Review: Just Dance (Nintendo Wii)

Just Dance
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Paris
Genre: Rhythm Game
Release Date: 11/17/2009

You know, I keep calling this game “Let’s Dance” in my head which of course gets the David Bowie song by the same name in my head.

Just Dance is the latest in a long line of rhythm and dancing games. The big selling point to this title that makes is stand out if that all you need is a Wiimote to play. There’s no dance pad or need for a nunchuck. It’s just shaking your groove thang with a Wiimote in hand. With a MSRP of $39.99, it’s a bit cheaper than the average Wii game and much cheaper than Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party 3, which requires a Wiimote, dancepad and a nunchuck to get the full value out of it.

However, much like the ladies you meet at a rave, just because the game promises to be cheap and easy doesn’t mean it’s any good. Let’s take a look and see if Just Dance deserves a place as a stocking stuffer or if it’s something that makes a lump of coal look good.

Let’s Review

1. Modes

You have two mode options: single player and multiplayer. Within each of these modes you can choose to play a single song or several songs in a row. You can also play either the full song or a truncated version.

That’s it. That is your game. There is nothing to unlock. There is no real point to the game. It’s just a really bad no frills dance game. Even then it’s quite far from actually dancing as you’re just flailing your arms, but more on that in the Control & Gameplay section. There are only thirty songs in the game, twenty-eight of which are performed by the original artists. This is nice, but ultimately very shallow and you can play through all thirty songs in under two hours. As there is no real point to the game, a calorie counter or anything like that for working out or any reward, you’re basically playing forty dollars for piss poor choreography. You could save money by just turning on the radio or your Itunes and moving your body to the music. That won’t cost you a thing.

The odd thing is that the game gives you a score for each dance you do, but there’s no description of what the score is or even what is a good or bad score. It’s just an arbitrary number of points at the end of the song. If this had been a $19.99 game or even a tech demo, I’d be far kinder to this, but as it stands Just Dance is one of those games that really has no point or purpose save to separate a gamer from their wallet. At least you can play it with up to three friends…I guess.

Modes Rating: Worthless

2. Graphics

Here’s the thing. All of the songs have the same basic visuals. You get a plain background with one or two colours, a score meter in the left hand side of your screen and then a poorly depicted silhouette of a person dancing which you are supposed to mimic. There’s also a badly drawn character giving you instructions when it is time to switch moves, but the character and the directions are so poorly done, it’s hard to know what you’re supposed to actually do. It also doesn’t help that these instructions going across your screen sometimes fail to show up when the dancer changes or that they are sometimes different movements than what the dancer is doing altogether. This is just awful in so many ways.

You would think that with little to no graphics in this game that the little bits of visuals there are would look great. Alas, this is both minimalist and holy hell ugly. There was just no effort put into this and it shows every second you look at your TV.

Graphics Rating: Worthless

3. Sound

This is the only good thing about the game. You have thirty licensed tracks, all of which are varied and a lot of fun. Even if they are in a musical genre you normally can’t stand. Here’s the list:

Acceptable in the 80’s by Calvin Harris
A Little Less Conversation by Elvis Presley
Beb by Divine Brown
Can’t Get You Out of My Head by Kylie Minogue
Cotton Eye Joe by Rednex
Hot N’ Cold by Katie Perry
Dare by Gorillaz
Eye of the Tiger by Survivor
Funplex CSS by The B52’s
Girls and Boys by Blur
Girls Just Want To Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper
Groove is in the Heart by Dee-Lite
Heart of Glass by Blondie
I Get Around by The Beach Boys
I Like to Move It by Reel to Reel
Jerk It Out by The Ceasers
Jin Go Lo Ba by Fat Boy Slim
Kids in America by Kim Wilde
Le Freak by Chic
Louie Louie by Iggy Pop
Lump by TPOTUSA
Mashed Potato Time by Dee Dee Sharp
Pump Up The Jam by Technotronic
Ring My Bell by Anita Ward
Step By Step by The New Kids on the Block
Surfin’ Bird by The Trashmen
That’s the Way (I Like It) by KC and the Sunshine Band
U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer
Wannabe by The Spice Girls
Who Let the Dogs Outs? By Baha Men

There are also two covers. One of Fame (Irene Cara) and one of Womanizer (Britney Spears).

As you can imagine, the best songs in the game are also the worst ones. It is hilarious to force your friends to dance to Cotton Eye Joe or Pump Up the Jam. That’s really the only enjoyment one can get out of this game: make your friends suffer as you suffer along with them. That’s rather sad and telling when you think about it.

Overall, this is a very eclectic mix of music, but there will be at least one song for everyone to have fun with. A fun selection even if there’s only one or two you’d willingly listen to otherwise.

Sound Rating: Unparalleled

4. Control and Gameplay

So, here’s the crux of the game. You hold your Wiimote in your right hand and then dance around trying to mimic the large white detail-less character on your screen. There’s no button pushing. It’s all movement based controls. However, as I mentioned before, sometimes the instructions scrolling across the bottom of the screen are out of sync with the dancer, sometimes they are slightly off, and sometimes they are all together different. Hell, sometimes the instructions just stop showing up for a while. It’s a strange mess of a game but none of that really matters because the game’s ability to detect your motions and movements is absolutely piss poor.

There is no rhyme or reason to how the game decides you get a rating of “great”, “OK,” or “X.” You can be perfectly in time with the instructions or on-screen dancer and get Xs. At the same time you can just flail your Wiimote around without rhyme or reason and get a super high score even though you are holding your Wiimote with your feet like a monkey.

With this in mind, it’s probably no surprise that the two people can do the same exact dance with the same exact movements at the same exact time and the scores will be wildly different. There was either a complete and utter lack of fine tuning in regards to motion controls in this game or Ubisoft Paris just didn’t give a crap.

