Release Date: December 4, 2007
When I received DanceDanceRevolution: Universe 2 for review, my initial thought was that my editor should have sent along a video camera to record my awkward flailing and inevitable bruised tailbone. I guarantee the video would have made this the most viewed article in the history of WorthPlaying. However, I had no such camera, so you'll just have to do your best, dear reader, to imagine a 6-foot-2-inch, 215-pound man tripping, breathing heavily, and sweating profusely trying to figure out where Konami hid the fun in the latest DDR game.
Now, I like to think of myself as a fairly accomplished rhythm game player. I've tackled every Guitar Hero title, as well as Rock Band, on Expert difficulty, and I wasn't afraid to lay down my little plastic dance pad and bust a move. You see, I am quite an accomplished white boy, and I can break out The Sprinkler and The Shopping Cart with the best of them. Apparently, that's not the kind of dancing the developers had in mind, as the game had me so crossed up and lost that I was quickly parked back on the couch, trying to figure out what happened — pretty much like every time I asked a girl on a date when I was in school.
What I'm trying to say is that Universe 2 is tough, and newcomers to the series are not welcome. The title tries to take you by the hand and guide you through with lots of tutorials and a Beginner difficulty, but as soon as you take off the training wheels, it all falls apart. The jump between the Beginner and Basic difficulty levels is as big as they come, and while you may have been owning the mat when you started off, it doesn't take long for Universe 2 to utterly humble you. In the single-player mode, I got completely stuck on the third challenge and was never able to move on. I know this isn't supposed to be an easy game, but there really needs to be something bridging the gap between embarrassing ease and ankle-shattering difficulty.
While new dancers are scorned, old hands at the DDR series will happily jump right back into the game. Party mode contains all of the old favorites vets have come to expect, as well as the joy that comes with jumping on Xbox Live and stomping the yard against some punk who thinks he's got skills. In addition to the multiplayer and online options, the game also throws a couple of single-player modes your way. Quest mode puts you in a number of clubs where you must meet certain objectives in order to win cash and play new venues. The problem is, there's no real driving force behind this mode, and the rewards are paltry at best. Basically, you can use your cash to buy new clothes for your avatar … and that's it. In addition, the title introduces Adventure mode, which presents you with increasingly difficult challenges as you climb the ladder. However, this mode suffers from the same issues as the game at large, with the challenges quickly becoming so difficult that only those with the fanciest footwork will be able to even get close to completing it.
Obviously, one of the most important aspects of any DDR game is its soundtrack, and this one is a mixed success at best. There are a few gems here, with big-time hits like "Walk Like an Egyptian," "The Safety Dance," and "The Way You Move," but little else. Unless you're big into European techno, you'll likely find few tracks that really reach out and grab you. With a soundtrack of over 70 songs, it's quite a bummer that almost none of them are worth playing more than once or twice. As a further insult, while the title is all too proud to give you the opportunity for some nice downloaded content, you're not really buying the songs. You see, the music is already on the disc; you're just paying for the privilege to unlock it and actually play. I sure wish I could see the reasoning behind including a song on the disc, only to force gamers who have already shelled out the cash for the game and dance pad to pay even more for a few mediocre songs.
While the DDR franchise is well-ingrained with crazed high school students and overly active undergrads, it's never quite been able to find its way into the mainstream. Sadly, this edition does nothing to improve matters, and dance mania isn't likely to sweep the nation anytime soon. Before Universe 2 will find commercial success, two things need to happen. First, the developers need to realize that a lot of people who want to play the game aren't lords of the dance, but neither are they incapable of following simple patterns. There really needs to be some way for people with a sense of rhythm to learn how to play without being repeatedly thwarted. Second, it would be nice to pepper the soundtrack with more songs that would be familiar to American audiences. It's not as if there's a shortage of dance tracks to be found; just head out to any decent club on a Friday night, and you can easily find enough tunes to fill up a DDR title. It seems like this is a franchise that has spent the past 10 years constantly poised to achieve huge success, but the powers that be are so afraid of alienating the core audience that they just can't make the changes needed to bring the series to the masses.
When it comes right to down it, DanceDanceRevolution: Universe 2 is the type of game that only series fans will love. If your idea of a fun evening is laying down a dance pad and stomping around until the downstairs neighbors call the cops, then this title is right up your alley. However, if you are not, nor have you ever been a professional dancer, there's very little here to make this title worth your time. Now then, if you'll excuse me, I need to go ice my tailbone. It's still quite sore.
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