One night found me puttering about the house, darting restively from room to room, randomly checking cabinets or the fridge, eventually answering the phone then accidentally eavesdropping on my brother’s phone conversations with one of his friends. As usual. But then I hear Bro discussing with his buddy something he was apparently really into these days, something I haven’t heard of for what seemed like years.
About three-plus years ago, Dance Maniax was the latest arcade-dancing craze. It was what the younger bracket of our extended family — from my sister to our lanky, video-game-loving male cousin — was absolutely nuts for… and (astonishingly) experts of. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that it’s one of the few video arcade games I’m actually moderately good at, besides air hockey and those ticket-winning games even teething children and their linguistically-uncoordinated nannies could excel in.
Not to be confused with the completely-foot-driven dancing structure of Dance Dance Revolution (which was already in every urban center in the Philippines years before Americans have even heard of it), Dance Maniax’ dancing structure is driven by four laser beams (two for the upper body area, two for the leg area), allowing for a more dynamic range of movement and, er, more creative freedom.
You could literally pull off WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANTED just to hit those lasers: hand-clapping; foot-shaking; head-banging; breakdancing; lightning-quick waving of the arms (for the experts); doing a frenzied cross of The Salsa, The Macarena and The Can-Can (in my case); or shimmying your ass (in my brother’s case) like the flaming diva you are.
Of course if you were good (read: hyper) enough, you instantly get free license to “showboat” before timid amateurs… even though in real life you’re about as physically fit as a dead rat.
Then there’s the actual music available for you to dance to, as carefully chosen by the connoisseurs of J-Pop, disco-fusion and alien possession. There’s the Big Band/ska-influenced “Get It All”, the horrifyingly frenetic “Happy Hopper”, the tribal-inspired “Afronova Primeval” and an absurd remix of that deep-country ditty “Doodah!” (formerly “Camptown Races”).
You also have “Mind Parasite” (disco-reverb), “Baila Baila” (latin-inspired), “Heaven is a ’57 Metallic Gray” (bebop), “Butterfly” (100% unforgiving J-Pop), a nonsensical heavy-metal piece whose title I forgot, and (when you get an ultra-high score) a bonus song starting with the feel-good, choir-backed “Jet World”, later devolving into the notorious arcadian acid-trip ‘Paranoia” (at which point the tempo automatically picks up, and you have to shimmy your ass faster than usual).
*Note: As with any other video game, if your expertise in Dance Maniax achieves that criminal level where you’ve mastered the cheat codes, memorized those ridiculous songs and found yourself karate-chopping in your sleep, NOW IS THE TIME TO STOP.