Just dance, and that's it.
The Just Dance series came around a few years ago as a surprise casual hit among Wii owners. Continuing perhaps one of the biggest success stories on the console, the fourth game in the annualized series hit shelves recently. As a reviewer who has no interest in or tendency to Just Dance, it is my solemn vow to attempt to evaluate this game nonetheless. Be warned, I do not have any moves like Jagger.
Just Dance 4’s front-end interface is surprisingly smooth. It’s not complicated: simply pick a mode (Just Dance or Just Sweat) and then pick a song from the list. It’s a shallow interface, but it’s polished, and simple enough for anyone to pick up and navigate without issue.
Once you pick a mode and a song, you see a silhouette of a dancer on screen with one hand colored. This represents the hand that you, the player, use to hold the Wii Remote. As the dancer begins going through the motions of the dance, you mirror them as closely as you can. Small icons appear in the lower left corner to indicate the basic motion behind the move, and while this may seem like a duplication of information, it gives you a bit of advance notice.
I have no doubt that Just Dance 4 is at least somewhat competent in measuring accuracy of movement; however, after playing for some time, I’ve come to accept that I’m ill-prepared to make that judgment one way or another. Instead, I brought in some friends and played the game in a small group. Unsurprisingly, those less movement challenged than I had no problem consistently getting more than twice my score. Most importantly, they were having fun. Despite the silliness of the whole thing, everyone was laughing and having a good time.
Just Dance 4 seems to have a scoring system in spite of itself. Certainly, you can gain rewards by playing well, but for the most part, success and failure seems secondary to simply having a good time. It’s not really clear how to get better at the game if you are already bad at it aside from trying harder to closely mimic the on-screen dancer. With no real tutorial mode or specific settings for beginners, it seems somewhat irrelevant if you’re not any good. As a dance-challenged gamer myself, I would have loved to have seen some sort of training mode helping me grasp the basics of dancing, especially as my wife pointed out that one of the easier songs in the game was asking me to perform a very basic dance step. In the end, though, I got a kick out of watching my friends play while I flailed around like a buffoon. That's the trademark of a good party game.
Rewards come in the form of achievement-like “Dance Quests” on each song. As you unlock these achievements, you gain points to level up. As you level up, you spin a roulette wheel with rewards including a new song, a remix of an existing song, or a new workout routine. The track list contains a nice variety of songs, including kitsch cuts (“Rock Lobster” by the B-52s and “Instanbul” by They Might Be Giants), soundtrack classics (“Time Warp” from Rocky Horror Picture Show and “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing), and modern hits (“Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen and “Super Bass” by Nicki Minaj). Although most of the track list is not my cup of tea, I found a handful of songs that were fun to dance to, even though I did so poorly.
Just Dance 4 also includes “Just Sweat,” a workout mode that gives you the option to dance for a set period of time, nonstop, alternating between fast-paced and mellow songs. The mode features five workouts: ‘80s pop, World Music, Electro Music, Punk Rock, and Classy/’60s pop. Each, except the “Swinging ‘60s Workout,” is available from the start, with that one being an unlockable bonus.
This is a game for a very specific set of people, and I am not included that set. Nonetheless, I had a good time with the game once more people got involved. If you have a group of friends that like to bust a groove, Just Dance 4 may be the party game for you. If you’re more interested in leveling up a black mage than a dancer, then avoidance is your smoothest move.