Dancing is often considered a form of art. It means different things culturally depending on where in the world you are, ranging from a story-telling tool to exercise, though perhaps in the modern age its main use is as ‘social interaction’, if you can call your out of sync manoeuvrings on a Saturday night that.
Just Dance 2015 can be all of those things, and as one of Ubisoft’s tent-pole releases this Christmas, they’re hoping that it will be at the centre of many household’s celebrations. With this as the sixth release in the series though, haven’t we seen it all before?
First things first, I am not a natural dancer. I sing and play guitar in a band, and will happily get up on stage in front of a bunch of strangers and slog my guts out. However, stick me in the relative anonymity of a dance floor and I will for the most part feel hopelessly out of place, unless, as with many of us, I have imbibed some magical dancing juice (which probably contains more alcohol than magic, if I’m honest).
Dancing games though are a different beast, as they’re games, with high scores to beat, and boast the kind of living room versus play we don’t get anymore. You’ll play them with people who probably love you and don’t care how badly you dance, or at the very least will hopefully continue to love you after you play together. Perhaps a little less if you’re really bad.
Just Dance 2015 is part of the continuing evolution of a particular vein of rhythm action games which started with Bemani title Dance Dance Revolution, through peripheral based game’s like Sega’s Samba De Amigo through to the two main modern dance series Dance Central and Just Dance. These games see the player attempt to emulate dance moves shown on the screen as closely as possible in both motion and timing, with gradings for each action dictating the achievable score. The closer you are to replicating the dance, the higher your ranking.
On PS4, the game gives you the option of playing with either the PlayStation camera or a PS Move controller, and there are clearly pros and cons associated with both. I opted to play with the PlayStation camera, and on the whole found it to be a relatively robust system. As with the PlayStation Eye or either editions of Kinect, these systems are not flawless and you have to make peace with the fact that at some point it’s not going to register what you did despite, in your mind at least, you doing exactly what it was telling you to do. There is of course a question as to how seriously you will be playing a Just Dance title, but given the emphasis on community play, online leaderboards and world tournaments it’s a wrinkle in the game’s input method that can’t really be improved upon.
Those online interactions are smooth and relatively anonymous, with your cartoonish avatar and your PSN ID being the only visible aspect of your actions alongside your score, unless you choose for them not to be. The more gregarious amongst you can create an avatar with a captured image, and are able to upload images and videos of your dance moves to Just Dance or indeed to your facebook account.
The key new feature in this year’s edition is the Community Remix, which allows you to upload a video of yourself, your children, or indeed your pets, performing a dance which is then added to a montage that plays out during the song instead of the regular performers. It’s a fun touch, though it could make you very conscious that some people are unnecessarily good at the game, your living room isn’t as nice as theirs, or that there are people in the world who like their cats a little too much.
Replay value depends on what you’re looking to get out of Just Dance. It’s 45 tracks are somewhat varied, though lean heavily towards modern pop hits. My three year old was more than happy with Pharrell Williams ‘Happy’ and Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’, while Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Holding Out For A Hero’, Aerosmith/Run DMC’s ‘Walk This Way’ and the Tetris theme were amongst my favourites. There’s even a dance for the more elderly amongst you with The Bench Men’s ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ being performed with hunched backs and walking sticks. Luckily you don’t need extra peripherals. Nine of the tracks also have alternate dance routines, and of course there are more songs available as DLC if you’re looking to expand your library, with a couple of freebies provided by the game and the Uplay app.
As a party game, Just Dance does an admirable job, with up to four players able to compete against one another, though that increases to six on the Xbox One. Some songs feature a whole dance crew with each member performing different moves. You will need plenty of room for this though, and our medium sized room only just about coped with three people playing. The game also struggled at times with someone as small as my son dancing with two adults.
If you have the space though the game is capable of creating fierce competition and plenty of laughs. As with the Dance Central games you’re recorded during the performance, and the replays at the end of each song are often hilarious. They also clearly showed the big goofy grin I had on my face each time I played, and that’s a pretty natural recommendation beyond my control.
Just Dance 2015 is a polished and enjoyable product, and whilst it’s potentially still behind the Dance Central series in a few key areas, including the way it monitors player actions, it makes up for this with its trademark styling, a strong collection of songs and intuitive online features. Who knows, it might even teach you a few moves to use on a Saturday night.
Score: 8/10Version Tested: PlayStation 4