October 10, 2012
The standard dancing style of the regular person, ourselves included, falls somewhere between the moderate delusion of being John Travolta (the Saturday Night Fever edition) reborn and that of a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tubeman. So thankfully Just Dance 4 panders to the chaos of a regulation dancefloor by allowing you to coerce four people to take part at once, with the risk for injuries surely increasing the second you invite your overzealous relatives to “just have a go”. You can also bust a move on your own, but where is the fun (and potential life threatening elbows) in that?
The latest dance game does not do much to stray from the tried and tested formula laid down by its predecessors and its peers. The menu system has been given a tablet style update, so that every aspect of the game is accessed by arm movements and simple swiping. Unfortunately, unlike a tablet, this system can be particularly finicky and just picking the right song can be a chore. The same is true of the voice control system as well, with the game often failing to register exactly what you’ve said and thus responding by either doing nothing, but in a thoughtfully petulant way (at least to our insanely paranoid minds) or sending you to the wrong menu/song entirely.
Still, from such inauspicious beginnings the game does at least have plenty under the hood. The range of music covers a heap of genres, styles and interests so there should be something in here for pretty much anyone to dance along to. That’s not to say that the list is perfect as for every "Time of your Life" (classic!) you have to endure a "Beauty and a Beat" (Bieber devil spawn). Thankfully the impetus is not on the songs themselves but rather on the dance moves associated with them, and the variety on offer is pretty impressive. Kinect never seems to struggle with picking up your actions and, if you do mess up, it’s generally your own fault rather than a tracking error. The game also helps you to master the moves with the ability to practice each and every one, plus after a song it will also handily point out any sections you're struggling with and give you the opportunity to master them there and then. Neat.
Cleverly, each song also has a a range of challenges, or quests as the game calls them, associated with them. So above and beyond the challenge of trying to five star everything in sight you can also attempt to max out all of the song specific quests, which certainly helps to prolong the experience beyond the norm. All of your efforts also provide you with Mojo that you can then use to purchase unlockable items, characters and alternate versions of songs that often have the difficulty ramped up. At any point you can also have players hop in and out of the action, with Kinect proving quite adept at recognising newcomers assuming you have the room for them to take part that is. In fact while the four-player option is certainly a welcome party starter it’s just a shame that it is likely to be so underutilised considering the average playing area you will have available.
If you do manage to persuade, or guilt trip, a few friends into joining you then as well as going for it as a dance crew you can also engage in some head to head sparring. The Battle mode lets two players go one on one, with a health bar to boot, in a battle to determine who has the finest moves – or, more likely, who is least terrible. It’s certainly a fun diversion and the winner then gets the privilege of having their song in its entirety, as well as eternal bragging rights. Well, until you play again that is. Another keen skill, across all modes, is the ability for Kinect to video players taking part and provide you with what can only be described as a 25 second movie of shame. Of course, the unscrupulous may take the chance to upload said videos directly to Facebook and so on, via the in-game options but I’m sure we're all far above that practice. Possibly.
Players looking for a more material end product to their gyrations can head over to the revamped Just Sweat mode. You can now choose a style of workout to follow, as well as setting how long you want a session to last and, of course, what music you want to exercise to. The game tracks how many calories you are burning and it’s also a good way to get a bit more out of your favourite songs. It’s a neat little package for those looking for a calorie counting alternative to the more hardcore Kinect exercise options. Plus, the chance of picking up a few achievements on your way to shedding a few pounds is hardly going to be sniffed at either.
In fact the achievement list is fairly evenly spread over the available modes, and has a good mix of short term challenges and long term progression. Obviously the ultimate goal is still to max out all of the songs, but it is also nice to see a few more unique challenges and achievements that manage to raise a smile. The chance to have a Rickrolled achievement should be more than enough to sway most people, if truth be told. Still beyond the standard list has been well put together and shows that with a bit of thought and planning a potentially generic list can be brought to life. Still if we had to pick fault, and we do, then it's a pain that you're reliant on having four players to max things out – something those with cramped spaces may struggle with.
Overall, Just Dance 4 is a fairly tight package. The menu navigation is hit and miss, which is a shame considering the dancing itself seems so well done, and the song list has no out and out classics on there. Luckily the actual game is well put together, with a range of options and modes to suit everyone. If you’ve played any other dance games then this will hardly be a revelation and the whole package doesn’t feel as well put together as Dance Central, but it’s certainly not that far off. As the cheaper alternative this is well worth a go for anyone looking for some new tunes to shake their booty to.
I suppose the audio will come down to how much you like the music on offer, but there is certainly something here for everyone.
Serviceable rather than stunning and some of the colour choices are eye bleedingly colourful if truth be told. Looks like something got loose with the neon cannon and went ballistic.
Jarring menus aside, this is easy to pick up and play with a range of modes to dip in and out of, plus the ability to humiliate four people at the same time.
While there is plenty of fun to be had this feels more like a slight refinement of the previous title rather than a complete overhaul. So players that have a few dance titles on their shelves may not feel like this offers much more for them other than some new songs.
A very good list by dance game standards, with every mode catered for in one way or another plus a few off the wall achievements that poke fun at the genre.
For those holding out for a fresh new dance experience, this isn’t it, but for those wanting more of the same with a few extra options, tweaks and songs then this is a solid package. There is plenty of fun to be had in Just Dance 4, with or without friends, and players will certainly not be wanting for entertainment. Just try not to sprain anything, ok?