Just Dance 2014 Xbox 360 Kinect Review
We here at iGame Responsibly usually tend to stick to the games where you sit down and enjoy the game. However, given that all three major console developers have motion tracking devices, it was only a matter of time before we reviewed one of the games that requires you to get on your feet. Lately, the Kinect has only been used as an auxiliary device. Voice controls have made the games that are “Better With Kinect” require fewer button presses, and in navigating the regular Xbox OS, voice commands basically mean that misplacing your controller isn’t as big of an issue as it could be. But has Ubisoft managed to once again use the Kinect to make a decent installation in their Just Dance franchise?
Since Ubisoft is basically the last game company still making rhythm games these days, they are kind of operating in a vacuum. There is no competition as far as anybody else is making another game involving dancing with motion sensors. That might imply that Ubisoft would just put their game design on cruise control with their song choices. It would have been very easy to keep to one genre and limit the actual dancing moves so as to require less programming. Instead, they went all-out. Instead of sticking to just one genre, they decided to go with every possible song choice available. That includes hip-hop, boy bands, movie musicals, swing, and pop music. The dance moves are song appropriate in the normal mode, and more than that, each song has four different dance styles from which a player can choose. There are also variation modes to add to the entertainment level. One mode, called Mash-Up, where dance moves from multiple songs are timed to a single song, and are only linked by nature of one of the four dance styles. Another mode, Battle, manages to smash multiple songs together in to a single dance. On Stage mode actually turns the Just Dance experience in to a performance experience, using the Kinect microphone for a karaoke-style addition to the dance moves, and turning one dancer in to the main event while the rest become backup dancers (for the most part). Although not all of the songs on the list have these modes available, there is enough variation that it doesn’t get dull.
Of course, although the game is called Just Dance, it is more than just a dancing game. The game tracks your performance by way of stars and points, similar to basically every rhythm game in existence (except for, ironically, Ubisoft’s real guitar game Rocksmith, which just tracks points). Just for kicks, it actually gives you in-game currency for doing extra things, including gaining achievements (that’s right, they’re not just for bragging rights in Just Dance), singing along with the song to which you’re dancing (or having somebody a little less dance-inclined join in from off-screen), and participating in online play. While it would seem to be a little silly, you actually get achievements for spending the in-game currency, proving the adage that you have to spend to earn. The items available in-game are extra modes for each dance, avatars for your online persona, and additional elements to the game.
Of course, dance is a social act as much as it is for spending time on your own in your underwear (yes, that was a Grey’s Anatomy reference), so the game also has to judge the online elements. First, there is the ability to share video of yourself and your friends dancing in front of your Kinect called Autodance. Basically, it records specific snippets of your dancing, puts it to the song to which you danced, and allows you to edit and share it with every other Just Dance player on Xbox Live. Although it initially feels silly to do it, the less self-conscious you are about it, the more likely you are to get a reaction. The other aspect of online interaction, the World Dance Floor, puts you together with dozens of other players from around the world in order to dance competitively. There are multiple ways it does it, including splitting players between two or four teams, having variations on the single-player songs, and allowing players to vote for the next song, similar to Halo multi-player map voting. Stars earned on the World Dance Floor lead to new free songs for the entire group of Just Dance players, although the number of stars required is ridiculously large.
As far as deficiencies, the game allows for up to four players, but for that to work, you need a huge amount of room. Playing alone is fairly easy, but adding anybody else can get somewhat cramped. Also, the regular controller functionality is a nice option, but it doesn’t control every menu, so it seems to be a underdeveloped compared to the rest of the game. As with every full Kinect game, the light sensitivity is a bit high, meaning that any room that allows natural sunlight at too high of a level (read: practically any level) can’t have the game played unless it’s night-time or you get blackout curtains. Finally, the method for determining move accuracy is a little confusing, since you can repeat the exact same action for the exact same move, and somehow have two different ratings for it.
Ultimately, Just Dance 2014 is an enjoyable game, and Ubisoft used the Kinect technology to its fullest. If you have a Kinect, this is a definite recommend, but it isn’t enough to go out and get the device if you don’t.