Just Dance 4
Everyone, and I mean everyone, should dance. Whether you have some skills or none at all should never be in question. If you’re a professional or just a wiggler or giggler, you should have a boogie once in a while. I know it’s frowned upon when you get to a certain age to start strutting your Daddy or Mummy stuff across a dance floor, in full view of the unafraid-to-point-and-stare-OMGs. To hell with them, though; dancing, like laughter, is good for the soul. So you should do it too.
Just Dance 4 for Kinect helps you to do it in your living room. For us wigglers, that’s a bonus, but does it really matter if you can dance or not? To us parents, the vibrancy and fun-looking persona of the Just Dance series is just what you would think your kids would like to play. So to make sure, my ten-year old daughter reviewed the game with me. Her comments can be found in the separate quotes.
We slipped on our spangled dance shoes, hung the disco ball, dimmed the lights ever so slightly and made sure the curtains were definitely shut before we attempted to find out…
Stretch and warm-up
There have been quite a few Just Dance games so far (I’ve counted over ten separate titles) and the series has just been going from strength to strength, improving on the core game by introducing new features along the way.
I’ll be honest, I’ve not tried the other Just Dance games, though I have been unfortunate enough to witness a fair few of them being played by my kids and their friends. Their own experience of the series has been on the Nintendo Wii, where the series originated. I personally don’t really understand the draw to it on the Wii; swinging the Wiimote around at different angles doesn’t seem a particularly accurate way of capturing whether you did the right move or not.
My Daughter says: “I think that it is a lot better than any on the Wii. This Kinect version feels better than on the Wii and the bonus is you don’t have to worry about dropping the Wiimote.”
Just Dance 3 saw the series come to the Kinect for the first time, and Just Dance 4 appears to refine and enhance the experience further. The prospect of having the Kinect monitor your actual full body movements did see me purchasing the original Dance Central a year ago, but I simply found that game to be too needy, too particular and perhaps too professional for the likes of me. The Just Dance series keeps the dancing as something fun, rather than a form of penance.
Moves like Daddy
The biggest drawback of this game has to be the menu controls. You get used to it for sure, but the implementation seems rather flawed and it can be really, really frustrating at times. I found scrolling through and selecting a song a chore. Annoyingly, just when you’re having your first and worst initiation to the controls, sudden “helpful” notes banner themselves across the entire screen, clearly meant for the less-acquainted gamers.
These messages present yet more “OK” buttons to navigate around. This is just stupid and sloppy. Once you’ve clicked “OK”, something else pops up and you seriously start to wonder where the pop-up blocker option is.
To select a song to dance to is a seemingly obvious swipe of your hand. It just doesn’t always feel right and you will curse once, maybe twice, as the song you wanted flies off screen and you accidentally select another one. Perhaps the main problem with the Kinect as a control system is when pixel precise movement is necessary. Other Kinect games have the same issues. You get used to it, you even get over it, and sometimes it’s quite funny when an odd song selection pops up.
Kinect control in relation to dancing is much more forgiving, enjoyable even. I wondered whether this was too forgiving, so I tested it. When I just waved my arms around (in time, out of time, out of line, in line) I received a lower score than if I really tried to dance the precise moves as accurately as I could.
Another great thing about Just Dance 4 Kinect is that four of you, little and large, can all line up at the same time. In fact, you can be much closer to the Kinect than the usual optimum distance insisted upon by the technology. In comparison, the original Dance Central game only allowed two people to play at once, and even then if you became too close it would get in the way of the gameplay by moaning about it. Just Dance 4 has no such issues; it’s just you and three others moving in time with the music.
Each song you pick has a different difficulty rating from 1 (easiest) to 4 (hardest). As you dance you earn “Mojo” and this helps you unlock additional features that the game provides to you as a form of progression. This can be quite motivating if you want to unlock a particular mash-up (a mix of different dance styles into one song), for example.
It’s got different game modes that see you working up a sweat, and perhaps this could be the first Kinect-based workout where you’re not really thinking about working out? There is even a Coach mode to teach you the routines; this might help the perfectionists amongst you.
