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Archive for October, 2014

Review of Just Dance 2015 #justdance

just dance 2015 boxIt’s been a while since I reviewed a Wii fitness game and for good reason–seems that over the last year the genre has all but dried up. Just a few years ago it seems that I couldn’t go by a week without finding a new Wii exercise game, and Sony and Microsoft were falling over each other trying to get into motion controls. Today, third party developers have fled the Wii, Nintendo is focusing on trying to recover from its Wii U missteps by releasing traditional games like Mario Kart 8 and Smash Bros Wii U, Sony has all but abandoned the Move, and Microsoft paid dearly for trying to force the Kinect onto users.

But one thing is as sure as the dawn: Ubisoft coming out with yet another Just Dance. I admit, when it came time for me to try out Just Dance 2015 (or if you’re keeping score, what should be “Just Dance 6”), I wasn’t particularly enthused. As someone who’s played every version of Just Dance since the first one in 2009, I was admittedly getting “Just Dance Fatigue”. Sure, it’s been a lot of fun over the years, but I wondered if there was really anything more that Ubisoft could add to the franchise that hasn’t already been done?

After playing Just Dance 2015, I’m happy to say that Ubisoft yet again has pushed the franchise forward. And this time they did it with the online play, which they finally got right.

Before I talk about the online play, I’ll review a lot of what I like about the rest of the game.

You start out Just Dance 2015 by creating a “Dance Card” which will be your identify throughout the game. You start by choosing an avatar from a selection of cute cartoon faces. There are 227 avatars in all to choose from. You’ll start out with only 14 but can unlock additional ones by spending “Mojo Points” (the in-game “currency” you earn each time you dance). You also enter a nickname, your country (choosing from 135 country flags), and your age range (which again to the chagrin of us older adults only goes up to 40+).

Once your dancer card is set up, you can track a bunch of statistics, including the number of songs you played, the number of calories you burned, the number of avatars you unlocked, the number of stars you’ve earned, your online level, and the amount of Mojo Points you earned. It’s definitely addicting to come back to the game to try to earn more points

As for the features, most of these are features Ubisoft perfected in previous versions of the game and wisely decided to continue in this version.

The Song List – Once again, the song list is fantastic and has something for just about everyone, from this recent hits like Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailando”, One Direction’s “Best Song Ever” and Pharrel Williams’ “Happy. For the nostalgic among us, there are old songs like Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” (complete with authentic moves)…

…and Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding OUt for a Hero”. And for the real old-timers among us, there are classics like Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and a cover of “Only You” by the Platters. For the kids there’s the song we all can’t get out of our head: Disney’s “Let It Go” from Frozen…

They even have the theme music for the video game “Tetris”.

Choreography – The choreography, once again, is fantastic. As they usually do, they did a great job of capturing the spirit of the songs, in some cases using actual moves from the original artists’ video. While 1-4 players can dance to any song, certain songs are choreographed for 2, 3 and 4 players and the moves can get pretty intricate and interactive (making it as much fun for people watching as it is for the people dancing).

Overall, the steps are simple enough that newbies can play along, but complex enough that they’ll look impressive on a real dance floor if you master them. As a bonus, as you play you’ll be able to unlock alternate choreography for many of the songs. For example, “Happy” has a “Sing Along” mode and “Diamonds” has a “Seated Dance” mode.

Motion Controls – Ubisoft pretty much perfected the motion controls a few years ago, at least as well as they can be on the Wii. Even though you still hold a single Wii remote in your right hand, they’ve gotten really good at detecting whether you’re truly doing the dance moves correctly. A lot of people felt over the years that Microsoft would own this category with Dance Central, but as the dust has settled the king of the hill is still Just Dance on the lowly Wii.

Artwork – Again, Ubisoft stuck to the formula of using simple cartoon drawings and backgrounds, and it still works. Some of the artwork is beautiful, others are hilarious, and the animations that build up as you dance really keep you engaged during the game.

