Just Dance 4
Platform: PS3, Wii/Wii-U, Xbox 360
An Xbox 360 copy of Just Dance 4 was supplied to us
Ubisoft continues its Just Dance franchise with their fourth step onto the dance floor. I’ve been making jokes about this and Dance Central ever since they were released because I always thought it was silly for people to sit at home pretending to dance when they could just go out to a club to actually dance, but I’m actually starting to get why these games are gaining in popularity.
So Just Dance 4 is a dancing game and one of the big two competitors on the market with the other being Harmonix’s Dance Central series. In the main dance mode you’ll have 40 tracks available to you right at the start and you’ll see a mix of newer pop tracks with a mix of older stuff. I was slightly worried I’d have to play some sort of half assed story mode to unlock Livin’ La Vida Loca or something so that’s a relief. Besides the regular songs, you’ll be able to unlock mash-up versions that will mix in different dance modes into the songs or give you random things like actually having to use an umbrella in the song Umbrella. It’s a bit disappointing that the mash-ups weren’t actual mash-ups of songs because it would’ve been neat to say the least. A neat detail I enjoyed was how you can pause anytime in a song and the song list is right there in the pause menu so if you get bored of a song you can quickly change it.
Navigating the menu feels sort of like covering a bowling lane in cooking oil and trying to bowl a strike. You have to hold your arm out in front of you to make the cursor appear but don’t hold it out too far or else you’ll select everything. I get what they were going for with the whole “click on an item” with your finger idea but it just doesn’t end up working. I would sit there tapping the same song multiple times before it would let me select it and scrolling through songs can get annoying if you don’t move slowly enough. The annoying part is that the game has controller support for only pausing a game during a song and I really would’ve preferred to have full controller support. Playing the game on the Kinect makes me doubtful anyone could have the same experience while on a Wii(U) or PS3. Shaking a controller around just doesn’t seem like it would be as immersive as actually having the game able to register your entire body. If anything it’s limiting on the other systems.
The coolest (and most exhausting) mode in Just Dance 4 is easily the sweat mode. In it you’ll be able to select from a few modes that vary in both song choice and intensity while picking between a 10, 25, or 45 minute workout session. The game will count the calories burned at the end of a session and show you a total amount lost throughout all of your sessions played. Personally I’m going to keep going to the gym since I don’t really trust a Kinect to assume how much calories I burned for waving my hands around like a fool, but for those without access to a gym will definitely find some use out of this. There’s also a battle mode where you can challenge a friend to duke it out to see who can hold the title of greatest fake dancer.
While I couldn’t try out the Wii-U version of the game people interested in that version should know there will be a “Puppet Master” mode exclusive to that system. In it, players with the Wii-U tablet will be able to control the dance routine on the fly and change the visuals.
Each song has a list of Dance Quests available to earn some extra XP. There are six per song and consist of things like getting five stars on a song to earn a certain score during a specific part of a song. Players also have a dancer card that will show off your highest scores, most played songs, and time spent playing. Each time you complete a song, sweat session, or dance quest you’ll earn XP to level up your mojo. Each time you level up you’ll get the chance to spin a roulette wheel to earn one of four prizes which consist of mash-up tracks or avatars for your dancer card.
I just have two main issues with the game, the dance moves and the crew songs. The stick figure drawings that show up aren’t very expressive in what the upcoming dance move is going to be so you’re left clumsily trying to do what the dancer in the game is doing and before you can understand how to perform the move a different one is thrown your way. It leaves you having to replay the same song as long as it takes for you to get the moves down and since each song has a completely different dance routine you’ll have to do this with each song. I’m not sure if this was done to boost replay value but I really would have liked to have some sort of practice mode where it could go through a song slowly and teach you the moves. My other complaint is the choreography in crew songs. Some songs are designed for a single person (but you can of course still have up to four people playing it at once) but other songs are called “crew songs” that have specific dance moves built for multiple people. These songs get awkward to play when you play by yourself or if you and your friend don’t select the appropriate characters in the selection screen. For example, the Time Warp song has a bit where you need to dance with another player and doing the move by yourself (or if your friend doesn’t pick that specific character) then you’re left awkwardly trying to do the move by yourself. It’s cool that they’re trying to get players who play with friends a little more invested in the game (especially how different characters have their own solo moments to shine) but it can lead to some awkward playing moments when not playing with all four players.
Visually the game is iffy because it’s just actual people dancing while being put through some visual filters. Sometimes you’ll get some really neat visual treats like a Tron-esque robot dance in a Skrillix song and at other times you’ll get something incredibly boring like in Call Me Maybe. The UI on the other hand looks incredibly slick which is a plus since when you’re frustrated trying to navigate it at least it looks nice. The song list has an impressive variety in its 40 songs. Even though they’re all mostly pop songs, there’s enough variety in the types of pop with basic mainstream stuff like Justin Bieber to things like Ricky Martin.
The Final Word
While I think I may have had a mini-heart attack while playing, Just Dance 4 showed me why people are buying these dancing games. They’re incredibly fun to play with friends even if none of you know how to dance, and sometimes it’s even more fun because of that. If it had some way to compensate for solo players in crew songs and a way to practice the dance songs this would definitely give me a reason to keep playing it, but I’m just not that interested in replaying each song 5 times to memorize the routines.
– MonsterVine Rating: 3.5 out of 5 – Fair