STAFF REVIEW of Just Dance 4 (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012.
by Adam Dileva

Just Dance 4 Box art I think I’m coming to terms with dancing games being my guilty pleasure as I actually look forward to playing the new ones when they come out; finding those lost hits that no one else enjoys but myself and then busting a (surely terrible looking) move in the privacy of my own home (though my daughter seems to laugh at me every time I play these games) is quite fun for me. With that being said, I did bust out some embarrassing dance moves with the new Just Dance 4 and then shared them to the world on Xbox Live and my Facebook. I can laugh at myself, and if you can too you’ll have an entertaining time with Just Dance 4 as well. Is Just Dance 4 is sequel with a slew of new features or just a glorified song pack? As it turns out, a little of both.

Any game in the music and dancing genre is only as good as its soundtrack and with fifty new songs to show your moves and break a sweat to there’s surely to be at least a few songs you’ll enjoy. Yes, I know you’ll probably hate the songs that I enjoyed (and vice versa), but for me here’s a few of the notable songs that stood out for me that was either fun to sing along with, dance to, or both: Beware of the Boys (Mundian To Bach Ke) by Panjabi MC, Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen, Istanbul by They Might Be Giants, Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5 , Mr. Saxobeat by Alexandra Stan, Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley, The Final Countdown by Europe, and Wild Wild West from Will Smith (and as a side note, Gangnam Style by PSY has been announced as coming soon DLC). There are some other very odd and interested song choices as well, but it really makes Just Dance 3 stand out among the competition by not taking itself too seriously. Just like the previous Just Dance games, unfortunately the dance choreography is not the “official” moves, so don’t look for that here. Instead the routines are more set on simple “fun” dancing, even though a lot of quirky moves are expected of you.

The first thing you will notice when you start Just Dance 4 is that the controls aren’t done like more Kinect games where you swipe or hold your hand in a spot to make your selection. Instead, you hold your hand palm outwards near your body, hovering over where you want to select and then you have to extend your arm and pull back quickly, as if you’re pushing a button. I understand how on paper this may seem natural but in practice it took quite a while to get used to and you’ll be fighting against the game every time you want to press the back button. I wish controller and voice navigation were included and it’s a shame the very first thing you do in Just Dance 4 is met with some confusion and frustration.

To those unfamiliar with the series, Just Dance 4 is a dancing game (I know, you weren’t able to tell from the title) that seems like it came straight from the eighties with the neon color palette where Kinect will track your body and limbs to determine how good (or poor) of a dancer you truly are. Just like the previous Just Dance games, 4 is also very space friendly and I had no issues with Kinect keeping track of my moves, even when I was doing quirky things like spinning and moving from one side of the room to the other.

The core mechanics behind Just Dance 4 remains the same, you’re judged and scored based on how well you can mimic the on-screen dancers performing the routine to the selected song. Your moves will range from miss, ok, good, or perfect but also just like the previous games, you’re never told why you are doing well or poorly. If you keep missing moves, you have no idea what limb is doing the wrong thing or if it’s a Kinect issue that’s preventing you from being a dance master. The same goes for technique as well; sometimes I absolutely did not do the move correctly, yet I got a perfect for flailing my arms around.

So how are you supposed to know what sweet dance move is coming next for you to show off? Small icons will scroll across the bottom of the screen prompting you of what you’re supposed to try to attempt in beat with the song. One of the biggest issues I have with the Just Dance series still remains though; a series of moves can be implied for a single flashcard that doesn’t even remotely hint you were supposed to move your arms or legs a specific way. There was a move where the cue card only showed an arm up in the air, yet I was somehow supposed to know that I had to do a specific kind of dance move with my legs as well. Needless to say, it’s a lot of trial and error until you learn the routines by watching the dancer rather than solely relying on the scrolling cue cards. Another familiar problem returns as well, as there is no real tutorial for songs or moves either, so if you’re unable to master a specific move there is no assistance anywhere included to help you become a better dancer.

A new feature I really did enjoy is the inclusion of Dance Quests in each song. These are essentially small objectives for you to complete as you play each song that range from scoring 3 stars to getting a perfect finish at the end. With no story mode included these Dance Quests are almost like your missions and will usually take you a few tries at each one to obtain them all. Complete these quests and you’ll get a big boost to your Mojo level and rank up, earning unlockables as you progress. You’ll now even have a Dancer Card where you can display your best scores, challenges, favorite songs and more. Not a game changing feature but it’s a fun little addition.

The popular Just Sweat mode has been expanded and includes some simple yet effective tweaks to the mode. You’re now able create personalized sessions to start your workout, change the timer for how long you want to sweat for, and even track how many calories you’ve been burning for the duration of your workout.

For the fans that know the series inside and out, Dance Mashups are an interesting way to keep things fresh. Here you’ll play the new songs from 4 but with different routines from previous games and you may even notice a few cameos from some of the previous dancers as well.

I’m assuming the Just Create mode didn’t catch on from the previous game as it’s no longer an option; though replacing it is a feature I admittedly spent more time with that I care to share. Autodance is a feature that will record small clips of your routine and then mash them together in a (usually) hilarious way. These clips can then be uploaded to Just Dance TV (JDTV) and shared with your friends, all of Xbox Live, and even straight to your Facebook wall. Go into the JDTV menu and you can search for your friends’ videos, popular, featured, most recent, and more. Here you can actually watch the clips of random people that decided to share their hilarious moments with the community and I found myself watching quite a few as most are quite entertaining (expect you, yea, the guy that plays Just Dance 4 with no shirt and only boxers on and then shares it to everyone).

Just Dance 4 is a very party friendly game and allows up to four players simultaneously provided you have the floor space to do so. For the songs that really show off the party play, each player can have their own unique moves and there’s quite a few times that you’ll actually be interacting with one another rather than simply doing the same moves side by side. So I hope you and your friends are close, cause there’s many dance moves that incorporate some fun moves like holding hands and twirling when dancing as a team.

For those with someone to play with frequently, the new Battle Mode is where you’ll want to be. Here you’ll dance off against one another in five different rounds in an almost odd take on fighting games. You each have a health bar and the better dancer of the two will be a victor and get to play their song choice next. It’s an interesting take on multiplayer dancing and I can see it being quite fun with a group of friends, especially after a few drinks.

The visuals in Just Dance 4 are very similar to the previous games and it has the same style and feel, though it seems like much more work has been done so that it’s more entertaining to watch rather than just simply a dancer in front of a backdrop. For example, the super hero that dances on top of a building with Godzilla in the background walking through the city was actually entertaining to just watch when you’re not the person playing, and I almost spat my drink laughing when the guy face plants at the end of the song.

Many of the moves you’re intended to pull off seems much more involved in Just Dance 4. You’ll be kneeling, rolling on the ground, circling each other and many more advanced moves. Just like the previous games, Just Dance 4 seems to rate you better when you’re enthusiastic and having a good time rather than solely judging you on accuracy and technique, and that’s not always a bad thing. My only real complaints are the change to the controls with the menu, as it never really feels ‘good’ to use even once you get the hand of “pressing” your selections and the lack of new features and modes besides the few listed above.

While Just Dance 4 won’t have the variety and genre depth as some other dancing games nor official dance choreography, it makes it up in trying to provide you with simple fun by dancing around and if you can laugh at yourself (or friends) you’ll have a good time. JDTV is an awesome inclusion I can’t wait to see in future Just Dance games and others in the genre as well, even if I do feel like a creeper watching people dance in their living rooms.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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