Ah, Mad Catz. Where would I get all my cheap Game Boy accessories without you? For the uninformed, Mad Catz excels in creating third-party accessories and peripherals for video game consoles. They seem to prefer Nintendo, too, which might explain why their very first video game is on a Nintendo system. MC Groovz Dance Craze also fills a large hole in the GameCube lineup: that of the rhythm game. Donkey Konga attempted to satiate the void with its bongo-based beats, but nothing can substitute for an all-out dance match except for… um… an all-out dance match. Does MC Groovz fit the bill?
MC Groovz Dance Craze is in the same league as the insanely popular Dance Dance Revolution. Moving arrows fly past a row or circle of stationary arrows, and the player must hit the appropriate direction on their dance pad at the appropriate time. But MC Groovz does offer something DDR fans haven’t had yet: eight directions. You can choose between two modes: Scroll or Spin. Scroll is limited to four arrows lined up at the top of the screen. Spin puts the arrows in a circle and has the beats move out from the center. The Moderate and Expert difficulties also throw in the other four directions on Spin mode. Each song is rated on how many “beats per minute” it contains. This gives you a good idea of how hard a song is. The more beats per minute, the more likely sweating, loss of breath, and side cramps are to occur. Trust me, these things can and will happen. MC Groovz is actually very mild in difficulty, though. I blame this on the fact that the GameCube is stereotyped as the “kid’s console.” Whatever the case, I would recommend just jumping right into the Expert modes. The songs with over 150 bpm are rather tough and a little overwhelming, it’s just unfortunate there aren’t very many of these harder dances. None of the rounds come close to the insanity that DDR offers, and MC Groovz barely scratches the Normal difficulty of its competition.
You know how the old saying goes: a dancing game is only as good as its tracklist. Donkey Konga’s song selection was quite diverse, meaning anyone in the family could find something to like. MC Groovz has attempted to isolate anyone who isn’t a teen girl with its soundtrack of American pop, girl rock, and mellow dance. I hate this kind of music. Many of the songs are still fun to dance to, you just have to suck it in and accept the fact that a rhythm game will never have exactly what you like. The game does feature some well-known artists like Jessica Simpson and Jewel, and MC Groovz doesn’t cut or edit the 30 songs in any way. This is also a bad thing; some songs are six or seven minutes long! That’s way too long to be dancing nonstop, for you and the people waiting for their turn.
MC Groovz comes packaged with a dance pad at $50. The pad is very responsive and seems like it can withstand a lot of wear and tear (as long as you don’t play with shoes on). The thing comes with a five-year warranty, too, so Mad Catz must be fairly confident in their equipment. It isn’t the same quality as their PS2 mats, however. This one is much thicker and stiffer, which makes it wrinkle and curl up at the corners after only a few days of use. The dance pad also slips around a lot on the floor. Halfway into a song, I sometimes find myself farther from the TV than I can reasonably play. I don’t recall having this problem with DDR, but then again, DDR songs weren’t seven minutes long.
The GameCube controller can also be used to play the game, but that doesn’t mean you should really try it. What this means is that, since the dance pad maps the controller, it can be used with other games! Any game that allows D-pad movement and doesn’t require the L and R buttons can be played with the pad. How cool is that? Alien Hominid and Soul Caliber became a whole new challenge this way.
One thing I don’t like about MC Groovz is the fact that there is nothing to unlock, nothing to strive for. Donkey Konga had the right idea by awarding trophies and coins that could be used to buy other songs and mini-games. MC Groovz doesn’t even tell you who won in the two-player mode or how many beats you missed at the end of a song. You just play. You play, because it’s fun. It really is a delight, but you can’t be self-conscious about this dancing business. The fun of the game depends on how much you get into it. MC Groovz won’t teach you how to be a master dancer, but it’s got to be improving your eye-foot coordination somehow, and it does keep you in shape. If a video game is the only way you will ever get the necessary 30 minutes of daily exercise to stay fit, then the $50 price tag is definitely worth it.
I’m not too concerned about the presentation of a rhythm game. As long as I can see what’s going on, it doesn’t matter. The beat signs in MC Groovz don’t stand out as well as I would like them too, but the game is still playable. Colorful arrows scroll by against a “hip” and ever-changing background while the silhouette of a young, busty girl dances with you. This girl could have been a nice visual touch, giving by-standers something more to gawk at than moving arrows, but it’s obvious her movements were animated on the computer under a strict budget, because she behaves rather robotically and bends in non-human ways. It’s easy to forget her creepiness while you are dancing, but one thing I can’t ignore is the lack of more obvious visual cues. When you hit a beat at the right moment, the moving arrow subtly pops out before disappearing, and the rating (great, good, etc.) flashes on the screen in an easily overlooked, remote corner. While dancing, neither of these stand out enough to be very helpful.
Not to be outdone by a third-party accessories maker, shortly after the release of MC Groovz Dance Craze, Konami finally agreed to bring the DDR franchise over to the GameCube in what is tentatively called DDR Mario Mix. Until then, the only dancing game on the GameCube remains this one. Does being an only child make it a good game? Kind of. MC Groovz really is a lot of fun, but the game still feels obviously rushed out the door. The biggest drawback I found is a lack of challenge on par with DDR– even with four more directions. Taking that into consideration, MC Groovz is a great start for anyone who is interested in a dance game but missed out on the previous craze because of your console choice.