Dance Dance Revolution: Ultramix 3 (Xbox)

Gaming Software
Year Released: 2005

Categories: Interactive/Gaming System Workouts

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The third game in the DDR series for the Xbox is clearly designed for all the new fans attracted by DDR's recent mass-media attention as an exercise tool disguised as a fun family game. It adds on yet more licensed popular songs in a variety of genres, an enhanced workout mode, a roleplaying sort of game called Quest Mode and a free-dancing mode that might be fun for beginners and children.

I loved Ultramix 2, especially the nonstop workout mode, so I preordered Ultramix 3 without a second thought. My first thought when I started it up was, "What on earth were they smoking?" After the sleek, handsome graphics of Ultramix 2, UM3's main menu is almost depressingly ugly - a mess of fonts and pastels, like a kid playing with WordArt. For some reason, a bubbles/swimming pool theme runs throughout the game; the life bar looks like a row of colored bubbles (making it hard to read sometimes) and the "Cleared" screen makes me feel like there's chlorine up my nose. The bubbly instrumental that plays between songs is annoying and feels out of character for the game.

Thankfully, the menu graphics and bubbles are the worst things about UM3. In the revised Workout Mode, you can now record your calories and mileage all throughout the game, no matter what mode you're playing in. The new Quest Mode, where you "travel" through North American cities and win songs and prizes with your dancing skills, is really just a gussied-up version of the nonstop, non-scoring Workout Mode from UM2 - but you might not figure that out unless you read the manual. Once you enter a city, you can select a song and play nonstop for as long as you wish, with songs selected at random on the same difficulty after the first one and no scoring or failing. This is a good way to get a continuous cardio workout. (Some songs can be unlocked through Quest Mode, but if you'd rather not bother with it, there is a universal code that unlocks every song in the game; go to the very end of this review for details.) As a game, Quest Mode is just plain silly and confusing.

Like the other Xbox DDR games, UM3 is beginner-friendly in that beginner steps are included (the screen displays a dancer that you "follow along" with) and the Training mode allows you to slow down a song's tempo, a feature that was oddly deleted from Extreme and Extreme 2 for PS2. Beginners and kids might also like the Freestyle mode and the Credits minigame. In Freestyle, there are no pre-choreographed steps; you just "dance" however you want to, and the game grades you on how varied your steps are. And if you go to Options and Credits, there is a minigame that's similar to normal play, but the arrows don't scroll automatically; you just have to step on each arrow so as to get as many as you can before the credits stop rolling. This is a good way for beginners to get used to the pad.

The song list is the most varied I've seen for a DDR game, and the licenses range from great to "interesting". If you remember "when music played on MTV", you're sure to enjoy Devo's Whip It, B52s' Rock Lobster and They Might Be Giants' Istanbul(Not Constantinople), all accompanied by the original videos, plus songs by The Clash and Run-DMC. For the younger generation, there are hits by Good Charlotte and Black Eyed Peas; grandparents might get down with Ray Charles singing What I Say, and a whimsical version of March of the Wooden Soldiers is loved by my preschoolers.

If music is your very first criteria for choosing a DDR game, then maybe UM3 would be your first choice. But I still reach for UM2 more often because of the simpler workout interface and MUCH better looking graphics. On the strength of the soundtrack, I give Ultramix 3 an A-minus.

To unlock every song and dancer in UM3, go to the Credits game and hit the *opposite* of every arrow (for L hit R; for up hit down; for a left-right jump do an up-down jump, etc.). After you hear the audience cheer, hit the Start button.

Instructor Comments:

Sue B