Dance Central Spotlight review: body talk

Spotlight focuses on movement itself

Game Info
Box Art N/A
Platform Xbox One
Publisher Microsoft Studios
Developer Harmonix Music Systems
Release Date Sep 2, 2014

Dance Central Spotlight is the best dancing for dummies game I've ever played.

At $9.99, Spotlight is more of a one-off, quick-play game for Xbox One than a full title. Gone are the wacky plotlines and creative mini-games of Dance Central 3 — as is the expansive tracklist. Spotlight slices away the extra content to focus on two modes and 10 songs.

Variety isn't the spice of Spotlight. It's repetition — practicing and slowly mastering dances over time. Dance Central Spotlight perfectly engineers the experience that makes movement-based rhythm games fun: learning how to flail around your living room with style.

dance central spotlight review screen 1

Dance Central Spotlight is neatly split into two halves, the first of which focuses on working out. In fitness mode, I was able to set my weight and height, select a routine of varying difficulty and choose a duration ranging from 10 to 90 minutes. Each track puts emphasis on a different type of exercise, such as cardio or strength. I wasn't able to build a workout based on my playlist preferences, but cycling through unknown songs kept me alert and engaged.

Spotlight's fitness sessions were surprisingly tiring, even in small doses. As I danced, the Kinect tracked how many calories I burned based on my movements. I can't vouch for how effective my routines would be over a long period of time, but in the moment I felt as though I were getting a full workout — and days later, my muscles still felt sore.

The game's real allure, however, is in dancing. The tracks are recent (and popular) enough — ranging from Pharrell Williams' "Happy" to "Royals" by Lorde to "Titanium" by David Guetta — that the small selection still feels worthwhile. It's also possible to expand the game's tracklist by downloading additional songs for $1.99 each. If — like me — you care more about dancing to a few good songs you really love, DLC additions are a reasonable way to juice up a $10 game. But for players lusting after a wider variety or even every DLC song, it's a sizable hit on your wallet.

Most of my time in Dance Central Spotlight was spent repeating the same tracks — a choice I made happily. I'm an uncoordinated player, and I required a fair amount of coaching to learn the routines and feel comfortable with them. Despite the small selection, tracks had enough routine variance to keep me stimulated. Each song has eight unlockable dances; the more I played a song, the more routines I would gain access to.

Spotlight wants to help you learn even its most challenging routines, and that's what made my experience enjoyable. If I got lost or needed a breakdown for a complicated set, I could use the Kinect voice commands to practice specific moves mid-dance. Not only did this keep me from getting frustrated or giving up, but I always felt like I was making personal progress and not just waving my limbs around without purpose.

I always felt like I was making personal progress
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Dances with friends

Dance Central Spotlight offers a casual version of competitive dancing that I dig. The game tracks each player's individual score; though it doesn't make a big deal about who does better, it's an easy way to compete for bragging rights.

Even better is the ability to play with friends without the burden of skill level. My roommate and I were able to dance side-by-side to the same song with routines suited to our specific needs. While she cut our rug into ribbons, I ironed out my moves at novice pace.

Wrap Up:

Spotlight focuses on movement itself

If you've never played a Dance Central game before, Spotlight is a good place to start. It strips away the finesse of past games, the silly stories and the complex modes better used by skilled players, for a focus on movement itself. With a little help, it's an easy language to learn.

Dance Central Spotlight was reviewed using a download code provided by Harmonix. You can find additional information about Polygon's ethics policy here.

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8.0 Xbox One