Dance Central VR Game Review: Harmonix Delivers an Electrifying Dance Sim

Headsets: Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest (reviewed) MSRP: $30

If you’ve ever wanted to play a Dance Central or Just Dance-style game in VR, your wish has finally come true with Dance Central VR. Harmonix has pulled through with what may be their strongest entry into VR yet, and in doing so they’ve also introduced one hell of a dance studio simulator into the Oculus ecosystem.

Off the bat, spending 30+ minutes in Dance Central VR practically guarantees a decent workout. That said, after spending over five hours inside of the game’s spacious dance club, I cannot call it the greatest Dance Central game, the greatest rhythm game in VR, or even the greatest fitness game on the Oculus Rift and Oculus Quest platforms. It’s really none of these things. In its favor, I’d say Dance Central VR shines as a balanced contender within each of the three previously mentioned classes. If you want to learn choreographed dance moves and perform (but not too much) alongside a cast of enjoyable (albeit cartoonish) video game personas, Dance Central VR may be the magic pill you’ve been waiting for. Assuming you’re still on board, let’s proceed.

Preparation

Dance Central VR is essentially an entire game about doing light aerobics in repetition, so you shouldn’t need to spend too much time out-of-headset while prepping for a 30-minute dance sesh. Just make sure you have a water bottle and a healthy snack nearby in case you begin to feel drained.

In terms of preparing for specific dance choreographies, there’s an entire Studio area for you to explore and practice in. While in the Studio, you can play songs at slower or faster speeds.

Intensity – 5/10

Dance Central VR doesn’t ever scale up to an HIIT-like experience, unlike its BOXVR or Beat Saber counterparts. But it was never trying to. The intensity of your workout from Dance Central VR is really based around how committed you are to replicating the choreographed dance moves perfectly, with your entire body, feet and all. Even then, and even on the hardest mode (Pro mode), you’ll find that the dances aren’t all that intense. And this was, on Harmonix’s part, to deliberately accommodate for the limitations created by the Oculus Touch controller system. It’s really fun, but it’s not fuel for a highly intense workout.

Image credited to Harmonix

Arms – 6/10

You won’t build muscle in your arms, but you will loosen them up and make them more flexible. Dance Central VR is a strong warmup game for something more difficult.

Legs – 6/10

Because you’re on your feet and moving around, you’ll find yourself exerting your legs more than you’d expect. No, you won’t ever get discreet leg workouts. However, playing 30 minutes of Dance Central VR is far better than standing in place for the same amount of time.

Core and Balance – 7/10

It’s difficult to remain balanced while learning and practicing choreography in real life, and this remains true in Dance Central VR. You won’t work your core out as you would in BOXVR, or with extended training in another boxing game. You will absolutely find that your core gets tested, however. The stronger your core is from completing other exercises, the easier a time you’ll have getting acclimated to the gameplay of Dance Central VR.

Time Perception – 10/10

Dance Central VR plops you into a pulsing club environment that does a strong job of abstracting the energy you might expect from a local dance joint on a Friday or Saturday night. I loved playing through each of the 32 available songs, and I also found the multiplayer modes easy to get into. Each of the five non-player characters I met had a lot of interesting things to say via the game’s faux text chats in the cellphone menu. And, overall, I found the game’s world easy to get lost in. I personally enjoyed racking up friendship points with characters that I spent a lot of time dancing with, ultimately unlocking their hidden outfits.

Image credited to Harmonix

Replayability – 10/10

You can replay each of the 32 songs on Standard and Pro modes as many times as you’d like. There’s also no limit to practice time in the Studio or multiplayer time in the Lounge.

Fitness Scalability – 6/10

Dance Central VR makes a good low-intensity aerobics game or, at its most intense, a warmup for games that are built around high-intensity training. If you’re looking for something more intense, you’ll have to move up to one of the HIIT-ready titles I mentioned earlier. As I also briefly stated earlier, I never read Dance Central VR as a game that’s specifically designed for intense workouts. It is, on that note, designed to encourage you to dance. Anybody can get into it, but whether you decide to dance your heart out and go all-in on the full-body movements is up to you. Note that your score is only based on controller location, gestures, and the relative height of your headset.

Image credited to Harmonix

Lack of Nausea 9/10

There’s no artificial locomotion in the single player portions of Dance Central VR, which means that, unless you dabble in multiplayer, there’s very limited risk for you to induce motion sickness here. In multiplayer, you can locomote around the Lounge a bit, but it shouldn’t be enough to induce motion sickness in most people. Regardless, all of the locomotion in the multiplayer Lounge is pretty slow and smooth.

Social Competition – 7/10

As you score higher, you’ll compete with other players for the top spots on the leaderboards. You can send challenges to other players to goad them into beating your top scores, if you please. Furthermore, the multiplayer Lounge offers team dances and 2v2 dance battles. There isn’t much of a social metagame beyond these elements, nor is it the kind of game that’d attract an esports audience within the current esports culture.

VRFI Fit Score 7.5

Dance Central VR does a lot of work to make you feel like you’re taking actual choreographed dance lessons in a real nightclub in West Hollywood or Brooklyn. Unfortunately, it’s strained by the limitations of the hardware that it was developed for. Dance choreography is hemmed in and simplistic in order to accommodate for the weighty Oculus Quest headset and its motion-tracked controllers. Thus, the game never puts enough strain on your body for it to become a high-intensity workout the way that BOXVR does with that game’s increasingly intense bouts of hooks, jabs, and squats. But more importantly, Dance Central VR isn’t a boxing game or a fighting game. It’s a choreographed dancing rhythm game from a AAA developer; the first of its kind on this platform.

The Good

  • Great song variety.
  • Enjoyable dance routines and multiplayer.
  • Fun characters and club environment.
  • Getting lost in a dance piece makes you lose track of time and calories burnt.

The Bad

  • No campaign progression/song unlock system to speak of.
  • Limited by Oculus Touch controllers and no leg or foot tracking.
  • Multiplayer Lounge can feel sort of quaint or otherwise less interesting than single player areas.

You can grab Dance Central VR on the Oculus Quest store here, and the Oculus Rift store here. Its MSRP is $30.


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