The last month has been a good one for anyone who enjoys their games with a musical twist. Since October, the PS2 has gotten a ton of music related games including Guitar Hero, Karaoke Revolution Party, Pump It Up: Exceed, and now Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2. While it's the ninth iteration of the series in only seven years, DDR Extreme 2 is just as solid as ever, providing a challenge for experienced DDR fans, while remaining accessible for casual gamers and people that are new to the franchise.
Even if you've never played a DDR game, chances are pretty good you've seen people playing it (or Pump It Up) in an arcade. On the off-chance you haven't, here's the gist: You stand on a dance pad that has up, down, left and right arrows. While the music plays, arrows move from the bottom of the screen to the top, and when they hit the top, you step on the corresponding arrow on the pad. This may sound easy, but as you'll quickly learn; it's not. You'll have to step on two arrows at the same time, hold poses, turn your body, and actually learn steps before becoming successful. The better players out there can do some amazing things on the dance mat, but don't worry, it's fun for beginners. DDR Extreme 2 is very "newbie" friendly, providing a training mode as well as a lesson mode. Here you can learn both the basic and advanced techniques you'll need to dance the night away.
For experienced and advanced players there's plenty to keep you busy. Combo Challenge, Course, Endless, and Survival modes will challenge even the most hardcore dancers out there, but if they don't, the Double mat mode, where you use two pads at once certainly will. Introduced last year, EyeToy support adds hand movements into the mix. Due to the EyeToy's specific light requirements it's a little difficult to setup in conjunction with the dance pad, but once you get it working, a whole new world of challenge awaits. If you want to express yourself, the game's edit mode will allow you to edit a dance routine for any song in the game. The exercise mode will count calories for you while you dance; but this isn't implemented as well as it could have been. Instead of tracking your calories while you dance the other modes, it only does it here. If you could unlock new content while exercising this wouldn't be such an issue, but you can't. Still, anything that gets people some exercise while playing a game should be applauded.
The game only starts with a handful of songs unlocked; the rest of them have to be unlocked via the Dance Master Mode. The songs start off easy, and as you meander your way around the map, they get more and more difficult. This method works out great for people new to the game, but having to dance some really simple routines could be cumbersome for series veterans. As you progress through the songs, you earn points which can be spent in the shop. Here you can purchase songs, courses, costumes, and a variety of other things. The shop is hardly necessary, but it does at least make you feel like you're earning something with all your dancing.
For the first time ever, DDR allows you to bust a move online. The game will scan your memory card and rate your ability by how long you've played, and then you can compete head to head, hopefully against someone of similar ability. This doesn't always work out, since some people might be really good at DDR, but have yet to devote a lot of time to this particular game, but it's better than nothing. The online community isn't exactly bustling, though it's a safe bet that it's easier to find someone to play online than it is to find someone to dance with in your home.
While you're dancing video plays in the background, presumably to entertain anyone watching you dance, since you're not going to have a whole lot time to enjoy them while you cut a rug. There are music videos, random computer generated clips, psychedelic backgrounds, and even a cool mix of scenes from a Japanese video game. In addition to the background visuals you can pick an avatar from a number of characters and have they'll dance on screen along to the music. New characters and outfits can be unlocked and purchased as you progress through the game. They don't really add much to the proceedings, but if you're one of those people that loves having stuff to unlock, well, here's more for ya.
DDR Extreme 2 has over 70 songs, but there isn't much variety to them. Since it's a dancing game it's understandable that the songs are mostly "dance club" tunes, but there's a distinct lack of current pop and hip-hop. There are a few, but outside of Sean Paul's "Get Busy" there's very little that could be described as current. Tunes by (but not performed by in the game) Ricky Martin, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears help break up endless thumping dance songs (in my opinion), but they are still out-numbered by a large margin. Naoki, Captain Jack, Sneaker Pimps, ASKA, King Kong & D Jungle Girls, Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, and Motorcycle are just a few of the artists in the game. I wouldn't say the soundtrack is bad, but it will appeal to a limited audience – probably the people that are interested in buying the 9th DDR game.
Despite the fact that there's not a whole lot new here, DDR Extreme 2 is a nice package for newbies and DDR veterans. Unlike Pump It Up, the game is very accessible to beginners, teaching you the basics and then slowly ramping up in difficulty. For experienced dancers the game has another year of polish under its belt and offers up a ton of content to unlock as well as online play.