Just Dance – Review and Comparison

So, thanks to having a LoveFilm subscription I can enjoy renting games that I don’t really want to buy – either in case they turn out to be a waste of money, or because it’s a game I mostly want to try rather than keep. The ‘Just Dance’ games fall into the latter category. So, here’s a short look at them.

I’ve rented all three Just Dance games, in release order. I rented the first two in the series for the Wii (obviously, as they aren’t available on any other platform) and the third in the series I rented for the PS3. My feelings on them are what I expected going into this, which is – the most recent game runs the best, but the earlier ones have better soundtracks.

The game mechanic itself is pretty straight forward, you ‘mirror’ the on-screen dancer as they dance to the track and the Wii-mote held in your hand tracks how well you’re doing. Obviously, how much you really follow the on-screen dancing is up to you – like with many Wii titles you can shake the Wii-mote a lot and still score well. The move controller felt a touch more accurate but similar results could be achieved by just shaking it as well. The move controller did provide more feedback, lighting up and shaking when you did things well – which was nice.

Just Dance has 32 songs (the full list on Wikipedia) with some pretty enjoyable songs. ‘Heart of Glass’ by Blondie, ‘Kids in America’ by Kim Wilde and ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ by Cyndi Lauper being some notable favourites. It’s not a big list, with the bulk of songs being 80’s and 90’s era music. Other than enjoying the track list, the game has very few features – a Dance mode and a Practice mode. Mostly out of personal interest, of the 32 songs on disc, 21 were led with a female dancer, and 11 were led by a male dancer (Though some ‘men’ really looked like ladies dressed up as men).

Moving onto Just Dance 2, there’s a bigger song list. 44 songs on my UK copy of the game (there are 3 extra if you have the Best Buy Exclusive copy). Again, there is a decent range of songs, with about 7 songs per decade from the 60’s onwards. More Blondie, alongside The Weather Girls, Wham! and The Bangles make the 80’s songs just as enjoyable as the previous game. There are however, more songs from the 00’s than any other period, so overall the song list feels a little more recent (which you may or may not think is a good thing). Again, on the gender of the dancer side, there are still more female lead dancers but the number is much more even than Just Dance’s.

Beyond the song list, the game has more features than its predecessor, including dance battles, the new duet style songs, a ‘Just Sweat’ mode, a ‘Non-Stop’ play mode (which does make the time between songs less drawn out), and a shop to buy new songs. Whilst I didn’t buy any DLC, Wikipedia does list the available songs, and while there is a nice selection, there are only 25 songs – hardly as impressive as Sing Star or Rock Band.

I then rented the third game in the series for the PS3 – and it does make a nice and notable difference. It did feel quicker to load, the dynamic dance stages that the on-screen dancer uses are prettier and I do think the Move controller works (at least only in a marginal and superfluous way) better.

Just Dance 3 has the biggest song list so far, there are 49 (including unlockable extras) on my standard UK disc copy, but the full list comes to 53 songs with some exclusive songs here and there. Whilst there is still a range of eras included in the track-list, the earlier decades are smaller now, with 37 of the songs being from the 90’s and newer. I honestly didn’t know a lot of the songs included on the disc this time around – and I didn’t really enjoy the game as much as a result. It is more fun to dance to songs you know, I found. So, song list wise, personally I found the earlier games in the series to be more enjoyable, but that will obviously depend on personal taste – if you like modern pop you’ll probably like Just Dance 3.

The game also boasts the most features (which makes it a shame I enjoyed the songs less) – ‘Dance Crew’ modes with unique dancing for 4 players at once, a ‘Create’ mode, a ‘Simon Says’ mode, trophies and unlockables, more ‘Sweat’ mode features and a shop again – this time again with a bigger than previous song selection. However, some of the DLC are simply songs from the previous two games.

Finally, on the gender of the dancers (which is more of an interesting aside for me) there were less male solo dancers in Just Dance 3 by quite a bit. But the male dancers did seem very definitely male – unlike Just Dance 2. There are also quite a few duets and quartets that have male and female dancers.

The game is also much better on just a functional level. It has better menus and options for greater ease of use – like jumping straight into another song from the one you just finished, and greater playlist options like picking songs by genre.

One of the features I did find was disappointing was the ‘Karaoke’ mode you can enable in the options menu. You can ‘sing along’ to the on-screen lyrics using the microphone attached to the camera or enabling a USB microphone via the Playstation options. On the face of it I thought it would be a nice way to include my other half. We like music games, but he can’t dance at all – so singing along is nicer than him just sitting in the background. The problem is the game gives no indication if you sang well or not and actual singing adds nothing to the score or changes the game play at all. You can get just as much functionality singing into a hairbrush for all the fiddling with the USB settings will get you.

So, to conclude on the Just Dance series – it was nice to try them, and I can genuinely say I can see them being used to…say, get fit. You work up quite a sweat after a few consecutive dances. However, while the 3rd game has a lot of the shiny polish and convenience of a modern game, the song list really didn’t do it for me.

The other real clincher for me is just the simple number of songs – while there are more and more songs to each game, similar games such as Sing Star and Rock Band have a much bigger catalogue. I can see Just Dance’s song selection becoming quite old after owning and playing it for a while, and the shop really doesn’t get expanded any more. Alongside this, both Sing Star and Rock Band are also a lot easier to include someone else in. Sing Star has both a Guitar and a Dance version, as well as purely 80’s based song lists (if you can’t tell, I like the 80’s) and Rock Band has a lot of different roles you can play (though no dancing!) We own all the Rock Band games, so I’m going to be using my rental subscription to rent Sing Star’s as well – I’ll let you know if anything comes of that.

So, I would say if you want to try one and don’t mind modern pop – go for Just Dance 3. The game runs the best out of the three, but if, like me, you can’t stand modern pop, try an older version. It is fun for a while to have a try and does give you something to use your neglected Wii/Move controller with. Which is something.

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