Game Music, Reviews

A DDR Clone For (6-Year-Old) Christians: Dance Praise 2 (Review)

July 11, 2009 | | 6 Comments Share thison Facebook A DDR Clone For (6-Year-Old) Christians: Dance Praise 2 (Review)on Twitter

Religiously-motivated company Digital Praise is in the business of cloning popular rhythm games, adding Contemporary Christian Music (henceforth referred to as CCM), and releasing these products exclusively for the PC at a premium price.

Today, we take a look at Dance Praise 2: The ReMix. Note the misnomer; none of the music in the game is remixed. Licensed music from the CCM industry is what you’ll find, and entirely unchallenging DDR-style gameplay is, sadly, all the game has to offer.

Our full review comes after the jump.

Honestly, I really wanted to enjoy this game. I didn’t pick it up for review as an “easy target” to smear, as many other outlets might do with religious/family-friendly games. Granted, many games under said categories deserve the low marks handed them, as they tend to promote the message so far above the gameplay that the game itself turns out to be tremendously boring.

“But how do you mess up a well-established genre?” That rhetorical question is what kept me hoping for the best. Dance Dance Revolution offers a relatively simple formula: take a song, sync the song’s tempo with a visual track, create dance patterns (using the four arrows on the pad) at varying difficulty levels, and create some “success/failure” rubric for the end score. Rinse and repeat, and you should have a good game, as long as you picked some half-decent music.

I thought Digital Praise would be fully capable of following this method for success. This notion (about which I would be disproved), alongside my love of CCM (I grew up on the stuff! DC Talk and Caedmon’s Call are the best!), sent me scrambling for an opportunity to play the game. Then came the letdown.

The most offensive mistake Digital Praise made was to target this game to children: very, very young children who have no intention of becoming good at games. You know that 9-year-old that can play DragonForce on Guitar Hero III? He and anyone with 10% the talent he has simply cannot enjoy this game, because it’s too easy. It’s so easy, it’s yawn-inducing. What’s worse, the “difficulty levels” (if you can call them that) for this game exist in a one-per fashion. And just my luck, all my favorite songs were of the easier difficulty, and all the songs I didn’t care about were of the “hardest” difficulty. And, to qualify “hardest,” I think these songs will occasionally require you to use both feet simultaneously: but, always on a downbeat. Upbeats are too scary for Christian kids, I guess. And don’t even think about triplets or sixteenth notes! That’s just too much!!

The dance tracks aren’t just easy: they’re uninspired. Anyone who has actually spent more than ten minutes playing DDR (or any number of DDR clones from a legitimate source) knows that dance tracks can be interesting without adding painfully difficult steps to the mix. Anyone with even a tiny bit of talent can do it. Look at the fan-made tracks for Guitar Hero II Custom or StepMania. It doesn’t take a professional game developer to lay these things out properly. Maybe Digital Praise should hire some of the amateurs in their parents’ basements, desperate for a job, and the two can work in a mutually beneficial relationship to create a decent game.

And this is what really offends me about the game (and many “Christian” games out there): it’s poorly made. Yes, the game works. It’s playable. And, to its credit, the dance pad that comes with it functions very well (and I believe it is compatible with any USB-equipped console). But the overall quality of the game is, in my mind, inexcusable. The worst part of all is that it seems like the developers don’t care, since they’re targeting a niche market of AmeriChristian-cultured kids and their parents, who only let them watch or play things that talk about Jesus. As long as everyone keeps the bar low in terms of quality, there’s no need to make something good or interesting. What a joke! It’s not just a joke, it’s actually a discredit to the religion. Take note, Digital Praise:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” ~ Colossians 3:23 (NIV)

I’m not convinced, guys. The game seems like a half-assed effort to me. And it cuts both ways. If the game is mediocre, then how can a kid “dance for the Lord” using such an inferior product? Disregarding the fact that DDR-style rhythm games aren’t actually about dancing–they’re more about learning rhythm and developing enough coordination to step on the right panels at the right time–kids are far better off just playing Dance Dance Revolution. It’s not like the music on Dance Dance Revolution is entirely “heathen” anyway: much of it is non-lyrical. And let’s not forget that the set list on Dance Praise 2 isn’t “explicitly” Jesus-focused worship music. A song from Relient K called “Mood Rings” is featured, and that’s just a song about boys and girls: no talk of God or Jesus to be found. So why buy this game when you can have a far superior product, from a more reputable company, for less money? This is something Digital Praise, and other companies like it, need to take to heart if they’re actually committed to providing a quality product.

I will note that I have not tried any of the game’s downloadable expansion packs (which cost $25 each, for a sizable increase in playable tracks). Perhaps there’s a learning curve, and the company is getting better at designing these games. But I have my doubts: after all, the game I played was a sequel. I don’t want to know how bad the original was.

And what dost thou think, o faithful reader? Can “religious” games ever get out of their perpetual slump and do something worthwhile? Can a CCM-driven game ever reach the same high quality as a Konami game? Let’s hear your opinion!

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