Just Dance 4
Ubisoft’s latest iteration of the increasingly popular Just Dance series
has just been released, the fourth installment in little under three
years of a game that revels in making players shed their inhibitions and
flail around madly in front of their television sets to the latest Pop
Although not quite a colossal failure
on the scale of Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, you’d be hard pressed to
classify Microsoft’s Kinect as an overwhelming success. Despite
widespread early adoption and a promising concept, Kinect’s games
catalogue is now comprised of a glut of substandard dancing and exercise
games and poorly implemented additions to regular games that border on
the superfluous. Although a small percentage of games managed to bypass
the horrendous tracking abilities of the system and deliver something
bordering on an enjoyable experience, too many of them are hampered by
the Kinect’s lack of responsiveness, leading to a frustrating experience
that eventually leads to relegation to a dusty shelf.
So, how does Just Dance 4 hold up in
the face of the handicaps of the platform?
The first hurdle the player has to
overcome is the lack of responsiveness when navigating the menus, which
seem to sporadically register your movements, leading to reticent
attempts to position your cursor on the right prompt, accidently
selecting the wrong option and then having to complete the arduous task
of going back and poking haphazardly at the screen again – A painful
process, to be sure.
The title of the game says all you
really need to know about the gameplay - You just dance. Even those of
us with dancing abilities that equate to not much more than
spasmodically lurching about like Frankenstein’s Monster will find that
the scoring system is fairly lenient, with the main focus being on
accessibility. Literally anyone can jump in and feel as if they’re
burning up the dance floor like Travolta, disintegrating panties with
the sheer power of dance.
Besides the regular dance routines
the game also has new and improved versions of ‘Battle Mode’ and ‘Just
Sweat’, the resident fitness mode. ‘Battle mode’ is basically structured
like a musical Thunderdome, where players, complete with health bars,
battle it out to an amalgamation of two tracks until one reigns
victorious. This is quite a fun little mode and was probably the one I
returned to the most.
‘Just Sweat’ runs the risk of being
slightly redundant, as even with the addition of a calorie counter and
different intensities of work outs, it hardly gives dedicated fitness
games a run for their money. While featuring some entertaining routines,
it never comes off being useful as a genuine fitness aid. However, it is
nice to have some extra modes to mix things up a bit.
As an incentive to replay tracks
beyond getting five stars, there are also dance quests, specific goals
attached to each song with a wide variety of challenges, such as nailing
all gold moves. As you play through the game, you’ll score mojo points,
which can be used to unlock extra modes and added features. Exclusive to
the Xbox 360 release is ‘Just Dance TV’, basically a collection of
snapshots taken throughout the routine strung together to create your
very own mortifying music video which you can then share online. This
feature is far from unique to the series but it does add a nice social
The game does a surprisingly good job
tracking your movements, considering how unintuitive the menu system is,
but those dance cards at the bottom of the screen are as annoyingly hard
to read as ever. Generally you’ll fumble your way through a song,
relying more on the garishly dressed dancers to inform your movements.
This is a long standing bone of contention with the series and one I had
hoped Ubisoft would have tried to refine; as it is, it’s a minor gripe
and won’t detract from your enjoyment, even if sometimes what’s
happening on screen in no way resembles what you thought you were
supposed to do.
If you can find three other friends uninhibited (or drunk) enough to
participate, the game can be a chaotically enjoyable experience where
everyone gyrates and tries to duck elbows being thrown at them from all
directions. Certain songs practically necessitate having at least one
other player, otherwise you may very well find yourself awkwardly
air-humping an invisible Rock Lobster, but due to the restricted playing
space, things can get a little crazy and the motion tracking can
struggle to keep up with all four players. Most of the dance routines
lean towards the ridiculous rather than being legitimate dance moves but
that sense of fun has always been what separates ‘Just Dance’ from the
more serious competition.
Certain songs have additional routines unlockable by completing
challenges on Ubisoft’s Uplay system, and downloadable content is also
available, including this year’s ‘Macarena’, the increasingly grating
‘Gangnam Style’ by Korean rapper PSY, ensuring that many gamers will be
drunkenly riding their invisible ponies to their heart’s content.
Achievements come thick and fast; I had racked up 200 points after half
an hour of playing. Although there are some more challenging
achievements hidden in there, most of them are easily obtainable and
you’ll have a full 1000 GS added to your gamercard in no time.
As with previous titles, visually ‘Just Dance 4’ isn’t all that
impressive, basically just stylised dancers superimposed on mildly
interesting backgrounds, although some of the character designs are
amusing, such as ‘The Final Countdown’ wrestlers and the giant Rock
Lobster. If you’re familiar with the series, it’s more of the same
graphically. Some of the moves are particularly over the top and are
represented well by the on screen avatars, but you’ll occasionally
furrow your brow as you try to follow along with some of the more
The main selling point of the game is, of course, the music. Ubisoft has
taken great care to include a wide variety of genres that appeal to
different demographics, including cheesy Eighties anthems, Dubstep, RnB
and straightforward Pop. Artists include Skrillex, Rihanna, Carly Rae
Jepsen, Will Smith, The B52s and, erm, Justin Bieber. With over 40
tracks to shake your groove thang to, there’s truly something for
everybody... Unless you’re solely into Norwegian Black Metal, in which
case why the hell are you playing ‘Just Dance 4’ when there are
perfectly good churches to burn down?
As with previous iterations in the series, ‘Just Dance 4’ is a fun romp
in which anyone can participate and is as accessible as ever to the
casual gamer. The over-the-top style and a myriad of different tracks
are endearing and it’s always good when a game can coerce your
grandmother to join in with a frenzied rendition of ‘The Time Warp’.
If you weren’t a fan of the series previously, there isn’t anything new
that’s going to make you change your mind but if you don’t mind paying
$60 for what is basically an expansion pack, you’ll have a blast. It’s a
bit of a missed opportunity on Ubisoft’s behalf when it comes to
rectifying some of the issues present in the previous entries, such as
the terrible menu interface, useless dance cards and occasionally
glitchy motion tracking. These flaws can make certain aspects of the
game much more frustrating than they should be.
When held up in comparison to more accomplished entries in the dancing
game genre, such as ‘Dance Central’, which still reigns supreme as the
most realistic and intuitive series on the market, the game’s failings
become glaringly apparent, but when judged on its own merits ‘Just Dance
4’ is easily one of the most fun party games on the market, and that’s
really all that matters in the long run.