As the self proclaimed next generation of music games, In the Groove stands as a curious anomaly in the genre. On one hand it seeks to assert it's independence from it's intensely popular and more mature cousin, Konami's own Dance Dance Revolution. The other hand? It can't help but straddle the source material to the point where you'll wonder if Konami should drop another lawsuit on their heads. Regardless, Roxor's In the Groove has finally stepped into the big time.
Not to sound condescending, but if you've played Dance Dance Revolution, Pump it Up -- essentially any game that requires you to stomp around on a arrow-laden pad, you've played In the Groove. You pick your song from a variety of eurotrash pop, select a difficulty, slap on a few modifiers if thats your scene and commence the stomping. In the Groove doesn't seek to reinvent this simple concept. It only wants to make your experience more interesting.
Two key innovations set itself apart from big brother Revolution that will either have you dancing all night long or rolling your eyes disgust. The simplest of the two new features are called "Hands". Essentially, Hands are steps which require you to get down and activate the arrow with your, well, hands. So what is stopping you from going about this business as usual with your feet? The fact that you'll be standing on two arrows already.
Suddenly, the dance genre became even more like Twister. The inclusion of Hands is definitely an exciting addition to the game, but when overused on some songs they quickly become a monstrous affair. Bending over backwards a few times per song is cause for a fun sense of panic, while kneeling over and pounding your fists like Donkey Kong to a rapid beat is quite frankly, as stupid as it sounds.
The second innovation, and one that I am none to happy with are "Mines". Replacing arrows with a large, red circle, activating a Mine step causes an explosion, accompanied with a massive loss to your health bar. Even if resting on the arrows before a Mine appears, if you're still in that spot, you're getting punished. This results in awkward maneuvering around the stage as you attempt to not trip over your own two feet while avoiding Mines and still moving where you need to be.
Mines also prove to be more of a problem then they are worth in later difficulties. If you haven't figured it out by now, In the Groove intends to make it's name by being the choice of the hardcore dancing nerd's who require the most insane step patterns known to man. Unfortunately, a large majority of it's means are forcing the player to decipher these patterns through a sea of Mines. It's almost ironic that for a game called In the Groove, it's main draw is that which throws you completely out of your groove.