Workout – With Just Dance 2015, Ubisoft did away with the confusingly named “Just Sweat Mode”, and simply allows you to turn on calorie tracking for any song as you play the game. Similar to “Just Sweat Mode” in past games, there’s also a Playlist mode that lets you select songs to dance to for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 40 minutes, or non-stop. Unfortunately, you still don’t have the capability to save playlists.

Community Remix – There’s a feature for the Xbox and Playstation that allows you to record your dances with your console’s camera and share it. While this feature isn’t available on the Wii, you will be able to play remixed videos that feature montages of actual people around the world leading you with their moves. Currently, there’s a version of Pharrel’s “Happy” that’s a lot of fun, and there’ll be more.

If that were it, I’d probably give this game 3 1/2 or 4 stars–it’s a solid game, but up to this point there wasn’t much new. But what blew me away with Just Dance 2015 were the vast improvements in online play.

You might recall that Ubisoft tried their hand at online play with Just Dance 2014 and did a pretty bad job of it. Just to participate in online play, you had to sign in with your Nintendo ID, then sign in again (or create) something else called a “Uplay ID”, agreeing to a bunch of disclaimers on the way. And even after going through all that, chances are their server would kick you out or crash on you.

It’s a world of difference with Just Dance 2015. First of all, there’s no setup nor “Uplay account” necessary. You can just jump right into online play in two ways:

World Dance Floor – On the lower right-hand corner of the main Just Dance 2015 screen, you’ll see the words “World Dance Floor”, along with the number of dancers around the world currently dancing and the song everyone is dancing to. Click on it and within seconds you’ll see a single button that says “DANCE NOW”, along with the avatars of everyone who’s online at the moment and what country they’re from.

Once you click on it, you’ll be placed into a “Party” of about eight dancers. You can compete against each individually, and also choose a “side” (Dog vs. Cat, Sun vs. Moon, etc.).

As you dance to the song, you’ll see how well you’re doing vs. the others in your party. As you hit moves and improve your score, you’ll see your avatar’s position rise against other players. I have to admit, it’s addictive trying to beat your fellow dancers and get that #1 spot. And even if you can’t keep up with the top players, the better you do the more you’ll be helping your “side”.

Once you finish dancing, you’ll see whether your side won, and you’ll also see how you compare not just to your own party but to everyone around the world dancing at the moment. Similar to Wii Sports Club, you’ll also be able to use your Wii remote’s buttons to communicate short, pre-programmed phrases to the community (like “Lol” or “I love it” or “Oh no”). In some cases you’ll be able to vote on the next song to dance to. When you decide to stop, you’ll see your current “online level”, how many minutes you danced, and how many different dancers you were dancing with from how many different countries. I love how they simplified now just the process of joining in the World Dance Floor but the gameplay as well.

Dance Challenger Mode – With typical Just Dance songs you can dance with up to four players holding four Wii remotes. For the first time, you’ll also be able to activate “Dance Challenger Mode” which will fill up any empty slots with online players OR against your best performance from the past. Unlike with World Dance Floor, you’re not competing against live players, but you are competing against real people’s performances.

There’s only one major glitch I encountered; at a certain point when I was configuring avatars, the game crashed my system, resulting in a freeze that required me to unplug my unit and plug it in again. Hopefully that has just a one-time thing.

In addition to continuing to be one of the most entertaining video games you can play at family gatherings or parties, Just Dance 2015 is still one of the best ways you can get exercise while playing a video game. Ubisoft did a great job of carrying over the best things about previous versions of Just Dance, but it’s the updated song list and the improvements in online features that make Just Dance 2015 worth buying.

