Dec 11, 2007
As a numbered sequel released within the same calendar year as its predecessor, any discussion of Dance Dance Revolution Universe 2 is bound to focus heavily on the word "still." As in, this is still essentially the same admittedly cool game we played earlier this year. And several years before that as well.
Like the dozens of Dance Dance Revolution iterations released in the last decade, Universe 2 finds players stepping on a floor mat in time with the arrows displayed on screen, with about 70 songs (including "The Safety Dance" and remixed tracks from Keane and Outkast) spanning several eras and genres of dance and pop music. Such gameplay can still be experienced in a seemingly endless amount of ways, whether via the arcade-style game mode, workout mode, several party variations, and four-player online/local multiplayer battles.
Universe is still undoubtedly the prettiest of the DDR sub-series, with seizure-baiting high-def video montages (or a licensed music video) flickering behind your gyrating avatar of choice. And as with the first Universe title, the premium "downloadable" tracks are actually included on the disc and listed in the manual, so you're merely paying to unlock existing content. That is - yup - still annoying! See, you're catching on.
The ways in which Universe 2 diverges from the blueprint of its predecessor are relatively minor, but appreciated. Freestyle mode marks the lone gameplay addition and essentially functions as Konami's response to EA's recent rhythm foray, Boogie. Rather than toss a stream of arrows on the screen, you can simply dance in any way you see fit, so long as you step to the beat of the track and vary your movements. The DDR faithful won't give it a second glance, but their parents, children or younger siblings certainly might - this is a party game, after all.
Quest mode should have changed the way Dance Dance Revolution is experienced from a single-player perspective, but in Universe, the voyage was highly frustrating and often confusing. The alterations here are both structural and superficial in nature (you can create your own character now), but the core issues remain - namely that the mode doesn't track how well you play, but rather the quantity of arrows hit during a song (which creates issues with slower/simpler tracks). The experience improves (and makes more sense) after the first couple of hours, but it still takes entirely too long to unlock all the bonus tracks.
But as we've come to expect from the series, Dance Dance Revolution Universe 2 is generally a polished and highly playable rhythm title that delivers in spades when it comes to play modes and options. We just can't help but feel like that titular revolutionary spark has faded in recent iterations.