Let's face it - if you've played one dancing game, you've played them all. The format is pretty standard by now: watch the scrolling arrows, step in the corresponding directions and, in most cases, trip over your own feet and embarrass yourself in front of friends and family. All to a thumping techno beat. This is how it has been since the genesis of the genre and how it will continue to be for the foreseeable future... at least until they program the PlayStation 7 to grow legs and join you in a tap-dancing duet.
So when a game like Dance Factory tries to tweak that tired formula by changing at least one of the standbys - enabling you to groove to any track of any CD in your music collection, not just the usual club crap - it definitely deserves props. It doesn't, however, necessarily deserve a recommendation. Especially when this one innovation is all the game has to offer and even it barely works.
Above: Yeah... not so much.
The problem's not in the setup. Choosing a custom foot-stomping soundtrack is as simple as loading the game, switching the data disc for one of your own CDs and waiting a minute or less for the track to be recorded. Go crazy - the game will accept literally anything, from classical to punk and everything in between, though some types of music will obviously produce better results than others. You can even name the song or album and store it on your memory card for later retrieval.
Where Dance Factory misses the beat - quite literally - is in this feature's execution. After enjoying a few satisfying but mostly coincidental moments of serendipitous timing (ours came as we did a sweet two-step to Michael Jackson's patented "hee-hee" in "Billie Jean"), you'll begin to realize that the beat of the arrows isn't quite matching the beat of the song. The game might hit one or two notes perfectly, then completely neglect the next three. Or, if it does catch the rhythm, it'll lose its pacing, directing you to step a second before or after the actual beat.
Easier to understand, but no easier to ignore, is the lack of choreography in the dance routines. While the program can recognize the beats in your personal tunes (sort of), it has no clue what style of music you've just fed it and, therefore, what types of moves might be appropriate. Feel like breakdancing to pop or country line dancing to emo? Dance Factory is sure hoping you do.
Above: The game's other modes, such as Creature, Fitness and Endurance, are nothing more than extremely slight and uninteresting variations on the default way to play.
The sum of these flaws is a total disconnect between what's occurring on the TV screen and what's occurring on your dance pad. Eventually, listening to your own music becomes a distraction to keeping in synch with the arrows and you'll be tempted to simply hit the mute button. And, at that point, what's the, well... point? The game's one original contribution to the genre has been rendered useless and you might as well be playing one of those other, more conventional - but also a lot more fun - dancing games.