As soon as the Kinect technology was released for the Xbox 360, the market for dance titles opened up. Zumba Fitness, Dance Paradise and Dance Central were just a number of dance video games released, alongside the introduction of the Just Dance series.
Following on from the success of Just Dance 3 in October 2011, comes the appropriately-named, Just Dance 4, almost a year on.
For those not familiar with the series, players mimic the dance moves as evident on screen, earning points based on the accuracy of their performance.
The first thing that players will notice about Just Dance 4 is the difference in menu navigation. While menu navigation throughout Kinect titles has proved to be inconsistent, with developers trying a range of techniques, in Just Dance 4, Ubisoft has opted for a system which has players controlling a virtual hand, replicating the hand movements of the players. While it takes some getting used to, it’s certainly one of the better menu systems out there.
A dance title wouldn’t be a good dance title if it wasn’t for the music, and Ubisoft has certainly got that right. The appropriately titled “Just Dance” game mode contains a tracklist as strong as the previous titles in the series, featuring classics such as Europe – “The Final Countdown”, Elvis Presley – “Jailhouse Rock” and Rick Astley – “Never Gonna Give You Up”, to more modern songs, including Flo Rida – “Good Feeling”, One Direction – “What Makes You Beautiful” and Carly Rae Jepsen - “Call Me Maybe”.
As well as the great assortment of songs that will entertain friends and family of all ages, certain songs contain special dance routines for up to four players, encouraging players to work together as they dance. The routines bring more variety to a game that can get repetitive quickly.
Quite disappointingly, a small number of the songs featured are covers and not the original tracks. Nevertheless, this doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the game. If that wasn’t enough, Ubisoft has promised a range of downloadable content, including Psy’s “Gangnam Style”. Dancing around in your living room will never be the same again.
All of the songs in the game are available straight from the off, with unlockables coming in the form of new playlists, mash-ups and alternate dances, by earning mojo – the game’s equivalent of gaining experience.
In addition to the points earned from song performances, players can gain even more points through “Dance Quests”. These are song missions, which include earning a certain star rating, performing well on a certain part of the song or managing to pull off all the gold moves.
While players are dancing, Just Dance 4 records certain parts of the performance, which can then be generated into an “Autodance” to share with the Just Dance community online, with your friends on Facebook and with your Xbox Live Friends. The feature is more of a gimmick that players will use once and never again, though its inclusion will go down well with younger gamers.
The “Dance Battle” mode sees two dancers from two different songs dance against each other in a series of rounds. Each player has a health bar, which will go down if the opposing player dances better than them. The winner is the best out of five rounds.
The game mode is great multiplayer fun and adds a more competitive side to the title, something the Just Dance game mode doesn’t quite achieve. Disappointingly, there are only five battles on offer, all of which have to be unlocked, though the Skrillex vs. Ricky Martin battle has to be heard to be believed.
“Dance Mash-Up” mode is another returning game mode in Just Dance 4, which has players performing dance routines from previous titles in the series to the updated track list in the latest instalment. While there are only fourteen dance mashups, the game mode provides a welcome change to the other modes and
For those who want a real workout and to burn some calories, the final game mode, “Just Sweat” is ideal for that. Each of the five workout sessions in the game are well developed though, if players aren’t happy with the pre-made workouts, players can also create their own personalised sessions.
Throughout the workouts, a timer to determine the duration of the workout and a calorie counter to show many calories the player has burnt. With so many standalone workout Kinect titles already on the market, incorporating the game mode into the title further adds even more replayability to the title.
From a development point of view, Just Dance 4 is almost perfect. Graphically, the game retains the cartoon-esque visuals that the series embraced from the beginning, the range of colours on show looks brilliant in high definition. And there’s no faulting the audio either. The great choice of songs for the tracklist ensures there is something for everyone.
Unfortunately, the main problem with Just Dance 4 is that it’s not much of an improvement over Just Dance 3. The updated tracklist doesn’t make up for the lack of any new game modes and anything particularly innovative. The game simply feels like it’s been given a fresh lick of paint, rather than a true sequel.
Overall, Just Dance 4 is a great addition to the series. While it’s not much of an upgrade on its predecessor, this is a title that will not fail to get people on their feet to dance at a house party. This is the most fun you will have in multiplayer with Kinect and a great stocking-filler this Christmas.
David Wriglesworth is a Northern lad with a passion for gaming, who graduated from the University of Lincoln with a BA (Hons) Journalism degree. If you can drag him away from the consoles, you can probably find him Tweeting or watching Coronation Street.