Again, this game is so shallow and unresponsive, one has to wonder why it was even made. We’re talking levels of Wii Music WTF-ery. Scores are arbitrary. The game detect movements like a deaf man detects sound. Once more, I have to point out it is cheaper, more fun and easier to just dance like a goon to whatever music you have in the house or go to a club. Just Dance is a nice idea, but it just performs so poorly, you have to wonder how this got by quality control. It’s not unplayable, but just flicking your remote occasionally and randomly may give you a better score than doing the dance correctly and that’s a big red flag.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Bad

Replayability

There is no reason to play this game at all. It’s a waste of money and time. Besides, there really only one thing you can do: Pick a song and dance to it. Repeat until done. There are no difficulty settings to make it harder or faster. There’s no reward for getting a certain score or beating your own. It’s literally just picking one of thirty songs and dancing along with a poorly made game that rarely registers anything correctly. I was pretty much done with this after an hour, but I kept playing in hopes that something might unlock or change or I might have a dance off against a CPU character. ANYTHING. Alas, it was not to be. This was time I could have spent playing far better games. Or even crappy games which is still a step up from Just Dance

Replayability Rating: Worthless

6. Balance

Ha ha ha ha ha ha. When a game has control that give you a thumbs up when you don’t move and a big X when you do things in time, you know the game is fundamentally broken. Even the two sets of “do what I do” motions in the game don’t always match up and when they do, they are often not in sync with each other. That’s a huge problem and there’s no way that the dev team didn’t notice this as you, the gamer, will after a few minutes of playing, if not immediately.

There are some rating of each songs, but these too seem totally random. Each song has a one to three star rating in two categories: Effort and Difficulty. However, the higher the difficulty or effort rating, the easier I found the song or the more I noticed the game responded to my movements. I would do better with the harder songs than the easy ones to the point where I was wondering if they mixed up the ratings and one actually meant hardest and three meant easiest.

Again, as awful as it sounds, Just Dance is pretty much a mess with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It’s just a horrible game.

Balance Rating: Worthless

7. Originality

Well, it’s pretty innovative to try and make a dance game that covers your full body motion with only a single Wiimote held in your hand, but of course, anyone with half a brain can see why such an idea failed so spectacularly. Seriously, I want to give these guys credit for trying, but they tried to accomplish the impossible. I’ll give them points for the idea and attempt, but I don’t think I’ve ever played a dance or rhythm game that played as poorly as this.

Originality Rating: Mediocre

8. Addictiveness

The only reason to play this game is to annoy your friends by making them play it with you. Honestly, who doesn’t hate “Cotton Eye Joe?” Isn’t it funny to make your friends Hammer-dance with you just stand there occasionally flicking your Wiimote and you end up with the high score why they end up slapping their thighs together?

Pretty much everyone will hate this game after playing just two or three songs in it. At first you’ll be wondering how the game’s movement detection can be so very, very off. Then you’ll be hating at off things just don’t click together as they are supposed. Then the game will slip into the so bad it’s good territory because you’ll somehow do really well on “Step by Step” even though you’ve heard the song once before. Then the game will drift into the “so bad it’s a worst game of the year nomination” territory once you realize everything about it is broken, non-functioning, or just horrible. It really is a game you have to play to understand how bad it is. Even then 99% of you won’t touch it after the first half an hour.

Addictiveness Rating: Worthless

9. Appeal Factor

You know who will like this game? The mothers of the developers. BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO. Everyone else will consider this one of the worst games they’ve ever played. The game isn’t offensive or even a bad idea. Actually, it’s quite a good idea. It’s just the game is so shallow it barely would qualify for a budget title. This combined with the sporadic and bizarre detection controls just makes the game one of the worst I’ve played this year. This is a pretty big shame considering I was quite optimistic when this thing first arrived to DHGF HQ.

Unless you really want to hurt your friends and family in a passive aggressive manner, you should stay far away from this game.

Appeal Factor Rating: Worthless

10. Miscellaneous

Okay, there’s no extras. There are no unlockables. There are only thirty songs in the game, most of which are played as jokes rather than anyone actually liking them, and the controls don’t really function at all. You’re lucky to have every third move detected and then the game turns around and rewards you for random twitching or standing still when you are supposed to be cutting a rug. This my friends, is the prime example of shovelware created to sucker casual gamers with a Wii into parting with their hard earned money. Beware. BEWAAAAAAAARE! Warn your friends. Put up signs in your local Gamestop. Pimp slap a granny you see holding this title as she contemplates buying it for her relatives. Don’t even let your arch-enemies purchase this.

Miscellaneous Rating: Worthless

The Scores
Modes: Worthless
Graphics: Worthless
Sound: Unparalleled
Control and Gameplay: Bad
Replayability: Worthless
Balance: Worthless
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Worthless
Appeal Factor: Worthless
Miscellaneous: Worthless
FINAL SCORE: VERY BAD GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary
Just Dance is a horrible and shallow game that barely functions in the manner it is supposed to. The motion detection only works about a third of the time, and the instructions at the bottom for what move you are supposed to do next are often out of sync with the large dancer you are supposed to mirror or are completely different altogether. The game borders on hilariously bad when the motions you are supposed to do just stop appearing on the screen from time to time or with the soundtrack that reads like something you would put on a mix CD for a long car trip with the express intention of annoying the passengers that are now trapped with you. Just Dance does everything spectacularly wrong and absolutely nothing right. At forty dollars, this is a bit of a middle finger to the casual gaming audience that is out there and little more than an attempt to sucker the uniformed or ignorant out of their cash.