The dancing genre seems tailored for Kinect with its full body tracking capabilities; Dance Central proved that at launch and was arguably the best launch title for the small black camera peripheral. Much like Rock Band, the dance genre is a fantastic type of game to play at a party with a bunch of friends (the more inebriated, the better).
Just Dance was previously a Wii only game where you held the Wii-mote in your hand and thats how the game determined if you were correctly doing the dance moves. Suffice to say, it was easy to cheat as it was really only tracking the movement of the controller and as long as you got those hand and arms movements correct, you didnt have to do the rest if you didnt want to. Now with Kinect and full body tracking via camera, gone are the days of cheating your way through a song since it will be tracking your limbs and body. Youre actually going to have to show that you got the moves!
I didnt play the first two Just Dance games on the Wii, so I cant say how they compare to 3, but I can compare to the other dance game for Kinect, Dance Central. The first thing youll instantly notice in this series is the bright 80s influenced neon presentation that carries over from the previous games. Just Dance 3 is also a very space-friendly game that seems to plague many Kinect games. I was able to comfortably play with my wife simultaneously in my very small playing area between the couch and TV without any major issues.
Being a dancing game, the focus is going to be on the music selection. Ofcourse everyone is going to have a different outlook of the song selections on the disc, but these are some of the few that stood out for me personally (no making fun!). What You Waiting For? by Gwen Stefani, Barbara Streisand by Duck Sauce, No Limit by 2 Unlimited, Take on me by A-ha, and Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO. Yes, I know my music selection will differ from yours, but what stood out for me were the unique and odd choices of some songs included on the disc. Yes theres the standard top 40 selections from current artists, but theres also some interesting selections like Lets Go To The Mall by Robin Sparkles (which is AWESOME if youre a fan of the show How I Met Your Mother), and This Is Halloween from Nightmare Before Christmas. There are some other interesting choices as well, but it really made Just Dance 3 stand out among the competition by not taking itself too seriously.
You are able to choose to play songs in Full or Short versions (usually a minute and a half long) in the options which is great if you plan on playing this at parties with lots of friends and dont want to wait long in between songs. My biggest complaint though comes with the dance routines of the songs themselves. I was hoping to learn the actual moves you see in the music video of Party Rock Anthem and Da Funk, but alas, they arent the official routines, so you wont be mimicking the music videos moves next time youre in the club from this game.
Like many other Kinect games, youll be navigating the menus with your right hand to choose and progress, and your left to go back with a simple swipe. This can become very finicky at times. The best example; you choose the song difficulty by holding your arm up (which is confusing in its own right), but this will more often make you accidently start the song or go back a menu depending on what arm you hold up for change the difficulty. The same goes for choosing songs, as youll scroll up or down at the last second before choosing the wrong selection.
The premise of the game is simple and just like any other in the genre; mimic the onscreen characters movements and youre scored on how closely you copycat them. Depending on how well you dance per move, youll get a miss, ok, good, or perfect. The problem is that you wont know why you got a miss and other times youll clearly be doing the wrong moves but get a perfect. Sometimes it seems to only care if youre flailing your arms about rather than actually dancing. If you play on Easy mode, Kinect will only track your upper body and arms. Choose Normal and youll have to also spin and jump as well to get those perfects. This actually isnt explained though and I didnt know the difference until I read through the manual.
Small pictographs will show you upcoming moves that youre about to try and perform just like Dance Central, but the biggest problem is that a series of moves can be implied for a single flashcard unlike in Dance Central where they show you every move you need to make individually. This makes it very difficult when the pose shows a single arm in the air, but then the on screen dancer is also doing something crazy with their legs or body that youre somehow supposed to know without being told. Theres no tutorial either like in Dance Central, so if you cant get a certain move down, you arent offered any assistance to learn it and are left on your own.
There are Shout Out sections that require you to sing along with the lyrics in the bottom left to gain extra points (or for others to play along in the background as you dance). Certain moves labeled gold moves will net you tons of points if you pull them off correctly. Theres usually only 2 or 3 in a song and are typically needed to get the perfect 5 stars. Get up to 5 stars for finishing a song and for each milestone of stars youll unlock bonuses like other songs for other modes. While you can never fail out a song, the incentive to do well is in the stars you earn and is like leveling up in a sense as you gain unlocks for doing better in the long run.
Youre not forced to dance alone anymore as you can now dance as a duet or even in a dance crew of up to four performers. If you stagger the four simultaneous players, it can apparently track them all individually without fail. Its not always the same moves for each player either, each dancer may have their own sections and moves, though only a certain amount of specific songs support this particular routines though.
If you want a complete dance workout, then you want to hit up the appropriately named Sweat Mode. This will have you committing to a group of songs in a set playlist like 80s, duets, groups, and more. Youll do songs back to back (though you do pick difficulties before each song, so you can take a break whenever you want) and it tracks how much sweat youve perspired. Its actually quite challenging once youre a few songs in if youre really going for it youll work up a sweat no problem.
For something a little extra, theres even a Simon Says mode that has you not only following the dance choreography, but also having to watch your scoring area for extra Simon Says commands like Stop, Spin Around, Jump, and Dance Frantically. I found it quite hard to watch the dance cue cards and for the Simon Says commands since they are on opposite sides of the screen and youre trying to concentrate on mimicking the dancer as best as possible.
The most unique feature of Just Dance 3 though has to be the Just Create Mode. This has you creating your own routine as it films you (complete with bright neon overlay) which you can then share and play with your friends or even online to everyone should you be brave enough. Its not perfect, but its there and can make for some entertaining nights with some friends; sadly, it wont make the flash cards for upcoming moves though.
Just Dance 3 is clearly more geared towards people that have no problem letting go of their inhibitions, dont embarrass easily, and are not shy in the slightest. If you have no problem making a fool of yourself and like to wear funny wigs and clothes at a party, youll feel right at home dancing to the set list.
What I found odd about playing through Just Dance 3 was that I wasnt really enjoying it all the much playing solo due to it wanting me to be too technical at times with moves I know I will never be able to do, but when I started playing with my wife, it was a much more entertaining experience. While I still prefer the other dancing game for its selection of music, Just Dance 3 does one-up them by adding four player support and very unique visuals.
The dancers you (try to) mimic are extremely energetic, almost to a fault, as theres no way youll be able to keep up with them for very long. But they seem so happy in their routines; you almost want to smile knowing youre dancing nowhere near as well as they are. Just Dance 3 doesnt take itself as seriously as Dance Central but its not as refined either. Fans of these games probably wont care though and will make for an interesting party night, thats for sure.