An interesting take on the dance genre that's not as polished as it should be.
A good friend of mine once said, "No matter how you dance, you are a better dancer then the one who is standing still." In a way, this sums up Ubisoft's Just Dance. Just Dance is a dancing simulator that focuses on busting a move, no matter how bad you do it or what song you're doing it to. It's all about partaking in the fun of dancing. It has some good ideas, but also some flaws that keep it from being truly amazing.
The object of Just Dance is a simple one. An on-screen dancer does a routine based on a song, and the player must replicate the dance moves in time to the beat of the song. This is done according to how the player is holding the Wii Remote, and how much movement he or she is putting into the performance. Movements such as arm thrusts, claps, arm shakes, swaying, hip shakes, and more are detected by the Wii Remote. This design is similar to how We Cheer 2 and the dancing mini-game in Ubisoft's own Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party implement dance choreography with the Wii Remote.
There are two main gameplay modes. The first is Quick Play, which has you select a song and perform it in order to get the highest score possible. Each song is rated in two categories: difficulty and effort. The more stars the song has, the more effort will have to be put into the performance. The second mode of play is Challenge. Challenge provides three gameplay modes: Regular (which works like Quick Play), Strike a Pose (a group dance variation of the game Red Light, Green Light), and Last One Standing (the player with the least mistakes wins). All modes can be played with up to three other players.
Another option is Warm Up. Just Dance recommends players to warm up before taking on the game. It works like the main game, except the movements you do are for warm up purposes. A very clever and much appreciated addition, especially since Just Dance also works as an exercise game due to how it encourages players to get up and put as much energy as possible onto their performances.
That said, a lack of multiple gameplay options puts a hurt on Just Dance's overall package. You'll truly see what the game has to offer in less than 30 minutes, surely turning off music and rhythm game fans that are used to very robust music games on the Wii.
Instead of using two Wii Remotes or the Nunchuk for more accurate gameplay, Just Dance uses only one Wii Remote. This leads to some confusion when it comes to doing a dance move with the controllerless hand. Motion detection is also spotty. Timing is everything, so you have to pay attention to the dancer on screen and mimic the moves. Just Dance mentions that it detects the motion of your body, and how much energy it detects is based on how your movements match those of the on-screen dancer. However, even if your timing is spot-on the game fails to register your movements at times.
More confusion is created by the pictogram on-screen cues. While it's obvious that you have to mimic the choreography of the virtual dancer, the bottom of the screen also features scrolling poses indicating what you need to do. The confusion comes from the fact that the instructions sometimes contradict themselves, making it look like timing relies on the pose you make rather than the movements you do. This, however, can be properly mastered with practice, and its design makes it a complex task. While gameplay is not as polished as in Namco Bandai's We Cheer 2, it is very easy to learn initially. Once you "get it", Just Dance becomes very enjoyable, very enduring, and extremely silly and fun. It's the closest thing to a dance simulator on the Wii.
Just Dance features over 30 songs, all of them master tracks from the original recordings. With the game being all about fun, the songs selected reflect that almost to a fault, diving deep into one-hit wonder territory. Some of the songs include Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun", Baha Men's "Who Let the Dogs Out", "Wanna Be" by the Spice Girls, and Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger". Needless to say, if you are not a fan of pop songs then Just Dance's song list will be a huge turn off. There are no other unlockable songs and there's no option to download more.
The overall presentation is colorful but extremely minimalistic. The menus feature vibrant neon colors reminiscent of 80s fashion. The biggest graphical flourish in Just Dance are the on-screen dancers. Instead of 3D models, they are presented in a manner similar to the dancing shadow people from the famous iPod commercials, and it gets the job done while not being overly distracting.
In a way, Just Dance is just like an up- and-coming dancer. It's very rough but shows promise, especially when played with friends. It doesn't have that many gameplay options, and the song list may make the game embarrassing to play for some. But if you put aside your inhibitions, turn off your pride, and pick up a Wii Remote you are likely to forget everything, have some fun, and do as the title says… Just Dance!