Let's be honest for a second. We've all had that phase where we wished we had some dancing chops. Who hasn't tried to cut the rug when they were alone at home one afternoon and the home stereo was playing a groovy song or even did a quick routine as a song was playing in one's head while in the shower? And after some neighbor unfortunately sees your Running Man from the uncurtained window (happened to me twice) or when you slip on the slippery marble tiles and almost fracture your ankle as you try your best Michael Jackson spin (happened to me once), you vow never to take the dance floor by storm again for fear of losing your dignity and well-being. But deep down, the call of the dance floor begs you to find a way to channel your inner-Michael Jackson where the spotlight shines on you.
5Street (or High Street 5 in some regions) is a free-to-play, dancing-simulator, rhythm and social MMO game from Snail Games. It promises to give players the experience of living in a virtual world where everyone can mingle with other people who share their love of dancing and a good time.
But does this title really deliver on their promise of a good time and happy feet, or does it get bounced out of the dance floor altogether? Get on your dancing shoes, it's time to review 5Street!
Welcome to the World of Dance
5Street welcomes players into a world where everywhere is a stage and hearing music in the background can (and often) lead to many jiving and gyrating moments. The game is essentially a rhythm-based game with controls similar to the older console games like Bust-A-Move and Parappa The Rapper, which has become a standard base as far as rhythm games are concerned; the difference lies with the inclusion of a harder 8-key combination for those who want to take on a more challenging version of the game. Having the option to change the difficulty in this regard separates the "casual dancers" to the "purists". Unlike the older titles, however, there are no memorable characters as far as the eye can see; most of the characters in 5Street are other people who are trying to make a name for themselves in this world, one dance battle at a time.
Game types range from Single Dance Mode, predominantly used for practicing the more difficult songs and honing one's speed in inputting the correct steps, Lover's Dance Mode, which as the name suggests, require two players to play in unison in order to perform couples-only moves to dazzle the crowd; Battle Dance Mode (for those who haven't watched all the dance movies over the past decade) involve players to out-dance one another for bragging rights and earning the begrudging respect of the crowd (duh). Finally, there's the Group Dance Mode where a group of five to thirty players rely on each others' skill and precision-pressing in order to land a difficult routine (think of Backstreet Boys, N'Sync, and pretty much every other boy band, both old and new). It is quite refreshing to see a wide variety of game modes where players can compete with and cooperate with each other; who knew a rhythm game could have so many modes!
Daily quests are given to players and usually involve leveling up and exploring the various stuff one can do inside the game. The rewards vary from getting new preppy attire and haircuts for your avatar, to having items that have will come in handy with your dancing prowess (or I think it should have), like soda pops to an assortment of flowers and other apparent dance-related paraphernalia. Sadly, the game doesn't really divulge to what these items really do for you, so you'd end up just wanting to level up your character so that you can get that brand-spanking-new outfit in the in-game store. But of course, as with most free-to-play games, players who don't want the hassle of grinding their way to get their desired pair of jeans or swag-laden turtle neck sweater, players can opt to buy in-game currency to speed up the acquisition of said garments.
Of course, no one can dance if there is no music to dance to. 5Street supplies players with the most recent Pop and R&B songs that are constantly played in the designated dancing areas. It also serves as the global dance tune for those in the area who are currently playing any one of the game modes. For those who want to get a better grasp of any song that tickles their fancy, they can opt to put that song in an in-game playlist or even queue themselves in solo queue in order to familiarize themselves with the beat.
5Street has a surprisingly large amount of maps that serve as dance halls for the various game modes. Each map is fully rendered in 3D and offer different themes and motifs, from the usual bustling city-at-night, grungy and seedy under-the-bridge venue to Venice Beach and Coney Island-inspired beach fronts. All these provide as great backdrops for all things dance.
The Spotlight's On YOU!
Dancing is a very visual mode of interacting with others, and it requires the attention of the crowd. Apart from having such sick dance moves in your repertoire, having the right look is important so that you won't be just another would-be dancer. That being said, 5Street offers players the opportunity to really stand out by allowing players to dress up their virtual selves in any way they see fit. Avatars can be customized with a wide range of clothes, accessories and other stuff that players deem fashionable - from the sickest shoes and sneakers, suave hair styles to otherworldly appendages such as wings (because subtlety in 5Street will get you nowhere).
Speaking of dance moves, 5Street's dance animations are truly a sight to behold. The dance sequence usually starts off with basic and standard moves but progress to very outlandish and skittish real fast. But again, in 5Street, standing out plays a big part in the game as it rewards players for being flashy.
So, You Dance Here Often?
One other surprising thing about 5Street is that their community is generally helpful and friendly. Players are encouraged to mingle with one another to either engage in a friendly competitive dance battle, or play the cooperative Lover's Dance Mode or the bigger Group Dance Mode once the music starts (though the latter game mode takes a while to get players, as 30 people opting to work as a unit just seems implausible, unless the goal is raiding a dungeon boss for epic loot which, sadly, this game does not have).
The social aspect is evident in this game, and dancing clearly is the means for people to meet up and get to know one another. If you're not feeling the urge to get your groove on, you can opt to talk with the other players via global chat box. For the silent, mysterious types, you can just skip the mingling altogether and butt into someone who's dancing and show them your moves just because you can.
Dancing with the Same Old Crowd
While it is commendable that the developers ran and created a game that revolves around dancing, it has one major flaw - it gets boring REALLY fast. The game plays decently enough, I can give them that, but it can only run with the rhythm game for so long before it goes stale. After a good hour or so, the game loses its steam and the pop songs blasting in the background become annoying, just like in real life when you're inside a club for a solid three or four hours and the beats start to become repetitive and you start to drone out because the songs slowly become noise to you.
Regarding the dancing and social aspect of the game, it can't be denied that it tries to pass the dancing/rhythm simulation experience to that of going to bars and clubs. The dance moves are very provocative and chances are you probably see it if you're the type who frequents clubs every weekend. Here lies the dilemma - if you can get that kind of entertainment in the flesh (so to speak), why play a game that only simulates the experience? Why not head out and go clubbing instead? Personally, I'd rather look like an idiot trying to impress ladies in real life with my stiff body movements rather than play a game that simulates that very same thing.
Pros and Cons
Here are 5Street's pros and cons:
- decent graphics
- character customization
- party with the latest dance tunes
- complete daily quests to keep you busy
- in-game community is friendly
- gameplay starts to get old real fast
- controls feel a bit clunky and sluggish at times
- game caters to a specific demographic (people who like to dance)
- nothing memorable to speak of
As a game, 5Street delivers on their promise of a virtual world where dance is freedom of expression and everyone can be the light of the party. But the very theme it draws inspiration from is also its downfall as the experience becomes bland real fast. If you're into rhythm games that have a sizeable online community, you might want to check 5Street out. Or you could just stick to dancing alone in your living room all the same.