Just Dance 4|
“Just Dance 4? Just Dance 4! Dad, It’s got a One Direction song in it!”
That’s the last thing I heard before my daughter’s scream topped 120 decibels, nearly breaking every glass window in the house. This coming from the girl who one week ago all but blew out our television speakers rocking out to Dance Central 3, proclaiming Harmonix’ masterpiece as the best thing to come in her life since Justin Beiber. Now it’s all about Just Dance 4 – I guess I should know this by now, but apparently all someone has to do is get the One Direction seal of approval and it is gold, baby.
The disc had hardly warmed up from the mailbox (it’s cold up here in Michigan) and it was already booting up in the Xbox 360. That brief moment, when the Dance Central 3 disc was replaced by the Just Dance 4 disc very well may have been the only moment of peace we have had around the house – with the whole family, as well as a gaggle or two of shrieking girls, have been dancing non-stop in front of the Kinect.
I will freely admit that I am a Dance Central loyalist at heart. I have a great deal of respect for the folks at Harmonix, and have held their groundbreaking dance franchise as the gold standard for the genre, from its day-one Kinect release right up until last week’s release and review of Dance Central 3. Over the years I have reviewed numerous dancing franchises on various gaming platforms, and until now – no game has even come close to Dance Central in terms of energy, enjoyment, and technology. That being said, Just Dance 4 comes awfully close.
It is tremendous amount of fun wrapped up in a fairly impressive package – whether it’s the fantastic visual presentation, the eclectic soundtrack, or the myriad of unique gameplay modes, the folks at Ubisoft have delivered the best Just Dance title yet and one that is finally on par with the Dance Central franchise. In fact, if it were not for some questionable calls in terms of gameplay, and overtly sketchy Kinect implementation, Just Dance 4 might just have ousted Dance Central from the VIP section.
So what’s there to love? I really thought Dance Central 3 had it in the bag with its history lesson of dance music covering the 1970’s through present day. But Just Dance 4 easily takes top honors with its surprisingly diverse selection of music that covers everything from the standard dance hits from folks like Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, and Justin Beiber, to the downright obscure tunes from folks like Panjabi MC, Bunny Beatz, and Las Ketchup. And yes, there is a One Direction song.
Not to be outdone by Dance Central 3, Just Dance 4 even delves into a little history of its own with songs by Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder, and Barry White – and those 1980’s fans can even get a little Dirty Dancing on to Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley’s “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” . As if that weren’t enough, there’s even a handful of the really off the wall oddball stuff, like “Rock Lobster” from the B52’s, “Time Warp” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show Soundtrack, and the classic “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” by They Might Be Giants. Just Dance 4 delivers a soundtrack that is clearly intended to be enjoyed by gamers of all ages and tastes.
The visual presentation is very club-like; with bright, pulsating neon lights, and a lot of dancing silhouettes, that result in an atmosphere reminiscent of the FMV visualizers that came included in the Xbox Music Mixer program that Microsoft released for the original Xbox. It sets a fitting ambiance to the action, and the kids really enjoyed playing it with the lights down low to really drive home the club like atmosphere.
While Just Dance 4 does not include any campaign or story mode to work through, it does feature a number unique gameplay options. The first is the standard Just Dance Mode in which gamers simply dance routines as set by the game – there is little fanfare, just dancing, hence the name. Just Sweat is Just Dance’s take on fitness games like Your Shape Fitness, or Wii Fit. With Just Sweat, gamers can tailor their own fitness routine for workouts spanning from 10 – 60 minutes. The pre-canned workouts are uniquely stylized around an era or a genre of music, offering workouts in the vein of the 1980’s Aerobics craze, the punk rock style Cheerleader Bootcamp, or Latin-flavored Sweat Around the World workouts. Just Dance 3 had a similar fitness mode, but Just Dance 4’s seems more fleshed-out than in the previous release.
Just Dance 4 once again includes the dance mash-ups combining songs together and stringing move combos, but the new Battle Mode takes the mash-up idea and pushes it a step further. In battle Mode, gamers square off against one another in dancing different song mash-ups, whittling away at each other’s health bars. Picture a traditional fighting game, and you’ll get the idea.
Finally, Just Dance TV allows gamers to post videos of their highlights online for other gamers to enjoy and/or ridicule (naturally). Half the fun of Just Dance 4 is spying into the living rooms of other poor unsuspecting fools as they dance their fannies off in the privacy of their own home. The whole family can make a night out of just watching others, although the servers seem a bit shaky when it comes to uptime – often resulting in error messages. Still, it is good fun.
That being said, Just Dance 4 still can’t muster up the strength to unseat Dance Central 3. While it may top Harmonix’s game in terms of the soundtrack, the lack of any campaign or story mode makes the game great fun for a good group of people, but single player options are lacking. Dance Central 3 nailed it with their time travelling story mode (as corny as it was), and Just Dance should take a cue from Harmonix for the inevitable Just Dance 5.
The fitness mode is a nice addition, but the sketchy Kinect controls leave a lot to be desired. It’s easy to see that Just Dance was designed around the motion-remote controllers of the Wii and PS3 with its mouse pointer like design, but this does not translate well to the Kinect which has its own standard swipe controls. The menu layout don’t help matters much, as the usual Kinect navigation difficulties are simply magnified by Just Move’s narrow UI design.
All complaints aside, Just Dance 4 is still a fantastic game. While I think Dance Central offers more in terms of single player experience and ease of use, Just Dance 4 is more than enough fun to rock the party all night.