We love an underdog here at Dealspwn, so when it comes to mixing it up with the biggest publishers in a crowded market and emerging triumphant, we have to tip our caps to Nordic Games. Their We Sing series has garnered an impressive fanbase and critical reception, and building on this success, they'll be entering the glutted dancing scene with We Dance. Thankfully situated away from the judgemental eyes of my peers in the snug anonymity of the Concourse meeting rooms, I was able to throw my inhibitions to the wind and have a go at their work in progress.
An impressive track list sporting 40 varied songs (including Slam by Pendulum, pleasingly) will help We Dance to stand out from the crowd, but with Ubisoft's Just Dance 2 breathing down their necks, Nordic have strived to create a unique experience. To this end, players will have the choice of using Wiimotes to control the action (a la Just Dance), a traditional Dance Pad (a la Dance Dance Revolution)... or both at the same time. This might sound like a recipe for distaster, but believe it or not, it's actually the closest thing to real dancing on the Wii.
Let's get some of the more conventional details out of the way first. We Dance propagates the slick and stylish interface of its predecessors, using a selection of at-a-glance tiles on colourful minimalist backgrounds. This makes navigation an absolute breeze, as well as lending a feel of solid professionalism to a genre that typically relies on aggravating kid-friendly gimmicks. However, a lot of the screen still goes unused and we're not entirely sure why the icons aren't much bigger. The different modes can all be intuitively accessed with a few small flicks and clicks of the Wiimote, including the Dance School tutorial selection and the multiplayer party games.
Buoyed up by my reputation as the world's worst best videogame journalist dancer, however, I wasn't going to waste time on tutorials. The rep booted up Slam, to demonstrate the 'Easy Mode' that solely uses the Wiimote. The experience was as energetic and embarassing as you'd expect, though frankly, it feels less like dancing than a motion-controlled 'Simon Says' minigame in the vein of Warioware: Smooth Moves. This is a common problem with the genre, and luckily, We Dance was about to lock it down.
Next up was the Dance Mat mode, and from the off, it was clear that the peripheral has been built for much lighter (and probably more attractive) players than my bulky self. The Star Mat feels solid enough, but my weight was unfortunately enough to send the mat sliding across the floor during particularly physical routines. However, any misgivings were soon forgotten as I was introduced to the new GUI. The vertically-scrolling arrows of yesteryear are a thing of the past, and instead, the mat is represented as a box with command arrows moving three-dimensionally towards the player. This provides the dual focus of visually representing both timing and spacial location - and in less technical terms, allowed me to boogie down with much more confidence and accuracy than the likes of DDR.
Finally it was time to combine the two control methods. Despite sliding all over the shop (seriously, Nordic need to look into methods of securing the dance pad to the floor) the experience is the closest thing to real dancing that you can currently get on the Wii. Hand movements are a lot more forgiving than dance mat commands, which allows you to focus on the footwork and keep an eye on the dancing silhouette for the upper body commands. Once you've got the hang of it - and worked your way past any hangups you might have - it actually feels like a real dance routine. Because it is. Nordic don't have the visual recognition of Kinect or Playstation Move, but using the resources available on Nintendo's console, they've managed to provide the next best thing.
Just Dance 2 is soon going to have a fierce new competitor. We Dance is slicker, more versatile and feels more authentic than Ubisoft's offering, and frankly, I'm looking forward to humiliating myself in the comfort and convenience of my own lounge. Because tonight... on this small planet... we're going to rock civilization.