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Review of Nickelodeon Dance for Wii

Nickelodeon Dance by
Platform: Wii
Rated:E
4 of 5 stars – An exercise game for the little ones.
by ,
Written on January 21, 2012

Nickelodeon Dance is one of those games where half the world wouldn’t touch it with a 39 1/2 foot pole, while the other half of the world will say it’s one of the greatest video game of the century. You can tell them apart easily: the latter group will have a house full of bouncing preschoolers.

It’s for this latter group of people that I’m writing this review. If you’re in the former group, take a break and hold on until my next review (which will involve the decidedly-more grown-up Black Eye Peas).

If your TV is turned on to Nickelodeon more than a few hours a week, chances are your kids are going to love this game (and by extension, so will you). As with its predecessor Nickelodon Fit, it features some of your favorite characters from Nickelodeon, including Dora, Diego, and the  Backyardigans. Ni-Hao Kai Lan and her buds were left out of this one for some reason, but in her place is the Fresh Beat Band.

While Nickelodeon Fit had a great variety of different kinds of activties, there’s only one activity in Nickelodeon Dance: dancing. The dance moves aren’t nearly as complex as what you’ll see on games like Just Dance or Dance Central, but many are simplified versions of familiar dance moves like the cha-cha or the twist.

The game starts out with an introduction by Dora. Throughout the opening menus, Dora will out reminders incessantly (I mean every two seconds) such as “don’t forget to press the A button to choose what you want!!!!!!” and “you can scroll through the list of things you can choose by pressing up or down on the plus control panel!!!!!!!!!” It gets annoying very quickly (even to small kids, who are really more intelligent than some of these games give them credit for).

The opening menu is pretty simple:

  • Quick Play
  • Dance
  • Workout
  • Achievements
  • Options

When you start out, you’ll be automatically sent to a tutorial. If you are familiar with Just Dance, it should all be very familiar to you:

  • Three of your favorite Nickelodeon characters will dance on the screen, and your goal is to match the moves of the character in the middle, as if you’re looking in a mirror.
  • There are icons on the bottom of the page that tell you what move you should be doing and what move is coming up. I didn’t find the icons particularly intuitive, but that didn’t matter too much because the moves themselves are very simple. Also, the character will shout out the dance move, which even small kids will quickly catch on to.
  • As you hit moves correctly, stars will fly out of the character into a “score meter”. The score meter only consists of three stars, and there isn’t a numerical score count at all. The game supports either one or two players dancing together; one player will have a blue score meter, the other’s will be purple.

There doesn’t seem to be any difference between “Quick Play”, “Dance” and “Workout”, except that with “Quick Play” you’ll see a list of all four song categories, while with “Dance” you’ll see songs from only three categories (“Starting Steps”, “Smooth Moves”, “Fancy Footwork), while with “Workout” you’ll see songs from the fourth category (“Workout Songs”).

You start by selecting a song. If a second player wants to play, they have a few seconds to press the “A” button on their controller to join in.

Each song has one of three icons to distinguish how much physical activity the song involves. There’s 1) a “walking” icon, 2) a “jogging” icon, and 3) a “running” icon. If you’re a parent that wants to wear out your kids, go for the “running”.

Here’s a complete list of the categories and songs:

Workout Songs
Down by the Bay – Dora the Explorer (3)
Great Day – The Fresh Beat band (3)
Limbo Rock – Go, Diego, Go (2)
Rhythm is Gonna Get You – Dora the Explorer (3)
The Lion Sleeps Tonight – Dora the Explorer (3)
We Did It! – Dora the Explorer (3)

Starting Steps Songs
A Friend Like You – The Fresh Beat Band (1)
Al Rescate – Go, Diego, Go (3)
The Backyardigans Theme Song (1)
The Fresh Beat Band Theme Song (3)
Get On Your Feet – Dora the Explorer (2)
Dora the Explorer Theme Song – Dora the Explorer (2)
Oye Como Va – Dora the Explorer (2-locked)
Santa Claus is Coming Aqui – Dora the Explorer (1-locked)

