shawns's Just Dance (Wii) review

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  • shawns has written a total of 18 reviews. The last one was for Open Me!

Forget playing a game and just dance

So you say you want to dance but hate hooking up slippery pads or relying on finicky cameras? Ubisoft would slap that gear out of your hands, replace it with a single Wii Remote, turn to the camera and yell "Hey man, Just Dance!" And I'd be the excitable co-host begging for more because, despite all my worries, Just Dance really is simple, approachable fun. I was skeptical at first glance as the interface smacks of mid-90's multimedia with stiff, boring menus formatted for standard definition TV's. There's also a minimum of features; you'll find no flashy intro or cast of characters, no in-depth stat tracking, and absolutely nothing to unlock as you play. It feels like Ubisoft had some licensed tracks laying around and set out to make the cheapest music game possible. It may not be the most robust game ever made but you can't say the deceived you from the title. This really is a game where you just dance.

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Ubisoft bills it as some kind of "energy sensing" magic but it works like any other Wii game; are you moving the Remote within tolerance of a pre-defined motion? IF yes THEN award points. Their innovation here is that there are no arrows or colorful icons flooding the screen. Simplicity rules again with stylized live action footage of a dancer in themed clothing doing an "in the style of" dance to each song that you try to mimic. Complete each dance move and you either get points for a Great or an OK or zero points for a miss. Pictograms glide onto the screen to give notice of the next move but I found them pretty hard to follow and wound up just going with the flow, improvising poorly until the sequence of moves started over again. It's easy to do as they've removed the concept of failure so even when the Remote doesn't quite work as described there's no real penalty. This is where I would normally lambaste it for being another unresponsive and frustrating Wii game but given the casual, non-challenge I really can't fault it. Yes, it'd be more fun if it knew I was trying really hard and gave me a better score or if it genuinely knew I was shaking my rump. For what it is, however, the gameplay works just fine and I can't express how great it feels to not be tethered to a huge plastic instrument or a squishy dance pad just to enjoy some music.

All music games live and die by their playlist. No matter how good the gameplay is if there's not a good tune to be heard there's no point in playing. Just Dance is at its best with songs like 'Ring My Bell' and 'Groove is in the Heart' that haven't been featured in many other music games. There's also a good variety of styles with oldies, pop and rock from the 60's through 2008, all of which (minus one track) are master recordings that sound great. Sadly, it also falls back on several tired tracks that you've likely sung, played, and danced to countless times before or are just tired of hearing. 'Who Let the Dogs Out', 'A Little Less Conversation' and 'That's the Way (I Like it)', I'm looking derisively at you! Those duds and overplayed standards hurt a lot here as there are only 32 songs in total with absolutely no chance of an expansion or downloadable content. With so few songs, even a couple bad seeds cut down on your choices.

The multiplayer options don't soften the blow either. Both 'Red Light, Green Light' and 'Last Man Standing' are ruined by the game's inexplicably sensitive motion tracking, forgivable only when there's no way to lose as in the rest of the game. Quick Play and Classic modes are by far the best way to play with friends and they can even jump in at any point by grabbing another Remote. It echoes Guitar Hero 5's Party Play mode but there's not much point to it as there aren't enough songs to keep the game going until your fashionably late friends arrive.

And that's the sticking point for me. I was stunned when I realized that the gameplay was just as much fun as the box proclaimed. The themed costumes and visuals for each song are a little lame but they still look good and I even found an elegance in their simplicity. But the music is the key and of the 32 songs on the disc I probably only enjoy about ten of them. To me that doesn't make it worth the $40 price tag but check out the playlist for yourself or wait for it to hit the bargain bin because Ubisoft really did pack just a little bit of magic into Just Dance.    

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