Here’s the complete track list, along with the number of dancers each song is choreographed for:

Problem – Ariana Grande Ft. Iggy Azalea and Big Sean (solo)
Happy – Pharrell Williams (solo)
The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?) – Ylvis (3)
Love Me Again – John Newman (1)
Dark Horse – Katy Perry (3)
Love Is All – The Sunlight Shakers (2)
Me And My Broken Heart – Rixton (2)
I Love It – Icona Pop Ft. Charli XCX (1)
Tetris – Dancing Bros. (4)
Walk This Way – Run-DMC & Aerosmith (4)
Let It Go – Disney’s Frozen (2)
Built For This – Becky G (1)
Bailando – Enrique Iglesias Ft. Descemer Bueno & Gente de Zona (2)
Summer – Calvin Harris (1)
Don’t Worry Be Happy – The Bench Men (3)
Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix) – The Girly Team (4)
Black Widow – Iggy Azalea Ft. Rita Ora (1)
SING ALONG – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (2)
Get Low – Dillon Francis & DJ Snake (2)
Bang Bang – Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj (4)
Fatima – Cheb Salama (1)
Holding Out For A Hero – Bonnie Tyler (1)
Birthday – Katy Perry (1)
Only You (And You Alone) – Love Letter (2)
Diamonds – Rihanna (1)
She Looks So Perfect” – 5 Seconds of Summer (4)
XMas Tree – Bollywood Santa (2)
Best Song Ever – One Direction (4)
Bad Romance – Lady Gaga (3)
Never Can Say Goodbye – Gloria Gaynor (1)
You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) – Dead Or Alive (1)
4×4 – Miley Cyrus (4)
Epic Sirtaki – The Bouzouki’s (3)
It’s My Birthday – will.i.am Ft. Cody Wise (3)
Burn – Ellie Goulding (1)
Mahna Mahna – Frankie Bostello (3)
Speedy Gonzalez – Los Pimientos Locos (2)
Maps – Maroon 5 (1)
You’re On My Mind – Imposs Ft. J. Perry (4)
Addicted To You – Avicii (1)
Till I Find You – Austin Mahone (1)
Video Remix

4 of 5 stars

p.s. quick favor…if you liked this review, could you go over to Amazon and “like” my review (titled “Still one of the best video games for groups or workouts, improved by a great song list and vastly improved online capabilities”) over there? It’s a silly thing, I know, but I kind of like having my review rank there 🙂 Thanks!!

GameCube controller Adapter will not work with DDR, Cyberbike, or Active Life :(

The good news is that Nintendo has FINALLY confirmed a launch date for Super Smash Bros., November 21.

While I’m certainly a fan of the game, as I’ve mentioned on previous posts, the thing I was most looking for was the release of the GameCube Controller Adapter. Early indications from Nintendo was that this would allow you to use the GameCube controller (and presumably other devices that used the GameCube connector like the Cyberbike, DDR dance pads, and Active Life controllers) with the Wii U. Even as recent as last week, their Web site proclaimed that the adapter would let you use a GameCube controller with “any game that already supports the Wii Classic Controller, Wii Classic Controller Pro, and Wii U Pro Controller”.

Very quickly, Nintendo scrubbed that from all of its Web sites and released an announcement to the media reiterating that the adapter would work only with Super Smash Bros for Wii U, and would NOT allow other games to use GameCube controllers, nor would it enable GameCube controllers to be used on later versions of the Wii that ripped out the GameCube sockets.

Obviously, this puts a damper on all of us who had hoped to breathe new life into their Wii U consoles by playing old Wii games from the golden age of motion control games. I’ll still plan on buying one and testing it with my legacy controllers, just to see if Nintendo’s converter fares any better than Mayflash’s attempt. So still stay tuned…but don’t get your hopes up. 🙁

Wii Fit U and Balance Board and 2 Fit Meters Bundle on Sale at Groupon #wii #wiifit

Have you been putting off buying Wii Fit U, the Balance Board, and Fit Meters? Your procrastination has paid off! Groupon has a deal where you can get a hard copy of Wii Fit U, a brand new Balance Board, and two Fit Meters for only $50.

Just to break down the price, the Wii Fit U + Balance Board + 1 Fit Meter bundle usually goes for $89.99 retail (street price around $79). An extra Fit Meter usually runs you about $19.99 retail (street price around $17). So you’re paying $50 for something worth at least $96.

Some of us spent well over $100 for this same thing, so if you haven’t gotten one yet, this is a great opportunity. But hurry, this is only good for the next week!

Wii Fit U, Balance Board and 2 Fit Meters bundle on Groupon.