The Just Dance franchise is Ubisoft’s answer to the dance-in-front-of-your-television game. For years now, the games have let players boogie down like nobody’s watching and their casual approach to dancing has made them the perfect crowd-pleaser. Each new title features different songs and a few enhancements that separate it from its predecessors while still focusing on delivering an uncomplicated dancing game experience. It’s no surprise, then, that Just Dance 4 follows this formula to a tee.
Published by: Ubisoft
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U
What works: Easy choreography | Accessible to a wide audience | Impressive Just Sweat mode
What doesn’t work: Navigation feels stiff | Questionable choreography | More of the same
As a party game, Just Dance 4 excels. With over 40 songs from “Moves like Jagger” to “Call Me Maybe” to “Time Warp”, the game provides something for everyone. Kinect tracks the movement of up to four players, and some songs even feature choreography created for groups of two or four. Your dance sessions are also recorded, so you can even upload your videos to Facebook if you’re feeling brave. True to its name, the game is still all about dancing and its colorful characters and visuals let you know you’re meant to have a good time.
Navigating through the game’s menus is done entirely using Kinect, and sometimes you’ll wish you could use a good old-fashioned controller. Selecting something requires you to move your hand over an icon and then push your hand forward to “press” it. It’s not always smooth process either, as you’ll sometimes miss your target and make the wrong selection when scrolling through the game’s roulette-style menus. These controls require some getting used to and aren’t as accurate, or as smooth, as we had hoped.
Once a song starts, you’ll see both a stylized avatar dance to the music and icons scroll across the screen indicating what move you need to do next. The game’s overall choreography is very symmetrical and mainly consists of repeating the same moves over the course of a song. While the game scores you on how well each move is performed, we found that the sensor often only cared for what our arms were doing and didn’t mind if our legs were lagging behind. Its lenient scoring system further shows that the game is meant to be accessible to players of all backgrounds, even if it does lower its difficulty for those of us who want a challenge.
At the same time however, it isn’t easy getting a perfect score right away as the game lacks any clear explanation as to how you’re supposed to perform a move. The icons that scroll across the screen are static, so you’ll need to figure out what they want you to do on the fly or simply memorize the movements and replay the song. Some tracks also feature outlandish choreography that is more theatrical than it is rhythmic, so you’ll begin to wonder why they’re in the game at all. This is especially evident in the game’s new Battle mode, which has two players dancing against each other in a mash-up of two songs. While part of it does require you to dance better than your partner, the majority of a battle involves copying bizarre moves that will leave you wondering if you’re dancing at all.
After you play through a song (even the more peculiar ones), the game rewards your accuracy with points that increase your Mojo meter. Playing through a song and getting a high score grants you points that fill up your meter, which, with every level you reach, unlocks extra content such as new choreography or fitness routines. Additionally, songs have various accuracy and score requirements called “quests” that you give you more points when you manage to pull them off. It’s quite rewarding playing through each song knowing that all your hard work is paying off.
Targeting casual players but also catering to gamers wanting a more fulfilling dancing game, Just Dance 4 provides a good blend of content to make everyone happy. It may not teach you how to dance, but the game’s enhanced modes and new tracks will surely give you the courage and endurance to do so. Despite its questionable choreography and navigation issues, Just Dance 4 is once again another excuse to get up to work your dance muscles, even if it’s all been done before.
This review was done on a Xbox 360 copy of the game provided by the publisher. Just Dance 4 is available on Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. It will also be available on Wii U on November 18.