In many ways, Just Dance 2016 is little more than a refresh of previous Just Dance titles, as the core mechanic of shaking what your mama gave you to relentlessly cheerful pop hits remains almost exactly the same. Helping to spice things up are a number of new modes; Dance Quest is a three song challenge against an AI opponent, Sweat is full of high tempo hits to get your blood racing, and Showtime lets you record and share your performance online. That said, they’re little more than variations on a theme, and you’ll soon head back to the main Party mode.
The game tracks your dancing in a number of ways, the most accurate of which seemed to be using the PlayStation Move, but downloading the app to your smartphone is by far the easiest way to play, even if it only tracks the movement of one hand and makes jiggling the rest of your body about seem a little bit pointless. Controlling the entire game from your phone is pretty neat, though.
You should also be able to use the PlayStation Camera, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to calibrate the device. I had to head off to the device settings on the PS4 to check that the camera could see all of me on screen. After making sure the room was well lit and the camera was positioned correctly I only managed to get the game to register my moves for about thirty seconds before it lost track of me and it never managed to pick up my flailing arms ever again.
Most of the 44 songs in the game are pop hits from the likes of Charli XCX, Meghan Trainor, Jason Derulo and Mark Ronson, but there are some European tracks that your probably won’t recognise. Despite my encyclopaedic knowledge of dance music I have never heard of ”Chiwawa” by Wanko Ni Mero Mero, nor “The Choice Is Yours” by Darius Dante Van Dijk. There are also a couple of cheeky cover versions to pad things out and keep the licensing costs down for Ubisoft – I doubt they saved much cash by covering “Boys” by Sabrina, and their version of “Copacabana” isn’t a patch on the original. By my count only eight of the songs are repeated from 2015, and none of them are particularly recent. I’d say that “Cheerleader” by Omi would have been a better choice that a six year old Black Eyed Peas track.
I did find the lack of some slower paced tracks a little off putting, though. I was reviewing the game after spending a weekend bouncing around the walls of a night club to 155bpm hard house, so dancing fast isn’t an issue, but a couple of slower paced tracks would have gone a long way to warm up before tackling some of the more complicated dance routines. It would also have been nice to have some sort of tutorial or dance class in which you can learn the moves at a slower pace, so you don’t spend the first minute of each song flailing about like an octopus trying to work out the exact moves.
Rather than have single DLC tracks, Just Dance 2016 boosts the tracks on disc with a subscription service, where you pay a fee and get unlimited access to 156 tracks, with more to be added in coming months. You can pay monthly or fork out £32.99 for a whole year’s worth of tunes. The game does come with a code for a month’s free access and is lower priced that most games (around £25 on Amazon) which does offset the subscription fee somewhat.
Graphically the game is as bright and candy coated as you would expect, with all sorts of crazy of dancers to follow on screen. Pandas, jockeys, hipsters, fierce divas and more will be stalking across your television and helping you strike a pose. You can also sing a long to the songs if you wish, although when I had the PlayStation camera activated the microphone from that was picking up the vocals from the songs being played through the TV speakers and scoring that instead.
I also made sure to test the game in optimal conditions, by which I mean with a couple of friends and vast amounts of alcohol. I can confirm that beer and chums improves things a huge amount, especially when trying to do the conga to the Angry Birds theme, the video evidence of which was quickly destroyed the following morning.
Just Dance 2016 is a one trick pony and if you have beers and friends, or children who need to be entertained, it’s a great way to spend a few hours. As a solo game it’s a bit dull and you do start to notice that the tracking of your dancing is dubious to say the least. It’s also somewhat of a half-way house between a full release and a subscription service, and behind the pumping beats of Lady Gaga you can hear the sound of the bottom of a barrel being scraped as superfluous new modes are added to the game and cheap cover versions are used.
Version tested: PlayStation 4