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Flow: Extreme Dance Uprising
Score: 91%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Developer: A2M
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Rhythm

Graphics & Sound:
Flow: Extreme Dance Uprising has, hands down, the best graphics of any dance game I've seen yet. Instead of the typical character simulating dancing in front of a psuedo video, Flow uses very realistic looking characters and sets them on one of ten different "streets". The backgrounds are different areas of an urban city, such as 106th Street, City Hall, and Rag District. There are five characters unlocked at the beginning of the game, and five more that are locked. Each character also has three different clothing options available, after you unlock the additional costumes. The characters themselves are very well animated. As you play, they enact the moves that correspond to those dance steps, breakdance style. Their moves are fluid and very well rendered. It is quite entertaining to watch someone else play, just to see the different moves the characters have.

Flow: Extreme Dance Uprising has a total of 50 songs from artists including Sugarhill Gang, Jungle Brothers, and Eric B. & Rakim. All of the songs are solely hip-hop, which is what you would expect from a game that is the first true hip-hop dance game, but that doesn't mean there's no variety in songs. There's plenty of different types of songs to choose from.

There are seven modes of play to choose from in Flow: Extreme Dance Uprising. Four of them, Tutorial, Street, Solo and Workout are single player. The rest, Versus, Break Style, and Competition are multiplayer (Street mode can also be multiplayer).

Unless you've never played any dance game before, you can skip Tutorial mode, since there's nothing in Flow that you haven't really seen before, other than power moves. The Tutorial mode is actually quite good though. There are thirteen different lessons, which took me a total of 8 minutes to go through. The first lesson tells you, "Do not use the same foot to do consecutive different arrows", which is something I haven't seen other dance games do. It also doesn't show the character on the screen returning to the center of the dance pad in between steps, which is something I was really happy to see. Trying to return to the center is something that beginning players spend to much time worrying about and it makes their dancing look very rigid. Flow tries to make players simulate real dancing more than any I've seen yet. It's really good to see a Tutorial mode teach new players the way veteran players wish they had been taught in the beginning! I would actually recommend buying this game solely to give to players who have never played a dance game before to teach them the best practices from the beginning.

Street Mode is the only method to unlock new characters, songs, and clothing. It can be played solo or multiplayer. My only real complaint on this mode is that you only have six songs to choose from at the start of each "street", so you do get kinda bored playing the same songs over and over again, especially since many of the streets have some of the same songs to choose from. Luckily, you only have to beat the challenge in Easy mode to unlock the song for that street, but the most songs you have for any given street is still only eight or nine. I found myself taking a break from playing just because I was sick of the same songs.

To get to the next street, you have to complete a challenge on the previous street to unlock it. Once you've unlocked all the songs and characters, I just don't see any reason to play in Street mode again.

Solo mode and Versus mode allow you to play any song you've unlocked as any character you've unlocked on any street you've unlocked. Solo mode (if you're playing alone) or Versus mode (with a friend) are the modes I recommend playing in, after you've unlocked all of Street mode. It's the easiest way to play the songs you want to where you want to play. You can also choose "Eyetoy" as the street to play on. In Eyetoy mode, instead of a character and a normal street background, the eyetoy projects you and the room you're in on the screen so that you can watch yourself play.

Workout mode allows you to enter your weight, height, age, gender, and occupation to try and recommend how much you should play. It tells you how many calories you burned at the end of each song, what that is equivalent to in other exercise forms, and how much you have left to hit their recommended exercise amount.

Break Style mode is a quick mode where 2 players compete on specific steps to see who can do better. It's three rounds that last 20-30 seconds each.

Competition mode lets three to eight players see who is the best in three modes. Pool pits everyone against everyone else, whoever has the highest score wins. Tournament and Championship allow players to play matches against each other to advance through the rounds until there's only one who hasn't been eliminated, then that player wins. Competition mode lets you turn Flow: Extreme Dance Uprising into a true party game.

Flow: Extreme Dance Uprising's scoring system is just like the majority of other dance games. You get rated on how timely you hit the arrows with superb, fine, average, sloppy, or missed. Honestly, Flow: Extreme Dance Uprising is not very difficult at all. If you can normally clear at least 6 or 7 foot songs on Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), you'll easily be able to clear at least 70% of Flow: Extreme Dance Uprising on expert in under 4 hours, and it only takes that long because there are so many challenges to pass. The other 30% doesn't take very long either. But the point of rhythm games isn't really to beat everything, is it? If you're trying to get 100% perfect on Flow: Extreme Dance Uprising, you'll be playing for quite a while. A lot of Flow dance steps follow the rhythm of the songs, which don't necessarily land exactly on the beat. While this does make it feel more like dancing, it makes it just a little more difficult to get a perfect rating.

Game Mechanics:
Flow: Extreme Dance Uprising uses the standard up, down, left, right arrows like most of the other dance genre games. "Off-beat" notes are shown in different colors. Doubles are really easy to read in Flow, because they're connected to each other by a chain.

The one thing that is quite difficult to get used to is it uses O as select and X as back. For those of us used to using X as select, I found myself backing out of things when I meant to select them quite often, which really got annoying. Personally, I like the compromise that DDR has started using, which is to use both O and X as select, and Triangle to cancel out of a selection. If you're like me and have your multi-tap hooked up always, you might want to unhook it in multiplayer modes, because it wouldn't recognize the second dance pad on my system with the multi-tap attached.

-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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