It’s probably worth saying in opening this article that I am not a good dancer. There are some things that I’m good at in life, but of all the skills that I possess, the ability to cavort in a rhythmic manner is not high up the list. In fact it’s so far down it’s barely on the list. I might even go so far as to say that it’s so very close to the bottom of the list that it has now fallen off the list and rolled under the sofa. And I’m too lazy to go and retrieve it. In essence, I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I can’t dance. So naturally, our editor picked me to do the review for Just Dance 2016.
The game pretty much does what it says on the tin, it’s a dancing simulator that sets you the task of shaking what your mother gave you to a selection of pop hits. The set list is very geared towards modern music. I’m a bit on the older side so I didn’t really know half of them and this made some of the random song type modes a bit of a chore. In all, the 44-strong track list contains only 10 songs released before 2007 with a full 24 released in the last 24 months. This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your point of view.
If you were in the “bad thing” camp at the end of the above paragraph, there is an alternative. Things can get more varied if you are using a PS4, Wii U or Xbox One as you can then subscribe to the monthly subscription service Just Dance Unlimited. This $6.99-a-month service gives you a larger selection of songs spanning genres and eras better. Remember this is still a game aimed at a particular crowd though so try as I might, I wasn’t able to find any Metallica, Meshuggah, Meatloaf or Manilow to bop along to. You’re so pre-occupied with dancing though, there’s a high chance you’ll not be as concerned about songs that you don’t know or like as much as you thought that you would be. Even if you are, you will be far too out of breath to complain about it anyway.
There’s a few modes in which to play. First is “Dance Party” mode. This is a plain and simple affair of simply dancing to some songs. You can pick whichever tune you want from all the music in the game and you can play single player as well as multiplayer competitive or co-op. There’s a “sweat” mode which is specifically designed for a workout; it gives you a non stop onslaught of songs. “Dance quest” mode is a bit different from the Just Dance 4 version that preceded it. In this mode you dance off against computer controlled players, three random songs play and you are rated against the AI. As you progress you unlock different awards and avatars.
All of the modes mentioned though still have you doing the same thing, it’s just presented in a slightly different way. The game follows very much the tried and tested Just Dance method where it presents you with a computer dancer performing moves on screen and you dance along as if the on screen character was you in a mirror. The game then rates how funky and fresh your moves were by comparing them to the ones that the digital avatar asked you to emulate. There’s one exception to this though, and that is the new “Showtime” mode.
Showtime is a new mode only available in the next gen versions of the game. It is a freestyle dancing mode which rates you on karaoke rather than your dancing. As an added bonus, it gives you a customised video with graphics and all kinds of snazzy stuff. It only seems to makes a video out of about 20 seconds of your dancing though, not a full dance to the song so don’t expect to be showing off your snazzy routine, it’ll just pick some random bits that it sees as well timed. What it sees as well timed is a little interesting though. On more than one routine it decided that me grabbing a drink, pushing my glasses back up my face or scratching my arse was clearly a well timed part of the routine that deserved a slot in the video. It was briefly fun but the novelty very quickly wore off.
You can play the game with PS Move, Wiimote, Kinect, Playstation Camera and PS Move depending on which system you are playing with. There is a new addition this year as well in the form of an app for iOS and Android smartphones. The app is quite a nice idea; you download it to your device and then connect via Wi-Fi to the same network as your console. The app then uses the sensors of your phone to gauge your movements. It’s a great concept and will help to reduce the cost of playing for people that don’t already have one of the add-on devices that the game would otherwise need but in testing I found it to be about as accurate as a Stormtrooper (ie, not very). It regularly didn’t register moves that I made or marked me as “perfect” when I know that I didn’t get a move even close to right.
Accuracy of controls was sadly a recurring theme throughout. Although I found the app to be quite inaccurate, I found a slightly better experience was had with the PlayStation Camera instead. Again though, this wasn’t as accurate as I had hoped. There was a point that I stopped dancing mid song to take a sip of water and it carried on rating me as doing OK. I realised it wasn’t recording everything perfectly accurately and tried a little experiment. I found out that if I ignore the dance and just do the weird hand thing that they did at the end of Blockbusters, it still rates it as a brilliant dance and gives me good points. The problem is that the game is literally just measuring the movement of one hand, even seemingly when the camera is in use which you would expect to take more of my gyrations into account.
Clearly then, the game isn’t designed to be an accurate dancing simulator. It’s more Guitar Hero than Rocksmith if you will. I had hoped that this might teach me to dance a bit better but the inaccurate feedback means that after a few hours playing this, I’m no better at dancing then when I started and my fiancée is still planning to wear steel toecaps for our first dance. It’s a shame that it’s not more accurate, but it’s more about the spectacle then the choreography. It could be argued that if the game was more punishing with the dance moves then it would be less fun. All I can say for certain is that I did enjoy myself playing it even though I didn’t feel I was a better dancer for the experience.
This is a game which really comes into its own during multiplayer sessions. I’m talking actual real life people in your house multiplayer here. There is an online multiplayer mode but you’ll be paying far too much attention to what you’re supposed to be doing to notice your online opponent anyway. Bring some friends round for a dance off though and it gets enjoyable. Like any local multiplayer game, the more comfortable you are taking the piss out of your friends for a poor performance the better! There’s probably a few teenage girls who take this thing particularly seriously but realistically, those of us over the age of 16 are more likely to enjoy this as a drinking game. This also helps because the drunker you get, the less self conscious you get and therefore the more likely you are to try some of the more esoteric moves where the game sends you hurtling to the floor or spinning around like a crazy person. For those of us getting too old for a nightclub, this could be a much better way to get drunk and embarrass yourself.
Overall, Just Dance 2016 was a surprisingly fun experience for me. There’s not that much new since last year’s outing so if you’re still happy with 2015 then it’s only the song lists, or the unlimited service that you’ll benefit from. I didn’t know all the songs and I still can’t dance, but it was fun and it made me smile. If that’s not the mark of a decent game then I don’t know what is.
Just Dance 2016 (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
More of the same with a new control scheme and a couple of new features. Nothing new to see but still fun, if you like that sort of thing.