Tuesday - August 7, 2007
Dance Factory
PlayStation 2
March 28, 2006

Dance Factory Review
Article by Eric Dayday   - 09/21/06

Every Dance Dance Revolution fan’s dream is to use DDR steps to their own favorite music. Codemasters’ Dance Factory allows you to do just that. Sounds like a DDR killer doesn’t it, considering that all you need is this one game because the playlist will feature all of your favorite tunes and none that you don’t like. The list is only as large or as small as your own personal collection. Too bad it doesn’t even come close to toppling Konami’s giant.

You can use your own songs to dance to. That’s it. Seriously. Oh, and it comes with five preloaded tracks that you may not even touch.

Dancing to your favorite tracks is a dream come true for dancing rhythm fans, but Dance Factory has some serious shortcomings that ruin the dream. The random note generator at first seems like an impressive feat. I say at first because you’ll eventually notice that the note patterns are predictable within one song. You’ll see one pattern repeated over the course of a few measures, change into another one, and then repeat that pattern. The transitions in distinct patterns also don’t make any sense in the context of the songs’ rhythm.

The biggest downfall of the note generator is that it isn’t very good. It misses the timing of some of the steps. The more you play Dance Factory, the more you realize that certain notes and even large sections of songs have the dance arrows a half-beat off. This of course means that while technically you’re hitting the step on the correct beat, the game reads you as a step too fast or too slow leading to many a failed song. The generator on one of the songs I used was so bad that just about the entire song was unplayable. On another occasion, the entire last 30 seconds of a song had no notes to step to – until the very last down beat. And I’d like to point out that during a slow breakdown part of the song, I had some relatively busy steps to perform.

Generating the steps for the songs is a pain in the butt as well. It takes some patience, but it moves fast enough that it doesn’t seem tedious. They even included a little puzzle game to help bide the time as it reads the tracks. The problem is that it loves to fail to read tracks. So, when you try to read a whole CD, it’s almost a guarantee that at least one track will get skipped because of some reading hiccup. The worst thing is when the entire generation process craps out leading to a hard reset of the system. At least you can save step patterns so that when you insert the CD again, it’ll read it quickly.

Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself – “what about creating your own steps?” Don’t even bother trying here since you can only create a dance in real time. Yes, the only way you can create a dance is to jump and step around on a pad while it’s playing in real time. Being able to slow the song down or place steps upon a grid of some sort would have worked so much better, but no, anything of the sort is nowhere to be found.

Dance Factory offers three difficulty modes – easy, normal, and pro. Easy is very simplistic. Normal offers a decent challenge, though DDR vets will find it way too easy. Then there’s pro. To put it bluntly, pro mode is useless. All pro offers is very fast moving arrows, sometimes so fast (depending on the song’s beats per minute) that the patterns are impossible to read. And since it’s based on a song’s speed, the only challenging songs are fast ones. DDR fans will find this troubling because they know that there are some slow songs that are just as challenging as some of the fastest ones because of how technical they can be. Well, that’s not the case here, especially since sixteenth notes are nonexistent, and eighth notes very rarely make an appearance, even on pro.

Another gripe is workout mode. If you have low self-esteem, avoid this mode at all costs. I don’t understand how hitting a note perfectly gives you a “super fit” message, but completely missing a step give you a “pork out” message. So, just because I missed a step because of the game’s horrible step generator, I’m told I’m porking out? I still stepped and moved, so doesn’t that mean I still burned a few calories, not gained some? Whoever let this slide must be a thin person who felt good about themselves.

The cover mentions that Dance Factory is compatible with all dance mats. That’s not entirely true. Konami pads, i.e. the one’s packed in with DDR games, are not good to use because it’s missing the square and triangle buttons. Triangle is necessary to exit most menus and since the Konami pad doesn’t have one, it’s impossible to go back in a menu without a controller plugged into the open port. Now, in the options, there is a way to change what buttons control confirm and exit, but of all the schemes available, none offer X for confirm, circle for back (or vice versa), which means if the square- and triangle-less Konami pads are all you have, you’re out of luck. Nice job programming there guys.

Lastly, the graphics are sorely lacking, but it has a good excuse. Because you have to replace the game disc with a music CD, the backgrounds are simplified so that it can run it through the PS2’s RAM. What I dislike about them is that some of the purchasable backgrounds are so busy flashing that it disrupts viewing the arrows clearly. As if having the arrows off by a half-beat isn’t enough, you have to deal with a visual handicap.

Dancing to your own songs is a very novel idea - one that Codemasters sought to cash in on. Unfortunately, while the idea is awesome, the execution is downright putrid. The step generator, quite frankly, is horrible, what with its mistimed offbeat steps, low challenge (unless you’re looking to break a leg speed record on pro), and constant glitching when reading tracks. Despite the fact that Konami’s series has a static playlist, you’re better off buying another version of DDR than dealing with this piece of crap called Dance Factory. Or better yet, just pop in a CD and groove your own way.

The step generator sucks. I can’t put it any other way.
There’s really nothing much to be said considering that it runs off the PS2’s RAM.
Your soundtrack, your rules; that is if you can actually find a playable song that’s on-beat.
It would be so fun if the generator actually produced on-beat steps.
It’s as deep or as limited as your own personal collection. You will find some that work.
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