So, as you may have noticed it’s been a while since I’ve posted a game review here, mainly because there just haven’t been any new motion control games out in a very long time. It seems that most publishers have given up on the genre, including such stalwarts as Majesco, EA Sports, and even Nintendo. The one lone holdout is Ubisoft with their annual release of an update to the Just Dance series.
It’s hard to believe it’s been almost six years since the original Just Dance on the Wii. Back in 2010 the “exergaming” craze was just starting to peak and Just Dance was one of the titles that helped revolutionize the genre. Prior to it, motion control games mostly involved simple “pattern matching”. But with Just Dance you danced real dance moves to real hit songs. Suddenly, it was a game not only fun to play, but just as fun to watch other people playing. And you could work up a pretty good sweat doing it.
Ubisoft’s timing was impeccable. They sold over 7 million copies of Just Dance, 9 million copies of Just Dance 2, and 10 million copies of Just Dance 3.
Just Dance 2016 is essentially “Just Dance 7”. Times have changed, of course. You hardly see motion control games anymore, much less exergames. And yet Ubisoft continues to churn out new versions of Just Dance every year. The game no longer sells multiple millions of copies, but apparently it still sells enough to keep the title profitable.
Even though they release versions for every platform now, the version for the good ol’ Wii continues to outsell the next most popular version (the Wii U) by more than a 3:1 margin. Seems that a lot of us are keeping our old Wiis around, if only for the occasional exercise session or party.
You start by choosing an avatar, basically one of 239 cute little icons, most of which are initially locked. As you play the game you can unlock more to choose from. If you have previous Just Dance save data on your system you’ll get three unlocked right off the bat. You then choose your country from a list of flags and then your age and gender. That’ll create your “dancer card”, and you can go ahead and create others for everyone in the house who’ll be playing.
One topic that seems to come up in reviews for Just Dance in recent versions is whether the songs and dance moves are appropriate for children. In letting you choose age ranges from 0-9, 10-14, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, and 40+ (making this 40+ reviewer feel very old) and a gender of “girl” or “boy”, you’d think that this game is mainly geared towards children. But as we’ve seen in past versions of Just Dance this may not be the case, depending on your parenting preferences.
I’m no prude, but even I’d think twice about having kids play this unsupervised. While there are certainly one or two kid-friendly songs like The Little Mermaid’s “Under the Sea”, the vast majority of songs are modern pop songs that are more suited for a grown-up audience.
As we’ve seen them do in the past, Ubisoft achieved the “E for Everyone” rating for certain songs basically by bleeping out words. But many parents out there will likely still find some lyrics too suggestive. For example, in Pitbull’s “Fun” when the lyrics go “don’t take it all off, keep your heels and thong”, they decided to bleep out “heels” and “thong”, but that doesn’t really make the song any less suggestive (in fact, it probably makes it worse). Likewise, a number of the songs have what some may find overly suggestive dance moves for children. Again, none of this is really a problem for young adults who wish to play this game alone or in a party setting, but at the very least I’d be sure to screen the songs and the choreography before having children dance to them or playing this in a setting with children, despite the rating.
From there you can just jump into dancing by selecting a song. Unlike past versions of Just Dance, they did away with the “difficulty” and “intensity” ratings for each song. If you have an Internet connection you can see the top scores of the week in your country and around the world, as well as the top scores on your local machine.
As with past versions, in most cases the choreography is for a single dancer’s moves, but in some cases they came up with a dance routing for 2, 3, or 4 dancers where each dancer has his or her own independent moves that work together with the other dancers. It’s those dances that tend to be the most fun to play—and to watch others play.
Here’s a list of the songs, the artists, and the number of dancers the default routine is choreographed for. Certain songs also have alternate choreography that you can unlock.
