If there was any question that Nintendo are the master of cheesy Japanese kids games with Mario in them, that doubt has been put to rest. In arcades everywhere, Dance Dance Revolution has taken over. It is highly doubtful that anyone has missed the legions of transfixed devotees tossing their limbs about in some sort of tribal lunacy but if you haven't, let me explain.
Dance Dance Revolution is a game whereby a player dances on a stage which has pads on it, which are stepped on in time with the music and visual cues on screen. As the arrows on screen reach a target the player makes a dance step in that direction and, if well timed, is rewarded with points. DDR has been at the arcades for years and has even invaded the home market on Xbox and Ps2 but now the GameCube is due for a serving.
Dancing Stage Mario Mix is a DDR clone from Nintendo which incorporates the basic ideas of DDR and its ilk into an adventure scenario starring much of the staple Mario Brothers universe. The story mode is very Japanese, with wacky crazy dance numbers and Mario and Luigi dancing off against all the usual Mario World favourites. It is insane fun with some great game play for kids to enjoy. It is very simple to use, understand and progress through with the tasks getting harder as time goes on. However, while it can be played with a controller, the real way to play it is with the provided Mario-emblazoned dance mat. We should note, however, that this game is not as easy to play as it sounds, and our own veteran dancer/reviewer Ross Catanzariti received an F on the first level.
The dance mat is essentially a controller substitute which connects to the controller port on the GameCube. It has buttons for each of the directions as well as most of the other buttons on the regular controller. The player stands in the middle of the dance mat and plays the game the same way as they would in the arcades. The buttons work perfectly and have a well balanced level of sensitivity. The Mat is a little small for large or tall adults as the buttons are a little too close to the centre position for those with larger strides. This is a perfect synergistic peripheral for dance games but since it is essentially a controller you could use it for other games too. The dance mat also has a rubberized feel to the underside to prevent it from slipping and causing injury.
Sure, it may not make sense to play a racing game with a dance mat but it could make for some interesting new gaming elements and would at least be worth trying for laughs if you are so inclined. This product is a yet another novelty gaming step by Nintendo which will need some developer support in the future if it's to be used regularly. As it stands, if you are looking for a fun game for the kids which will get them up off the couch, Dancing Stage Mario Mix could just accomplish that feat.