Hard to believe it, but Just Dance 2016 is the seventh game in the Just Dance series and it would be easy to dismiss it out of hand; after all how much can you add to a game about dancing in an annual iteration? Well Ubisoft have managed to squeeze quite a bit of new stuff into the latest title in their dancing franchise, so is it a headbanger or more of a grim fandango?
This year Ubisoft have bolstered the game with five new modes to give it a broader appeal. Alongside the bread and butter competitive dance-off found in Dance Party, there’s now also a new cooperative mode where you can work with your friend to collect gems and build a high score together. They’ve added a quasi-campaign mode in Dance Quest, where you must defeat a group of AI dancers in a series of three randomly selected songs in order to win the quest and unlock the next one. Sweat and Playlists mode lets you create your own playlists (you can curate them, if that’s more your thing) and customise your dance sessions for a personalised workout (great for those of us trying to work off our Christmas indulgences). Showcase mode lets you lip sync as you bust a move and create a short music video that can be shared on Facebook or via the game’s very own content browser, JDTV. Finally there’s World Challenge, which is an asynchronous multiplayer mode and arguably the most interesting addition to the game as it allows you to compete against friends and other players worldwide using their recorded videos and routines.
The game is brighter than sunshine and more colourful than unicorn poo. The cynic in me should hate it and indeed I really wanted to when I started to play it, but I challenge anybody not to crack a smile as their dance moves are portrayed on screen by a giant cartoon panda in a cowboy hat; it’s sweet enough to give you diabetes. The selection of music is good and the game boasts 43 tracks including hits like Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass”, Calvin Harris’s “Blame”, Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” to name just a handful. It’s not just credible music though, there are some party classics too including hits made famous by Grease and Barry Manilow, and more unusual selections like the theme from Angry Birds and the William Tell Overture; what’s not to love about all that? There’s even more to be had with the Just Dance Unlimited subscription service (a one month trial is supplied with the game) that allows access to over 150 other songs, including those from the previous games and some exclusive tracks. Playing the game is easy… Just Dance. Seriously though, Ubisoft have played a blinder by introducing the ability to play the game using your mobile phone as a controller by downloading the free Just Dance app. Up to six people can connect to the game using their mobile phones, perfect for an impromptu party dance off, and it seemed stable and accurate when we tested it (just be sure not to accidentally hit the lock screen key with fat thumbs like I did). Kinect can be used for Xbox One and PS4 can utilise both PlayStation Camera and PlayStation Move.
The pleasing visual aesthetic, large variety of music available and subsequently, the variety of dance styles, makes the game attractive too, and suitable for people of all ages and skill. Couple this with the myriad of control options that are available and this begins to look like the most accessible Just Dance game yet. The fun that you can have with this game is infectious and my initial skepticism of it was quickly dismissed once I’d started playing. In Dance Party and World Challenge modes, the temptation to have ‘just one more go’ to improve your performance is too much! The real question though, is: how long can Ubisoft keep evolving the franchise year on year, and do they need to? The ability to use smartphones to control the game and Just Dance Unlimited seem to position the future of Just Dance as a free-to-play game, similar to the model adopted by SingStar, though perhaps without the controversial icon on PS3. Either way, this year’s iteration adds enough to the franchise to be worth a punt on. It’s a brilliant party game that’s right up there with Guitar Hero in it’s heyday; if you enjoy firing up your console when friends pop around after the pub, you should own this, and I would go as far as to say that no student house should be without a copy!
A review copy of Just Dance 2016 on PlayStation 4 was provided by Ubisoft for the purposes of this review.