In the late ‘90s and early 2000s, there was nothing cooler than going to the arcade and playing Dance Dance Revolution – at least if you were a 14-year-old mallrat or working a retail job and needed a way to keep yourself from elbow-smashing the customers. Around that time, back when six-pack plastic rings dumped in the ocean were responsible for more animal deaths than discarded DDR discs, DDRMAX2 for the PlayStation 2 hit the home gaming scene. The game manages to hold on to some of the charm the series was known for in its heyday, but the more play time one invests in it, the more obvious it becomes that MAX2 stretches the core Dance Dance Revolution gameplay to the breaking point.
Just in case the only exposure to the series you’ve ever had was making fun of the tweens flailing around to J-pop songs as you waddled to the foodcourt, let me explain how it works: When the music starts, arrows begin floating from the bottom of the screen to the top; that’s the player’s cue to stomp the corresponding arrow on their dance pad. It’s sort of like a video version of Twister, only there’s little chance of “accidentally” touching the other player’s rear end. One can choose between Beginner, Light, Standard, and Heavy difficulties, thus allowing every song to be accessible to beginners and pros alike.
The most important part of any Dance Dance Revolution game is the music, and the songs the player can choose from in DDRMAX2 are a mixed bag. There are plenty of well known songs this time around, including “Will I?” By Ian Van Dahl, “Love at First Sight” by Kyile Minogue, “Heaven” by DJ Sammy, and “A Little Bit of Ecstasy” by Jocelyn Enriquez. However, anyone who cut their teeth on the older games in the series will be disappointed that many songs created specifically for DDR games of the past, like “Dynamite Rave” and “B4U,” have been displaced.
The extras in this game will keep those willing to play it entertained for weeks. There are a staggering amount of secrets to unlock, and the game entices you to keep playing at the end of each game by telling you how close you are to unlocking the next secret. Unlockables include new songs, extra play modes, and on-screen dancer options, among other things.
If you worked at a mall at some point during the last 12 years and you’re feeling nostalgic for the good ol’ days of double shifts and surviving exclusively on greasy mall pizza, DDRMAX2 should be your guilty pleasure game of choice. By this point the Dance Dance Revolution series was getting more than a bit stale, but so was the group of people you hung out with at the arcades on your 15 minutes breaks. A few hours with DDRMAX2 and you’ll remember that Dance Dance Revolution used to be something fun and unique, kind of like that old retail job you used to have.