Gone are the days when you can simply sit in front of your computer or games console playing games by merely holding a classic controller or a keyboard/mouse combination, feeling fine about being sedentary for 3 hours and not having eaten for twice as long as that; those days are over. Guilt is creeping into gaming, though not even through people disagreeing with gaming itself but through what feels like a fitness revolution.
More specifically, a fitness-gaming revolution which sort of feels like a contradiction in terms but one that the Nintendo Wii in particular facilitated with its Wii Fit software and get-up-and-move gaming style. Personally I like to keep gaming and exercise separate – blurring the lines leads to the dangerous conclusion that gaming is exercise, which it most certainly is not (well, not any kind of exercise that truly counts, anyway) – but if you like your lines blurred and your games sans the traditional button-pushing input, Just Dance 4 is most definitely one of the better ways to go about it. We all know how popular these kinds of games are, but what kind of game lies beneath the hype?
Above we see the Just Dance routine for One Direction’s ‘What makes you beautiful’.
The kind of game that Ubisoft’s Just Dance series models itself as is a little different to say Dance Central’s comparatively toned-down nature. While Dance Central is a little less loud and outrageous with its design, songs, and general approach, Just Dance has always gone for the brash, annoying, and generally brightly-coloured appearance and song selection, and Just Dance 4 only hopes to continue this tradition. Its cartoon visual style will be familiar to veterans of the game and a visual mouthful (or eyeful) for newcomers, though it is a generally pleasant experience where cartoon-illustrated dancers throw the shapes that you make in real life afront various backdrops such as a living room or a nightclub.
Dance moves are performed with the controller of whichever console you decided to buy it for (I prefer the Xbox 360 because of the Kinect hardware) whereby you must imitate the moves you see and follow the instructions that appear on the screen to help you on your way to dancing perfection. This isn’t a hardcore gamer’s game like say Guitar Hero where you are punished fairly harshly for missed notes and failures; you are rewarded substantially for even the slightest victory and not really penalised in any noticeable way for getting things wrong here and there. This may seem an alien concept for obsessive gamers who only derive pleasure, satisfaction, and self-worth from being graded harshly on their gaming skills, but for a fun party game that can be whipped out at social gatherings, Just Dance 4 really hits the nail on the figurative head.
The most important part of the game for most is no doubt the song list, which has of course received an intensive going over to ensure that many genres and tastes are accounted for. You’ll experience a range of songs old and new, from Aguilera’s Ain’t No Other Man and The Time Of My Life from Bill Medley/Jennifer Warnes through to Maroon 5’s Moves Like Jagger, Europe’s The Final Countdown and even a little bit of Skrillex’s Rock and Roll.
The various modes of the game ensure that there is a dancing scenario to be enjoyed by everyone. Competitive dancers will enjoy Battle Mode in which you are put head-to-head with another person, and beat-em-up fans will appreciate the Street Fighter-style layout on the screen along with health bars and all. Just Sweat mode is for those looking to use the game as an exercise tool, with the addition of a calorie indicator and intensity monitor making for an even more quantifiable fitness experience. A new feature is the Dance Quest where you are simply tasked with achieving certain goals/achievements.
While Just Dance 4 will appeal to long-term fans of the series, newcomers may not enjoy the relatively lax difficulty and the fact that the game isn’t really a source of complex dance routines to please those that feel like they want to be told they’re dancing well when they probably are doing nothing of the sort. Some may enjoy the Xbox 360-only feature called Just Dance TV that involves the opportunity to look at a mash-up or highlights video of your previous dance, even giving you the chance to publish it online for your embarrassment to be enjoyed worldwide. Such a feature is simply a drop in the ocean of dancertainment that is the act of playing Just Dance 4 which blows most other dance games out of the water (particularly free flash-based games like Dance Pump It Up) but more serious dancers may wish to opt for Dance Central instead.