games tacked on to supply some semblance of novelty, as opposed to genuine integration with the main dish.
No really, don't watch me dance
The most obvious is Watch Me Dance, which basically replaces the music video that you normally dance along to with the trademark fuzzy digital representation of yourself making a disconnected mess of your limbs. Choose your track, choose your skill level, off you go, switch off when you realise what a horrible mess it looks. And no, it doesn't record your efforts, somewhat disappointingly, so there's not even the SingStar-style amusement factor of replaying your efforts, which seems like a big missed opportunity from here.
Elsewhere, the EyeToy fun is bizarrely shoe-horned in with the WishiWashi game from EyeToy Play making an ill-disguised appearance in the imaginatively titled 'Clear The Screen', which tasks you with, um, clearing the screen while you dance, which is about as much fun as it sounds, if you like waving and drowning. Magical Ball isn't even vaguely connected to Dancing Stage, being a rather rubbish Breakout clone, Hand And Feet combines the need to match the ascending symbols with periodic hand waving, while Coconut Panic supposedly involves shaking Coconut trees but doesn't even have the decency to work, despite much frantic arm waving. Ah well.
Some non-EyeToy mini-games also make it into the mix, which are potentially more fun, especially Hyper Dash, which is essentially a two-player sprint-based waggling game, only the waggling has been replaced by left and right on the dance mat and up to jump over the obstacles, and will probably be the major cause of the gaming-related injuries that the disclaimer warns of when you boot the thing up. 'Be careful not to slip and fall' it cautions. We're not surprised. Last, but not least, Feeding Time is a simple match-the-food-to-the-animal game, and quite fun for about 30 seconds before the desire to do something more interesting kicks in.
We can't blame Konami for trying to satisfy demand for new Dancing Stage games, but is it asking too much to implement EyeToy support more thoughtfully rather than rehashing the whole package with new songs and tacking on a few cheap mini-games in order to 'breathe new life' into the brand and allow it to sell the package at full price again? There's a world of ways Konami could integrate Karaoke, dancing and tie the whole thing together with EyeToy, but as yet all it appears to be doing is treading water with a rapidly tired looking package. On the other hand, if you've yet to sample a Dancing Stage game before then this is undeniably the best possible entry point for one of the ultimate stupidathons that gaming offers. Just think very carefully about purchasing if you're one of the many who've been seduced in the past - it really hasn't moved on a great deal.