Smooth Moves Songs
Alouette – Dora the Explorer (1)
Go, Diego, Go Theme Song – Go, Diego, Go (2)
Joy to the World – Go, Diego, Go (1)
Locomotion – Dora the Explorer (1)
We Got the Beat – Dora the Explorer (2)
Yeti Stomp – The Backyardians (2)
Iko Iko – Dora the Explorer (1-locked)
P.U. (Stinky Swamp Song) – The Backyardigans (1-locked)

Fancy Footwork Songs
Dancing in the Street – Dora the Explorer (2)
Music (Keeps Me Movin’) – The Fresh Beat Band (3)
Here We Go – The Fresh Beat Band (3)
Rockin’ Robin – Go, Diego, Go (2)
Tuba Polka – The Backyardigans (3)
We’re Unstoppable – The Fresh Beat Band (3)
Animal Jam – Go, Diego, Go (2-locked)
Sleigh Ride – Dora the Explorer (1-locked)

The songs are all cover versions of popular songs. The singing is done by Dora, Diego, or the Fresh Beat Band, and is characteristically high pitched and energetic, just like their TV shows. From my observations, I’ve found that adults generally fall into two categories: those who hear such cover versions as fingers on a chalkboard, and those who love them (primarily because their kids’ eyes perk up and their feet involuntarily start moving whenever such a song starts playing). Play through the demonstration videos I’ve posted here and decide which camp you fall under before buying the game.

For parents who are worried that the lyrics of games like Just Dance 3 are too suggestive, there’s obviously nothing at all to worry about here. Even very, very mildly suggestive lyrics (such as the phrase “every guy, grab a girl” in Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Streets”) are rewritten to something very innocuous (in this case, “ever-y boy, and ever-y girl”). And as is often done in Dora songs, some of the lyrics are rewritten to teach kids about different hispanic and latino concepts (in the same song, places like “Philadephia, PA” and “Baltimore” are replaced with places like “Puerto Rico” and “Columbia”).

One think I always check for in dancing games is how accurate the controllers are. In this game, the controller response is very noticeably lenient. First, I tested it out by playing normally, and easily scored three stars. Second, I tested it out by just waving my arm up and down to the beat, and scored three stars again. Finally, I decided to just lay the controller on the table–and I still got one-and-a-half stars.

Of course, this would be a detriment in most dancing games, but because the audience for this game is pre-schoolers, it’s actually an advantage. If a child in your family has felt left out while everyone is playing and having fun with Just Dance, they’ll love the game that’s “made just for them”.

On the other hand, I imagine some children may realize very quickly that no matter what you do (or don’t do), you’ll get a high score. So I think the best way to approach this game is not so much to focus on the score, but just on having fun dancing with their favorite characters. Since they’re probably dancing to songs that play on the TV anyway, this game adds an additional layer of interaction with their on-screen friends that they’ll get excited about. There are also “Achievements” that you earn as you progress through the game by completing songs and earning stars.

Overall, this is a very basic dancing game that’s accessible to preschoolers. I would have liked to see more options, such as the ability for different dancers to dance at different levels (this way a parent or older sibling could dance with a child and be somewhat challenged). I also wish the game could accommodate more than two players, as sometimes the whole family would like to get involved (my guess is that they limited it to two players because they wanted to keep it consistent with the version on the Kinect, which by definition can only accommodate two players). Finally, it would have been nice to have had a little more personalization in the game, as this is something that would have brought the interactivity far beyond what kids already see on the TV–for example, making use of the child’s Wii character or allowing the child to be greeted by name (or even to store their name and their progress).

All in all, I’m giving it 4 stars out of 5 and my recommendation, but really only for a very specific group: parents of preschoolers who are fans of shows like Dora the Explorer and Go Diego Go. Parents of older kids may opt for Just Dance Kids, and families of teens and older will probably want to stick with Just Dance 3 or its many variants.

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