How totally casual-gamer of me to say this, but I bought a Dance mat yesterday. Not just any dance mat, however, but a Dreamcast Dance mat, and things are always better when they are Dreamcast related, right?
Now I know on other consoles (particularly that old grey console that looks like a toilet) these things are about as common as fish and chips drowning in vinegar, the Dreamcast one is actually pretty rare. For starters, it was only released in Japan. Yet there it was, complete with two DDR games in the window of me local Gamestation complete with two DDR games by Konami for 25 squid. I remember them having this in the window a little while back for £40, but they had hid it upstairs for a while and decided to bring it back down for less cash-in-hand. So I popped back home, had a look about Ebay and Google to see how much these things were going for. Funnily enough not many sites even stocked Dreamcast ones, and the games were going for about a tenner each.
I hopped back to the store, which is just 10 minutes from my house, and asked about it. It wasn't in the Bog Off deal, unfortunly, so I couldn't throw MSR into the deal, plus the guy at the till told me that the controller might not work on anything but a Japanese Dreamcast. Rubbish, all the controller ports for Dreamcast preps are the same. Anyway, my curiosity to try out every piece of kit made for the Dreamcast got the best of me and I coughed up the £25, which didn't seem like a bad price for what I was getting. The dance mat worked, as expected, but the one my mind didn't think of at the time was just how crap I would be at it.
You really, really have to now what your doing from the start with these games. Even on the easy stages, the screen vomits arrows all over the place and being able to keep up takes some stamina, something I don't have a lot of. This obversly isn't the kind of game made for a lazy sod with no rhythm like me, but these things are defiantly worth it for the exercise, when you don't keep getting nothing but E grades that is. Now, I have three games that were made for this mat, so I'll review here.
DDR 2nd Mix
The first of two Konami DDR titles ported to the Dreamcast, nothing has really been done to make this look any different to the PSone version. The graphics are identical, right down to the low resolution which doesn't look all too nice on a big screen. Another major gripe is the music: It's all shite. Maybe this game would be a bit easier to dance to if any of the music had some sort of beat, but it's all dull and doesn't motivate you at all. There's plenty of game modes, including a Edit mode in which you can change the arrows about (maybe you can just remove half of them and make it more bearable?). I wanted to enjoy this, but there really wasn't much to keep it going. 5/10
DDR Club Version
Now when I started running this, I thought I'd accidentally put in 2nd Mix again, but sure enough it was the other game, but I really couldn't tell the difference. The layout, options, graphics and everything seemed identical. Even the rubbish music sounded the same, even though it probably wasn't. This one actually had one game mode missing, so it's just like a slightly cut down version of the other, even though it's supposed to have more music in it. 5/10
Feet of Fury
I burnt this homebrew Dance Mat game a little while back, and it's easily one of the most professional looking Homebrew titles out there. It's a lot better than the Konami titles, anyway. The music is still nothing special, but a bit more up-beat than the tripe in DDR, and there's a lot more in the game play to this: you fight (or dance, really) against another character bust-a-move style, hitting certain arrows that cause the other players arrows to speed up, spin around, or do other bizarre things that distract. Of course I just couldn't get anywhere again, but at least this one was a tad more fun. Also, there's another mode I haven't tried out yet where you can disc swap to a music CD with feet data, whatever that is, and so have much more music to dance to, maybe even something you know! 7/10
So disappointed with the games made for the mat I was, that I thought to myself...what games only use the d-pad, A and B? The first that sprung to mind was:
Space Channel 5
Not expecting it to work, I stuck the disc in for a laugh to see if the game would be any good playing it on foot. To my amazement, the game works perfectly for it, if not better than the games that were made for it! Having to repeat the directions and "chu’s" on the dance mat is much more fun than trying to keep up with a bunch of ugly arrows flying about the screen. If anything, this game play's five times better this way, it's as though Sega intended the game for the mat, but forgot to tell us so. This is the reason I love Sega and the Dreamcast: it's full of beautiful little gems hidden away like this. If you thought Space Channel 5 wasn't a very exciting game, try playing it with the mat...no...you MUST buy a dance mat to play this game. I' want that rare sequal even more now.
DANCE MAT TEST STATUS: A resounding success.
Hoping I'd find more gems, I tried out every other game in my collection that only used these buttons.
The main problem with playing this game is the fact that you often have to hold a button and hit another one repeatedly at the same time, so on foot this game wasn't very easy. Sitting down in the middle of the mat and bashing the pad buttons like a little kid, however, seems to do the trick pretty well. Just don't get caught playing the game like this, or you may be sent off to a 'special peoples' home.
DANCE MAT TEST STATUS: Alright, if you want to look like a twit.
International Track and Field
I remember seeing a program about gaming on the telly once years ago where someone actually had a go at playing the 100m Dash on the Playstation version of the game with the dance mat, in which he ended up winded on the floor. For some reason I felt like having a heart attack too, so I slipped the game in for a go. Sadly, my hopes of being sent to hospital were put to rest when the game decided to send my character forward too early without me pressing anything. Despite the game being made by the same guys as the dance mat, they didn't consider adding some sort of compatibility here. Shame.
DANCE MAT TEST STATUS: Not a sausage.
Ready 2 Rumble (demo)
Being just about the most simple fighter ever made (too simple for my taste, as it takes no effort to play at all) this was my next test. Moving the Afro bloke around was easy enough, but the only punches I could pull were rubbish ones that did no harm to the opponent who bashed me senseless.
DANCE MAT TEST STATUS: Fine if you want to get pummelled.
Judging from the test on Mr.Driller, this puzzle title is about the same: you can't really play it on foot, but it works fine by hand, right until the game gets so ridiculously hard that even with a regular controller it becomes a case of pausing every half-second to see where to place the next piece.
DANCE MAT TEST STATUS: Not worth the time of energy.
Hitting the ball is the easy part, actually getting the ball past your opponent is the tricky part, as you have to hold left and right while taking shots sometimes. Works ok on foot, although you'll just keep bouncing the ball right back to him until he decides to sling it in a direction other than yours. Works a lot better with your hands, but again, it's a bit pointless really.
DANCE MAT TEST STATUS: You'll be just as knackered as the real players.
This should have worked a charm, seeing as all you have to do with push left and right than shoot, but sadly this game cannot recognise the dance mat buttons at all an gets them all mixed up. Pause becomes up, A becomes start and the directions just don't function very well at all. I really wanted this one to work, oh well.
DANCE MAT TEST STATUS: The game told me of naff off.
If you have a Playstation1/2, you may as well just get one for that if you want the dance games, especially as on that there's more of them which are easier to find. However, if don't have the option of another console dance mat and like those kind of game it could be worth it for the three dance games made. Also, to get the most out of Space Channel 5 you simply have to play it with the dance mat, as it really pulls you into the game and makes you feel like your really taking the role of Ulala. Without the mini skirt showing off your hairy bits that is.
EDIT: Speaking of dancing games, I only just went and bought Samba De Amigo off Ebay! The most I've ever spent on a single video game (although this does have the full box with maracas etc) at roughly £75, but this is one of the rarest Sega games of the lot! I'll be writing up on this expensive beauty when it arrives.