Just Dance 2014, as all of its predecessors, is a great video game, but it can be a bit of a dilemma for parents. On the one hand, it’s a great way to have fun as a family and to get some great exercise. But on the other hand, some parents may feel uncomfortable with songs like “Get Lucky”, “Blurred Lines” and “I Kissed a Girl”. They’re all great pop songs with a fun beat that adults can dance do, but at times the lyrics are a bit more suggestive than parents might feel comfortable with, especially for kids aged 7-12. And when parents have taken to Amazon review boards in the past to complain, they’ve often gotten pilloried by grown-up fans of the game who accuse them of promoting censorship.
In a way, Ubisoft’s answer to these parents is Just Dance Kids 2014, available for Wii, Wii U, and Xbox 360. The gameplay is essentially the same as Just Dance 2014, with a few differences that make it more kid friendly. But they did a pretty good job of still making it a game that the whole family can enjoy.
The first difference is that a lot of the extras you see in Just Dance 2014 aren’t there. There’s no “Sweat Mode” and no “Mojo Points” to earn. The tracks have one routine, unlike Just Dance 2014 that has multiple routines per song. And of course, there’s no “JDTV” nor online play options. You also can’t create dancer cards nor track individual dancers (everyone plays as “Player 1”, “Player 2”, and so on).
The next difference is in the track list. It’s not the typical fingerboards-on-the-chalkboard-please-put-me-out-of-my-misery collection of sickening-as-molasses kiddie songs sung by women who breathed in too much helium. It actually has a soundtrack which, dare I say, is pretty cool. You have pop songs from stars who got their starts on the Disney Channel like Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, and Bridget Mendler.
There are also popular songs from groups like One Direction and Owl City that tweens in the family will enjoy; oldies like “Magic Carpet Ride”, “Footloose” and “The Hustle” that mom and dad will appreciate; a few kid-friendly songs from the likes of the cast of Fraggle Rock and The Wiggles; and even “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Hickory Dickory Dock” for the toddler in the family (the former which inexplicably has a difficulty rating of 2/3 stars).
Here’s a complete track list:
- Day O
- Do You Love Me
- Fraggle Rock
- The Freeze Game – Yo Gabba Gabba
- Get Down On It
- Get Ready to Wiggle – The Wiggles
- Give Your Heart a Break – Demi Lovato
- Hickory Dickory Dock
- Hit Me With Your Best Shot
- Hit the Lights – Selena Gomez and The Scene
- The Hustle
- I Like to Move It
- Interstellar Simon
- Magic Carpet Ride
- Make It Shine – Victoria Justice
- Mary Had a Little Lamb
- One Thing – One Direction
- Party in the Kitchen
- A Pirate You Shall Be
- Power Ups
- Problem (The Monster Remix) – Becky G feat. will.i.am
- Put Your Hearts Up – Ariana Grande
- Ready or Not – Bridget Mendler
- Skip To My Lou
- The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room
- Walking on Sunshine
- We Go Well Together – Goldheart
Each song is marked with 1-3 stars for difficulty and 1-3 sweat drops for energy level, something which has been in all the versions of Just Dance but which some reason was taken away from Just Dance 2014.
The other big difference is in the graphics. Instead of a faceless silhouette as your dance guide, your dance guide is a video image of actual kids, teens, and tweens dancing to the songs. My guess is that they decided to use real animated figures instead of abstract ones because they’re easier for kids to follow–there’s even a glowing trail on the dancer’s right hand that makes it extremely easy to follow. The animations themselves are whimsical and again, have a bit more realism and a bit less abstraction than the grown-up game.
I’m not sure if I was having a bad night, but motion tracking wasn’t working as well for me as it did on Just Dance 2014, which can always be a bit frustrating.
There are three dance modes. The first is “Just Dance”, where just like the grown-up version 1-4 players can dance to the song and are scored on accuracy.
There’s also “Freeze and Shake”, which is kind of a cross between “Red Light, Green Light” and “Simon Says” where in the middle of the song you’ll see icons next to your avatar telling you to shake your Wii remote or to freeze, and you’ll get points for following the instructions correctly. While I assume this mode was meant to appeal to younger players who are frustrated because they can’t do the dance moves, but want to get points for following instructions, this feature kind of fell flat for me. Even as an adult, it was hard for me to focus on the dance moves and constantly be looking in the upper left-hand corner to see whether I should shake the remote or move it.
The third mode is “Team High Score”, where all the players will dance, and while a “spotlight” shines on a certain player’s avatar, that player will dance while the other players will shake their remotes vigorously to collect the “stars” that the player generates. Again, probably a good feature for young players who want to feel like they’re earning points just like the older players, but not a very appealing feature for everyone.
So while I appreciate the addition of these extra modes to try to make it more fun for the family to play together, I’m not sure if these particular modes will be appealing to anyone except for the very young players to “fit in”. That said, I’d definitely like to see future versions continue to try to come up with ways the whole family can play together.
On the Wii U, you can use the Gamepad to navigate menus, which is a plus. Also, any time any of the song start, someone can pick up the Gamepad and start “Dance Director” mode, where one player can direct players to dance like animals, zombies, slow-motion dancers, a mime, a ninja, a cowgirl, etc. Then, it’s up to the person controlling the Gamepad to decide which of the players danced it better.
There’s also a “Parents” section of the game that has six options: “Play Tracker”, where parents can view the gameplay history; “Progress” that shows top scores for each of the songs in each of the modes, as well as the number of times each song has been played; “Medals”, which shows achievements of various kinds; “Options”, which lets you toggle lyrics, next move icons, progress meter and usage tracking on and off, and also lets you choose your language (English, Spanish, French).
There’s also a “Philosophy” option that lets you read a personal letter from the development team. It reads:
A message from the Just Dance Kids team: we’re a group of designers, artists, producers and programmers. But we’re also a team of parents and kids. Our goal is to make a game we’d be proud to take home and play with our own families. And to do that, we’ve hand-picked age-appropriate songs that capture younger kids’ imaginations, engage older kids with chart-topping tween artists, and get parents into the mix with timeless dance classics. We believe that in addition to enhancing children’s physical well-bring, brain development, and self-esteem, dancing is a highly beneficial co-play activity for kids and parents. That’s why we’ve included gameplay modes specifically designed for collaboration between all ranges of developmental abilities. From our family to yours-stay happy, stay healthy, and keep an eye out for those raccoon – The Just Dance Kids Team
I definitely appreciate this team’s philosophy, and they did do a very good job of making a game that’s really family-friendly. But I was a bit disappointed that the new modes weren’t as compelling as they could be. Also, there are plenty of songs and features on the grown-up version of Just Dance that are perfectly family-friendly, and kids who see their friends with Just Dance 2014 may feel a bit cheated that Just Dance Kids 2014 doesn’t have the same level of features or songs. I almost wish that instead of “penalizing” parents by making them purchase a new $29.99 game that’s “family friendly”, Ubisoft could just incorporate some of the songs and features of Just Dance Kids into the regular version of Just Dance and provide parental controls for parents who are sensitive about the more suggestive songs.
But that said, if you’re a parent who has young children, Just Dance Kids 2014 has a great selection of songs and dances for kids aged 6-12, and you can rest assured that you won’t be blushing trying to explain what certain songs are about.