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January 09, 2005

Better Living through Dance Mat

One of my Christmas presents was the new dance mat game, Dancing Stage Fusion. I know I've written about dance mat lots of times before, but I thought you needed a review of the new one. Konami have responded to criticisms of the previous Dancing Stage games -- which are Euro editions of the game Dance Dance Revolution -- by producing a game aimed to appeal to all the several constituencies of dance mat fans.

For the serious dancers, we have more and harder dances, including a highly configurable 'endless' setting, where you can modify the arrows so that they appear late, or fade out, or turn up in unexpected places, or, for the real obsessives, don't appear at all. My favourite of these is 'dark', where the arrows appear, but not the arrows at the top of the screen that show you when to play. You just have to use your innate sense of rhythm to work out when to step. As you can imagine, I'm rubbish at this. There's also the terrific 'mission mode', where you have to dance with specific objectives in mind. 100 missions run all the way from 'do an easy dance without dying', through 'do this one with between 4 and 6 million points', to 'do this one without any help from arrows at all.'

But as well as all the stuff for serious dancers, there's plenty for beginners too. There are beginner steps for all the music, 21 'real songs' with their original videos (as well as 33 songs just for DDR), and lessons to get you going. I think my favourite of the licensed songs this time is 'Mickey' by Toni Basil; the steps are great and it's a song that's just the right sort of speed and style for dance mat. For families it's possible for the first time to play 2-player with one player on beginner and the other on higher levels, and on the beginner setting there's no 'game over' -- great for the four-year-old who thinks it's just a new version of whack-a-rat.

As well as beginners and addicts, there are two more classes of DDR players -- those looking for a workout, and those who see it as a party game. Just playing the game does perfectly well for a workout, but you can set workout settings, watch your calories, monitor weight and progress while playing the regular game. This is a much better workout mode than before, though I'm still waiting for a calorie readout on doubles play.

The final set of new features are aimed at people who just want a laugh. The game finally has EyeToy integration, so you can watch yourself dance or play minigames where you dance with your hands and feet, or have to wipe off the screen while dancing to see the arrows. There are even a couple of games where you don't dance but use the dance mat as a controller for different games.

The game costs 25, or less by mail order. It's by far the best of the UK dancing stage games, with tons to entertain all types of player. And as you play you unlock more features; typically with one unlock for every five songs; a dancer, a costume, a song, or even a hidden mode. This is great to get you started on the road to dance addiction. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to practice doubles.

Posted by Alison Scott at January 9, 2005 11:51 AM


Oh damn... I appear to have ordered yet another dance game.

It's 19.99 on Amazon if you're prepared to take the slow delivery.

Posted by: Max at January 10, 2005 12:31 PM

That did it. I finally gave in and came back from today's shopping mission with 1 x PS2 (the new slimline and generally gorgeous version) packaged with an 8MB card and extra controller; a dance mat and four varied games including Dancing Stage Fusion. I am now knackered, and I'm still only in the lessons - this is slightly more complicated than North West clog morris. I hope you understand that this is all your fault!

Posted by: Feòrag at January 13, 2005 08:33 PM

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