The Hip Hop Dance Experience (Xbox 360 Kinect) Review

If there is one thing Ubisoft has had a propensity for producing since the arrival of the Kinect for the Xbox 360 it has got to be dance games.  Just Dance 4, Black Eyed Peas Experience, Michael Jackson Experience and Just Dance Disney Party are just a few that come to mind.  So it comes as no surprise we see yet another Ubisoft dance game for the Kinect titled “The Hip Hop Dance Experience”.  Featuring 40 hip hop tracks from the past 30 years or so, The Hip Hop Dance Experience delivers a motion controlled dance game much like previous Ubisoft dance games, but yet this one feels a little different and is about the most fun I have had with an Ubisoft dance game to date.

Before I get into the game’s nuts and bolts, I should point out I am by no means a “dance expert”.  I do have a few moves I can pull off in the middle of a dance floor at a wedding reception, but otherwise I wiggle around like a wounded duck.  Fortunately The Hip Hop Dance Experience is a game perfectly suited for those like myself with little rhythm but it is also a game that even those who consider themselves a master of the dance floor should enjoy.  It is easy to pick up with various difficulties, so anyone with a hankering to try a dance game featuring hip hop tunes should have no problem jumping in and being able to make it through each song.

For those of you who have no idea how The Hip Hop Dance Experience works, it is essentially a dance rhythm game that plays out in similar fashion to other dance games on the Kinect.  It requires you to use your entire body and the Xbox 360 Kinect motion sensor reads your full body as you follow the on-screen dancers.  Your goal is to mimic, or even beat, the moves of the dancers on the screen.  Some of the moves can involve a simple side step shuffle while others can involve much more complex moves involving upper and lower body motion.  The flow of your movements is captured by the Kinect sensor and compared with those of the on-screen dancers to precisely evaluate your performance.  Dance cards will appear next to each dancer to inform you what the next dance move is and also gives you a countdown to the next move.  Following the on-screen dance cards will ultimately help you learn and memorize the routine for each song.  That is The Hip Hop Dance Experience in a nutshell, and at its core it is an enjoyable dancing game.

Unlike the previous Ubisoft dance games, The Hip Hop Dance Experience comes with 40-tracks which is on par with other dance games on the market.  The tracks range from newer (Flo Rida, Iyaz, and B.o.B) to older (Naughty by Nature, Mark Morrison and Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock) hip-hop tunes.  Overall I really enjoyed the set list and have to admit I had a blast going back in time and dancing away to songs like “Return of the Mark” and “Hip Hop Hooray”.  So full marks goes out to the development team coming up with a set list I really enjoyed.  Will it be enjoyable enough for the games younger target audience?  Well I have some doubts about that, but anyone between the ages of 25-40 should have a blast trudging through this set list.

So what types of modes are included in the game? Well you can jump immediately into the game via the Dance Party mode where you can play on your own or with a friend.  Here you pick a song and difficulty level (Newbie, Mack Skills or Go Hard) and then you are ready to jump right into a dance tune.  After you complete the song your score is tallied and that is about it.  Pretty standard stuff but there are other play options as well.  There is a Dance Battle mode where you go head to head with another dancer in an attempt to achieve the highest score.  There is also a Dance Marathon mode that is a continuous play mode where you play though randomly selected songs as long as you keep moving well enough.  If you hit pause the challenge is over so needless to say make sure you have a big glass of water before you embark on this dance journey.  By the time the third song rolled around I had quite a sweat going on.  If you feel you need to work on your moves, you can always head to the Power Skooling area where you get yourself skooled in the dance moves you most want to practice and master.  Finally, there is a wardrobe area where you can customize your avatar with hip-hop gear.  Overall, there is plenty to offer but nothing that is a significant departure from other dance games already available.  In fact, I would argue Harmonix’ game offers up a little more; however, when you consider The Hip Hop Experience price point (40 bucks) it is pretty good bang for the buck.

Overall, I was impressed at how responsive the game was to my body movement.  Sure, every so often I would feel like I nailed a particular move only for the game to not recognize it, but these instances were few and far between.  What I really enjoyed about the game was that the screen displayed two dancers.  There was one dancer facing forward and the other facing the rear.  I found following the dancer with his back towards me easy to follow and actually helped me pick up the moves a little quicker.  I have yet to see this in a dance game and for me I really enjoyed this perspective.  I also enjoyed how you could watch the artist’s music videos in the background.  I had no idea LMFAO’s “I’m sexy and I know it” was so provocative.

The Hip Hop Dance Experience meets the standard of high presentation values set by other Ubisoft titles.  While it isn’t a technically superior game like other triple A titles on store shelves it has a distinct and pleasing look to it.  The character models are well detailed and have unique cel-shaded look about them. There is some decent variety in terms of the dance venues and all the games animations are solid.  Overall, I have no real complaints when it comes to the game’s visuals.

The sound in The Hip Hop Experience is truly the star of the show.  Whether you are a fan of hip-hop or not there is no denying there is something here for everyone.  The tunes sound great in 5.1 surround sound and I really enjoyed the song selections that go all the way back to the 80’s.  The music is quite catchy as I found myself tapping my foot even when I was just watching someone else dance.

The Hip Hop Dance Experience stands as one of the better Ubisoft dance games on the market.  The 40-song track list contains several hip-hop tunes that I absolutely enjoyed and so will others.  The visuals are decent and the Kinect motion controls felt natural and smooth.  The potential for a solid party game experience is present as the game is accessible for all skill levels.  Looking for an enjoyable hip-hop dance game this holiday season?  Then The Hip Hop Dance Experience for the Kinect should be right up your alley.

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