No dirty dancing
The first thing that struck me about Just dance 4 is that it retains the instantly recognisable look and feel from previous games in the series. Its clear and bold colour palette and crazy dressed up dancers will either instantly annoy you or make you smile, pulling you in further. I was the latter; I’m clearly a sucker for flashy primary colours.
My Daughter says: “I think that the colour in this game is fantastic; it really helps you see the main features of the dancers and what they are doing. It also helpfully shows you a simplified version of the current move and the next dance move at the bottom of the screen. This gives you full warning of what you should be doing and what to do next. This feature means you don’t have to watch the dancers directly, as they can get a bit confusing.”
It has to be said that the choice of tunes on the disc are actually quite a varied mix indeed. With what must be a total of fifty tracks, everyone will find something they can at least tap a toe to. There are also a few songs that are available to buy and download from Xbox Live. I was a little worried that I wouldn’t know any of the songs at all; I feared it would all be tweenager music, but I need not have worried.
The collection spans many genres and eras, from Elvis to Justin Bieber and from “Time of My Life” to the “Time Warp”. A few tracks are cover versions rather than originals, but this does not detract from the game’s quality at all.
My Daughter says: “I think that the choices of songs that they’ve picked are the best songs ever and they are great to dance to. My favourites have to be: The Final Countdown, Moves Like Jagger, Umbrella, Crucified, Maneater (a very hard but fun song), and Disturbia.”
Make the Party (Please Stop)
Parties. You know, those events when you invite all your mates around to take it in turns to play campaign mode Call of Duty on Veteran. You crack open a few tinnies and by the end of the evening they all stagger home happy. Yet wait, there wasn’t any dancing involved, unless you class the little jig and double point that drunk people do when they say “want something from the fridge?”. Would you really invite three burly male mates around to play Just Dance 4? No, I don’t think you would either.
If you play singing games such as Singstar, or the Xbox-equivalent Lips, at your parties, then you might just as well play Just Dance 4 too. It has the same “yeah we’re so great, we’re having a great time” vibe that those titles generate. You could happily play this game at a family get-together or a mixed-age party. While it’s all a bit day-glow and a little pink, I don’t think it’s just for girls or just for boys; everyone should give it a go. Watching four people of different ages, size and gender play this game, while they try hard to follow the required moves, is simply poetry. It’s a beautiful thing to behold, togetherness and shared experience. This is what Kinect was about. This is what gaming is about.
There are a few songs that feature a separate dancer for each player. This is where you all have to dance together, doing different moves that “compliment” the overall dance. These can be chaotic at first, but as long as you stay in the same player position you will soon learn the routines.
My Daughter says: “While my friends found it a little hard to control at first, they thought the hand on-screen was actually quite fun to move around. They thought the dancing was great fun, as there are lots of great songs to choose from and dance to. We were all very competitive to see who could win each of the dances we did.”
When the song finishes you get to see clips of your performance that have been recorded while you played. Naturally, these do bring some laughs and smiles to those watching. This is also where Just Dance 4 brings a new trick to its already full sleeves: video sharing.
Perhaps the idea doesn’t appeal to everyone, but you can now upload your clips and watch other people’s attempts on Just Dance TV, or JDTV as they like to call it. There are some very funny clips to be viewed, and this very much borrows from the “My Singstar” style uploads and ratings method. Personally, it’s really a case of whatever floats your boat, though you won’t see me uploading any time soon.
Call me maybe?
I have to admit that I really enjoyed playing Just Dance 4 on the Kinect, and I think its zest for life really does rub off on you. We’ve played other Kinect games before as a family and rarely could we get all four of us lined up all at once, in our “a-little-bit-too-small-to-play-Kinect“ front room. It makes this game a great contender at parties or equally if you just want to move about a bit when no one else is around. You might even learn a few new moves to try at your office Christmas party. I’ll leave it to my daughter to let you know the verdict:
“Although it is hard to control when you first start, you pick it up quickly. There are loads of cool songs to dance to. When you finish a song you see you see a recording of all of you dancing; they are very funny. Anyone who buys it will love it the minute they start playing, and it is an epic party game. I would recommend it to families, people that are having a party, and anyone who wants to have fun (old and young). This game is also a fun way to exercise and work out. Enjoy playing this fabulous game!”
So there you have it…