- All About That Bass – Meghan Trainor (1)
- No Control – One Direction (4)
- I Gotta Feeling – The Black Eyed Peas (1)
- Fancy – Iggy Azalea Ft. Charli XCX (3)
- These Boots Are Made for Walking – The Girly Team (1)
- Animals – Martin Garrix (2)
- Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson Ft. Bruno Mars (1)
- Balkan Blast Remix – Angry Birds (4)
- Heartbeat Song – Kelly Clarkson (1)
- Hey Mama – Daid Guetta Ft. Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha & Afrojack (3)
- Ievan Polkka – Hatsune Miku (1)
- The Choice is Yours – Darius Dante Van Dijk (1)
- Fun – Pitbull Ft. Chris Brown (1)
- William Tell Overture – Rossini (2)
- Lights – Ellie Goulding (1)
- Chiwawa – Wanko Ni Mero Mero (1)
- You Never Can Tell – A. Caveman & The Backseats (2)
- Born This Way – Lady Gaga (3)
- Kaboom Pow – Nikki Yanofsky (1)
- When The Rain Begins To Fall – Sky Trucking (2)
- Same Old Love – Selena Gomez (3)
- Cool For The Summer – Demi Lovato (1)
- Want To Want Me – Jason Derulo (1)
- Under The Sea – Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” (1)
- This is How We Do – Katy Perry (4)
- Hit The Road Jack – Charles Percy (2)
- Junto a Ti – Disney’s “Violetta” (3)
- Blame – Calvin Harris Ft. John Newman (1)
- Irish Meadow Dance – O’Callaghan’s Orchestra (4)
- Rabiosa – Shakira Fr. El Cata (1)
- Circus – Britney Spears (4)
- You’re the One That I Want – From The Movie Grease (2)
- Hangover (BaBaBa) – Buraka Som Sistema (2)
- I’m An Albatroz – AronChupa (1)
- Kool Kontact – Glorious Black Belts (2)
- Teacher – Nick Jonas (1)
- Stuck on a Feeling – Prince Royce (1)
- Boys (Summertime Love) – The Lemon Cubes (3)
- Drop the Mambo – Diva Carmina (1)
- Gibberish – MAX (2)
- Copacabana – Frankie Bostello (4)
- Let’s Groove – Equinox Stars (3)
- Stadium Flow – Imposs (1)
Gameplay is the same as every other version of Just Dance from the beginning. You hold the Wii remote in your right hand and follow the on-screen dancer’s moves as if you’re looking in a mirror. Visual cues in the form of stick figure icons will scroll across the bottom to let you know what move is coming up, but they’re not of much help until you play long enough to be able to associate the icon with the move (and by that time you’ll probably have memorized the routine anyway).
One question that invariably arises is—how accurate are the motion controls? The quick answer to that is, they’re as accurate as they’re going to be. I think it was in Just Dance 3 that Ubisoft “figured it out”, -and since then the controls have been “good enough”. Which means that you’re not going to get the precision of, say, an Xbox Kinect…but it’s accurate enough to make it fun, especially when playing in a group where everyone’s on an even playing field.
What I’ve found in past Just Dance games, and again in this one, is that most people can get 2 stars on a song just by going through the motions (literally), but to get 5 stars you really need to learn the moves and dance them accurately.
I did like the online capabilities, as for once they’re seamlessly weaved into the game as opposed to being overly obtrusive. For example, as I played a song the game asked me if I would like to activate “Dance Challenger Mode” instead of competing against computer dancers. I said yes and ended up dancing with three actual people, one from the US and two from France.
“Sweat Mode” is also back, now called “Sweat & Playlists”. As before, you can turn on a Kcal counter to track your calorie count, and you can configure a playlist for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 40 minutes, or continuous. You can’t save multiple playlists, but the system will remember the last playlist you configured, so if there’s a particular sequence and length of songs you’d like thankfully there’s no need to re-configure it each time you restart the system as you had to with previous versions.
The Wii version is pretty basic and lacks a lot of features that other consoles have. For example, with other consoles you can use your mobile device as a controller. Most other versions have more advanced graphics and additional choreography, as well as more online features and video capability. All these, of course, are highly dependent on the capabilities of the console, so I don’t blame them for not including these.
But if there is a gripe I have it’s that the $39.99 list price is kind of steep. Ubisoft clearly wants to keep milking the cash cow of Wii users, so their MO has always been to charge Wii users for full releases instead of offering individual songs in the form of DLC. In this particular case, I don’t see many improvements in the 2016 version beyond the 2015 version. I’d say it’s worth buying mainly if A) the actual price drops precipitously, or B) you happen to love more than a few of the featured songs.