By Steve Wright
Just Dance 4 gets an 8.5 because I can shoot lasers from my hands whilst dancing. Dancing, I might add, to Skrillex. It’s that simple.
Okay, it’s not really that simple, but the lasers thing? That sums up Ubisoft’s latest iteration in the Just Dance franchise quite nicely. In short: it’s super fun.
I’ve played through the Just Dance games in the past, and I’ve found each to be… well, competent. I enjoyed them, but I didn’t believe them to be anywhere near the level of Harmonix’s Dance Central titles. With Just Dance 4, I think Ubisoft’s realised they needed to do something to set their game apart from the competition. And, this time, they’ve succeeded.
Let me put it this way: Dance Central 3 tries to be ultra-realistic and rewards dancers (or would-be dancers?) who can achieve technical perfection. It’s fun because of the challenge that scheme poses; practice, slow the moves down, practice some more, and be the best. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Just Dance 4, like the games before it, are awash with fluorescent colours and boppy tunes. The characters (or roles?) you play are ones like “Crazy” and “Jazzy” – but even with Just Dance 3, the games tried to encourage the same technical perfection as in Dance Central. While Just Dance 4 rewards great dancing, it tends to be more forgiving than Harmonix’s games, so you can concentrate on just having fun doing the moves you’re doing (especially in groups).
As long as we’re keeping the comparisons to the Dance Central franchise going, Just Dance one-ups Harmonix with its new cardio mode, “Just Dance Sweat.” There are multiple classes you can take part in, each with 10 minute, 25 minute or 45 minute options. My personal favourite is the kickboxing class, which combines said boxing with electronica-style songs to dance to. Exercise, dance, exercise, dance… 45 minutes never flew by so quickly. It’s in that “Sweat” class that your on-screen persona shoots lasers from his hands during "Rock N' Roll" by Skrillex. If you didn’t feel like a bad-ass by kickboxing, you certainly will when you strike a pose and have lasers going off. Trust me on that one.
The track list in Just Dance 4 is great as well, with oldies like “Rock Lobster” and “(I’ve Had) The Time of my Life,” current songs like “Moves Like Jagger” and “Super Bass,” right down to crazy ones like “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and “Mr. Saxobeat.” I think we need to deduct points, unfortunately, for the inclusion of such samey (as in, also in Dance Central 3) songs like “What Makes You Beautiful” (even though I love One Direction. Yes, you read that right…) and Carly Rae Jepsen's “Call Me Maybe.”
One massive flaw in the game lies in Just Dance 4’s atrocious menu system. In theory, it’s clever; rather than hovering over menu options like the generic Kinect menus work, you’re supposed to essentially poke the options you’d like to select. It works well enough when moving from one menu system to another, but the problem lies in switching between songs or modes, or when in one of the game’s “Prize Wheel” sections that allow you to unlock extra content when you level up in the title’s “Mojo” system. The Kinect – or the Just Dance programming, I’m not sure – doesn’t register your movement very well. That’s a problem when you’re supposed to be moving left to right, or up and down, to perform specific actions. There's a secret achievement that unlocks when you spin the prize wheel at its fastest, but I felt I deserved it by just getting the damn wheel to spin in the first place.
All up, Just Dance 4 is more versatile than the games before it. It can be fun because you can let loose and be crazy, or happen to be a skilled dancer, or are a fitness nut who wants to get a great workout broken up with a dance or two. It’s a perfect match for any dance game fan, anyone looking for a different type of motion-controlled game workout, or anyone who loves a boogie with friends. It’s hard to go wrong with this purchase.