Sweatin' To The Oldies.
Hey, you wanna get funky? Want to impress the ladies with a jammin' jig? Then you need Darrin's Dance Groove! Because you just never know when you might need to bust out a pre-choreographed dance routine. Just think. You could be waiting in line at the DMV when you spot some hottie. So what are you going to do? Talk to her? NO, that won't work! You're going to lay down one of your hip moves and dazzle her with your fancy footwork! Gag gifts and teenyboppers aside, who's buying this?
How about some good ol' Dance Dance Revolution instead? It hasn't been too long since DDR Konamix hit shelves, but now we've got DDR: Max for the PS2.
If you've never seen or played it before, you seriously need to get off the couch and at least make it out to your local arcade. Dance Dance Revolution is a rhythm step-dancing game. Essentially, a giant controller is on the floor and cascading series of arrows zip by on a screen. Simply step in synch to the on-screen arrows, and look ma, you are DDR-ing.
The basic mode is the aptly titled Arcade mode, in which performance is graded by how well you can step to the beat. Make one too many mistakes and you'll irritate the game, thereby cutting your dancing short. Besides this core mode, Workouts, Lessons, and Edit modes are still included. Workouts allow you to dance regardless of score performance. After inputting some basic user data, useful exercise information, such as calories burned, is offered. The Lesson mode teaches you the ins and outs of DDR, and Edit allows you to create your own routines.
Replacing the 6-step routines of Konamix and new to DDR Max are the 'hold arrows'. Instead of merely tapping an arrow, you must hold your foot there for a set amount of time. The visual arrow is elongated to indicate how long you must keep your foot in place. The challenge of being forced to hold one foot still while hitting the marks with your free foot will take some practice, even for DDR veterans.
Tempo changes are also a part of this new mix. The song could freeze for a moment, and then suddenly speed up 20 bpm. The hold arrows and the tempo changes aren't enough to completely reinvent or revolutionize DDR, but both are well integrated and a welcome addition.
DDR Max has more of an American/European flavor than the prior stateside release of DDR Konamix. Among the 65 songs, there are some familiar tunes with clubbing roots, such as I Like to Move it, Sound Storm, and Stomp to my Beat. Even if you don't recognize the names, you've probably heard these classics.
Instead of an animated, polygonal dancer in the background, there are now prerecorded videos that serve as a backdrop to the flurry of arrows. Usually, the video is mostly comprised of digital light patterns in tune with the music, but there are also segments of completely nonsensical graphics. I actually prefer the use of video footage over the real-time polygon renders, but sometimes they try to combine the two with horribly pixelated footage of those original polygonal dancers. Couldn't they have used a better compression ratio or found some better stock footage?
DDR Konamix had an interface that separated the songs into different categories, making it difficult to wade through a complete list of the songs unless you made some changes in the options. DDR Max just lays them all out, and even has unlockable background information on each and every musical selection. It's a much better interface.
And as always, you'll need a DDR dance pad to really play this game the way it should be played. If you already have one for any of the PSX versions, then you're all set. Newbies, however, will have to drop the extra coin for the pad, though it's well worth it compared to playing with the controller.
DDR Max is still funky and fun, but not altogether fresh anymore. It almost feels too soon of a release after Konamix earlier this year. I would rather wait a little longer for some better video footage, expanded song lists, and whatever new additions are made to invigorate the DDR formula. Nonetheless, DDR Max is still better than Darrin's Dance Groove and makes for a fun way to burn off the upcoming Thanksgiving foodfest.