Games 1/6/09: Dance Dance Revolution Universe 3 / Hottest Party 2

Dance Dance Revolution Universe 3
For: Xbox 360
From: Bemani/Konami
ESRB Rating: Everyone (mild lyrics, mild suggestive themes)

Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 2
For: Nintendo Wii
From: Bemani/Konami
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ (mild lyrics, suggestive themes)

Many thousands of new Wii owners got their first taste of “Wii Fit” this holiday season. And over the course of the next few weeks, most of those people will realize not only that the wait wasn’t justified, but that they’ll need some closet space for that Wii Balance Board until more worthy software comes along.

In the meantime, the original gaming workout sensation remains, 10 years and umpteen editions later, the best way to burn calories and game at the same time. And while the newest round of games does little to set the franchise on fire, they’ll still make you sweat off pounds in ways Nintendo’s trendy peripheral can’t.

If this is your first go-round with “DDR” and you have an Xbox 360 handy, “Dance Dance Revolution Universe 3’s” arrival couldn’t be timelier.

Following two near-identical iterations of the same core game, “DDRU3” significantly ramps up the accessibility quotient, complementing an already-loaded collection of single- and multiplayer modes with a set of tutorials that not only makes the game friendlier to new players, but teaches them how to excel in ways previous games never bothered to do. The single-player quest mode, a source of aggravation in past games, is exponentially more approachable, and the game’s most enjoyable multiplayer mode grades you on competency but lets you and your opponents dance as gracefully or poorly as you please.

“Universe’s” only disappointing holdover remains the workout mode, which tracks your calories game-wide but isn’t a dedicated mode in its own right. Still, with so many play styles at the ready, you might prefer to set up the calorie counter and do your own thing anyway.

“Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 2” is similarly willing to track your calorie-burning exploits, but that, beyond a love of dance, is where the two games’ philosophies part.

A year of additional development time has allowed Bemani to fine-tune its familiarity with the Wii’s motion controls, which allowed the original “Party” to mix in arm movements with the usual dance steps. The arm motions register more accurately this time, but “Hottest Party 2” compensates by sprinkling in more challenging gestures on harder difficulty settings. Though you can tune the difficulty as much as you wish, true “DDR” purists are in for their most grueling test yet. That’s to say nothing of the extra burn you’ll feel by working the upper as well as lower body.

Beyond that, neither game surprises or disappoints in any striking way. Bemani has “DDR’s” gameplay down cold at this point, and if you’re even remotely familiar, nothing about the controls, soundtrack, visual style or mode overload should surprise you. Whichever platform you pick, there’s more than enough content to keep you moving until the next editions roll out in the fall.