Platform: Wii (Reviewed)
Developer: Nordic Games
Publisher: Nordic Games Publishing AB
We Dance is about to step on the toes of giants. After Konami's DDR franchise started to decline, Ubisoft's star rose into ascendancy with their best-selling smash hit Just Dance; dominating the dance floor on the Wii while leaving the Xbox 360 to the tender mercies of Harmonix. Can underdog Nordic Games possibly hope to compete in this horrifically competitive niche?
Well... yes, as it turns out. We Dance is primarily geared towards parties and fun dance sessions between friends, but its interesting combination of two very different input methods make it one of the most versatile dance games on the market.
We Dance contains a diverse setlist of forty tracks, which include a few bona fide classics, some unmistakeably epic 'choons' and what can only be described as some absolute howlers. Pendulum's outrageously crunchy anthem Slam will doubtlessly provide a go-to safe haven along with Florence + The Machine and Fatboy Slim... with comedy relief aptly provided by Barry Manilow and the infamous Macarena. Everyone will find something to like on the track list, which will soon be bolstered by downloadable content from the Wii marketplace.
After selecting a song and deciding how many players will be participating (up to a maximum of four in all modes), you'll have the choice of three control schemes. The most basic method of getting involved is using the Wiimote as a virtual baton and mimicking an on-screen silhouette as it grooves its way around the screen. It's a tried-and-tested technique, and one that works perfectly well with an impressive amount of precision. Points are awarded for accurately matching each phrase and routine of the song, which can be practised by themselves in the Dance School mode or in a practice session. As with most of the We Sing games, players will only receive positive reinforcement regardless of their actual performance, though high scores and percentage stats provide an adequate drive to excel - especially in multiplayer where beating your friends is what counts! The routines themselves are fairly physical and recognisable to fans as authentic.
The second, more advanced mode requires players to use the bundled Star Mat peripheral. It's a solid and well-made piece of kit, though it's admittedly designed for younger and lighter gamers than my 88 kilogram self. Heavier or taller players will frequently have to readjust the mat's position as it slips around the floor during more demanding routines.
These gripes aside, however, the Star Mat works incredibly well partly due to the split-second responsiveness of player inputs, but mainly because of an exceptionally intuitive interface. The different pressure zones are represented as a three dimensional grid on the screen, with prompts rising up out of the ether and allowing players to time exactly when to place their foot on each sector without losing their sense of spatial awareness. The days of scrolling arrows are long gone, and it's a change for the better. You'll subconsciously know where and when to stamp down on the pad, making for an incredibly accessible and engaging experience.
So far, so derivative, but We Dance proceeds to combine the two input methods for the advanced mode where players will need to time both Star Mat foot movements and Wiimote gestures simultaneously. With a little practice, it's literally the closest, most physically rewarding and most accurate depiction of actual dancing that you can find on the Wii.
Practice, however, is the operative word. Getting used to the information overload can be somewhat overwhelming at first, which isn't helped by the fact that the Star Mat Prompts appear at the bottom left of the screen - far away from the all-important dancing silhouette. It's almost impossible to keep both in view at once, and it makes the learning process much more frustrating than it needs to be.
As you'd expect, We Dance is an absolute blast in multiplayer, where it's perfectly suited to riotous big nights in and as a party diversion. The strong setlist and intuitive controls cater for practically anyone - and a selection of forgettable gesture-based party games provide an interesting change of pace. Newcomers can hit up the warmup sessions or Dance School tutorials in their own time.
In terms of presentation, We Dance falls back on the same intuitive menu layout as the We Sing series; including both the advantage of slick accessibility and the cons of occasional blandness. However, the new vibrant aesthetic and striking use of silhouettes on black backgrounds make this the most visually appealing of Nordic Games' lineup so far.
Besides the inconsiderate screen layout for advanced players, there are a couple of slight irritations that mar an otherwise impressive package. We Dance doesn't provide any useful feedback for players to correct their dancing, or any pointers that are unique to their mistakes or the song that they're having trouble with. This is fine for a casual audience, but more serious dancers will be disappointed with the lack of helpful advice. There's also a case to be made that We Dance fails to provide a sense of reward or progression - but since it's basically just a fun diversion to be rolled out at parties, it's not a dealbreaker by any means.
- Strong track selection
- Mechanically sound, versatile control schemes
- Plenty of content
- Inconsiderate advanced mode interface
- Doesn't provide useful advice about how to improve
- No progression, ultimately a forgettable party diversion
The Short Version: We Dance is one of the best dance games on the Wii; providing more songs, modes and versatility than its bigger-budget rivals. It's still just a shallow and casual experience at the end of the day, but if you're in the market, Nordic Games has delivered a surprisingly impressive proposition.