Remember when everyone had a plastic guitar controller? Well, they’ve been confined to the cupboards. In their place? Thin air for the most part. Taking up the mantle of go-to party game nowadays, Dance Central and Just Dance are battling it out for the affection of ‘causual gamers’ the world over. Kinect may not have won over the hardcore, but if you are in the market for a dance-based videogame this holiday season, Kinect should unquestionably prove your device of choice. Infinitely more accurate (for a dance game) and involving than either the Wii or Sony’s, PlayStation Move, Kinect should be in a league of its own when it comes to dancing like a clown shoe this Christmas.
In fact, the only option you should really have to make is whether you will be picking up Dance Central 3 or Just Dance 4. That, my friend, depends on what kind of experience you are looking for. If you are looking for something a tad more serious, and dare I say, technically accomplished, Dance Central 3 is the only option. Harmonix offering is undoubtedly the better made game of the two, providing more depth and greater accuracy than Ubisoft’s neon-lit competitor. Despite it being the technically superior game though, many will prefer the more light hearted, irreverent nature of Just Dance 4. It isn’t as accurate and certainly won’t teach you how to dance like a pro, but for some quick fun with friends, few games prove as effortlessly enjoyable, and downright entertaining as Just Dance 4. Simplistic enough for anyone to get involved (regardless of inebriation level) with just enough depth to keep the virtual carrot dangling in front of those looking for a sense of progression, Just Dance 4 arguably nails that balancing act more successfully than its more critically applauded brethren.
The thing is, quality aside, Just Dance is the bigger name of the two major dance franchises and probably would have sold a hatful of copies (admittedly mostly on the Wii) if Ubisoft had simply updated Just Dance 3 with a bunch of new songs, but in fairness to them, while Just Dance 4 does indeed include a bevy of new tracks (40+ new tracks at that), it also has its fair share of new modes and well implemented updates. It may not deliver innovation, but in terms of its primary concern, namely; being fun, the additions made for this latest release certainly do the job.
With the core gameplay as entertaining as ever, it’s good to see that, despite its slightly more nuanced use of Kinect, Just Dance 4 is happy to do away with any kind of exacting nature. You are scored as always via stars and a cool little title based upon the amount of energy you bring to the routine, but this really isn’t an experience aimed towards score chasing. First and foremost, it’s all about the experience, and in the case of Just Dance 4, is all the better for it. Of course, you can go after all the gold stars you want, but as always, fun is the name of the game with Ubisoft obviously keen to reduce the level of entry to your ability to stand on two feet…..and it works.
Get a room full of people (playing on your own is still kind of tragic), bang this on, and believe me, core gamer or not, just about anyone with a solid pulse will want to get involved. There is no judgement here, only enjoyment. The neon visuals are as surprisingly appealing as ever with a host of pleasing artistic flourishes making this the most likeable Just Dance title to date. If you have the room, you can get four people up dancing together to perform combo moves and group routines, heck, you can even have a go if you don’t have the room – Just Dance 4 is extremely lenient when it needs to be.
The 40+ tracks are about as eclectic a collection as one could hope for, providing cheesy pop, unique curios and an array of modern hits. With songs as varied as “Time Warp” by Halloween Hill, “The Final Countdown” by Europe and, for the Family Guy fans out there, “Rock Lobster” by the B-52’s, there is more than enough weirdness to get those jaded by the state of the current pop scene up and dancing away. Saying that, I’d be amazed if you manage to keep your ass on your seat once “What Makes you Beautiful” by One Direction rears its ugly, but unbearably catchy head…..oh, and despite it being a God awful cover, I for one found Will Smith’s rendition of “Wild Wild West” painfully compelling.
While the major draw will inevitably be dancing along to these songs at parties and the such, for those looking to get the most out of the package, Dance Quests have been added for Just Dance 4 that encourage you to chase gold star rankings and successfully hit consecutive moves and etc. It doesn’t bring anything hugely new to the game, but it does add additional challenge for those looking for it and provides yet another reason to revisit “Rock Lobster” for the umpteenth time….as if you need a reason. It’s also worth noting that a handful of songs also have a number of alternate routines, some of which are there to up the difficulty level and some there, because, well, sometimes it’s nice to dance with a pretend sword.
Battle Mode returns, only this time much improved. With a carefully selected list of songs brilliantly mashed together in classic ‘dance off style’, health bars ala Street Fighter and its own unique move lists, this is unquestionably the most fun you can have with Just Dance 4 if you’re looking for a more competitive experience. It’s still silly fun at its core, but there is something about health bars that make any videogaming experience immediately and exponentially more competitive.
Of course, you can play Just Dance 4 on your own, and if you choose to do so, you would do well to take on the surprisingly addictive ‘Just Sweat’ mode that again arrives with a host of subtle but well implemented improvements. With an intensity tracker and a calorie counter, Just Dance 4 feels a bit more legit as an actual fitness aid than its predecessors, and with its collection of challenging fitness based routines, will rarely fail to put a bead on you. With routines ranging from 5 minutes to an utterly brutal 20 minutes, you can modify your workouts to meet your needs and fitness levels. It’s obviously not as in depth as the fitness-centric Zumba videogames, but as an excuse to take on the tracks on your lonesome, this mode works just fine.
Rounding off the package is the absolutely brilliant, 360 exclusive, ‘Just Dance TV’. Playback video has been done on Kinect before, but never has it been done as well as it has here. With Just Dance 4 editing your dance routines into genuinely entertaining and often, sidesplittingly hilarious music videos after each song, watching these compilations is often more amusing than playing the actual game. I’m not usually one for saving images and videos (except for a handful of classic Pro Evo goals), but some of these routines, dear me, they simply have to be shared with the world. Funny when sober and literally tear inducing when under the influence, this is just another of those little features that make Just Dance 4 such a delightful, unpretentious game to play with friends.
It may not be as technically nuanced as Harmonix’s offering and certainly won’t resonate with ‘core’ gamers, but if you’re looking for a genuinely entertaining party game, one that just about everyone will want to be a part of, Just Dance 4 is very hard to beat. With new tracks a plenty, a handful of new game modes and a pleasingly budget price point, Just Dance 4 comes very easy to recommend.
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