I… don’t dance. I don’t mean, “I don’t dance,” like High School Musical 2‘s Chad Danforth means he doesn’t dance while dancing toward the baseball diamond. I mean I really don’t dance. I’ll go to bars or clubs with friends on occasion, and sometimes they’ll forget that fact about me and want me to dance or do karaoke, but my response is almost always a blank stare. It’s not that I don’t like dancing; I do. I just don’t feel like I’m very coordinated and I think some of the dance moves and routines that are popular are pretty stupid. So when I do–on rare occasion–dance, it’s usually because I’ve had too much sugar or caffeine, I’m in my house alone, it’s 2AM, I can’t sleep and I need to burn off energy…
With that in mind, I don’t really know why I volunteered to take this game. Perhaps it was because I thought it might be a good break from all the thesis writing I’ve been doing lately; perhaps I felt I hadn’t used my Wii in a while and needed an excuse to turn it on. Either way, the game got sent to me and I popped it into the console, not really knowing what to expect. I’m not a huge fan of Dance Dance Revolution because the game pads and I don’t get along, so this would have to be an improvement, right? Yet, sometimes the Wii sensor can be really picky, so I wasn’t sure if using motion control was really going to be any better. I was pleasantly surprised with the results.
Just like the three games that came before it, Just Dance 4 offers a variety of modes: Just Dance, the all new Battle Mode, Dance Mashup, and Just Sweat. I’ll go into each mode in more detail, but basically, Just Dance is what you see advertised in the commercials, with you dancing to popular songs from both the past and present. Battle Mode is more like a sub-mode within the Just Dance mode: you and another dancer (or AI, if you’re by yourself) battle for your song to continue playing. Dance Mashup is also a sub-mode that lets you use a variety of dance moves from other songs in the song of your choice. Finally, Just Sweat is a workout mode.
As I said before, Just Dance mode is your standard dance-to-the-music mode. You pick a song you like, if there is more than one dancer, you pick a dancer, and then the music starts. When starting up the game, you’re going to be directed to a song first. What you actually want to do is create your dance card; otherwise, you’re going to be dancing as HAPPY, JAZZY, CRAZY, or FUNKY, depending on which Wii Mote you’re using, instead of whatever your name is. I was actually kind of confused that my name showed up as HAPPY and a bit annoyed that the dancer card wasn’t the first thing I was directed to. In general, the user interface is not the most friendly I’ve run into. But, minor speedbump aside, I was impressed with what the game had to offer as far as song selection.
The full list of songs that come with the game is listed below. You’ll note that some of these songs have explicit lyrics; those are edited out, as it’s an E 10+ rated game. It would have been kind of cool to be able to have the unedited versions as well, but the censorship of inappropriate words flows with the song and isn’t really distracting.
There are also alternate routines for “Call Me Maybe,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” “Good Feeling,” “Run the Show,” “Tribal Dance,” “Umbrella,” “What Makes you Beautiful,” and “Wild Wild West.” For the Wii, two downloadable songs have been announced: Katy Perry’s “Part of Me,” which has been available since October 2, and PSY’s “Gangnam Style,” which will be available November 15. Both songs will cost 300 Wii Points. I bought “Part of Me” to try it out, and after having to try to download it four times, I finally got it and tried it out. It’s worth getting, though 300 Wii Points (~$3.00) seems a bit high of a price in general for a single song for DLC. Personally, I’d recommend bumping the price down to $2 max, but I imagine this is probably the price they’ve been charging for a while. I just don’t see myself getting a lot of songs for $3 a pop, unless I’m super excited for them. At a lower price, I’d be more likely to say, “Eh, alright,” and get it, especially since Wii Point cards/purchases generally come in chunks of 1000 points and 300 points is messier than 200. I’d like to be able to get songs from previous games as well, but I’m not sure how likely that is.
I am pretty happy with this playlist. I am a pretty big fan of quite a few of the bands on this list and could see why a lot of them were listed. Truth be told, I was a little surprised at songs like “(I’ve Had) the Time of my Life” and “The Final Countdown” showing up on the list, and their dance routines are not as good as the others (Parts of “(I’ve Had) the Time of my Life” are difficult to do without a partner, especially if you play as the female), but they’re still entertaining. There are some dance moves in these songs I refused to do and just faked it; I’m not getting on my knees on carpet, sorry. Not in shorts anyway. Other than that, though, I think that most people will be able to follow along with the routines, and quite a few of them are pretty hilarious. I almost couldn’t finish the Rick Astley routine the first time I went through it, I was laughing so hard.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Marina and the Diamonds make the list, because I feel she’s quite the underrated artist and deserves the attention. Speaking of pleasant surprises, Barry White’s “You’re the First, the Last, my Everything” was probably the best surprise of the game. First of all, I wasn’t really sure how that song was going to go well with the game, but when I said, “Well I might as well try it,” and went into the game, I was happy to see not only Ally McBeal-like dance moves, but what I can only imagine is a cameo of Richard Ayoade in his role as Moss from The IT Crowd, a nerdy British show I recommend to anyone who likes nerd humor that doesn’t make fun of nerds in a derogatory way *coughBigBangTheorycough*.
The first song I five-starred was Blue Cantrell’s “Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!),” which I managed to get on the first go-through. I also five-starred Barry White’s “You’re the First, the Last, my Everything” and Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” on my first try. Other songs, like Cary Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” and Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” took a bit of work to five-star, but I got there. The songs provide a great workout; the first day I tried this out I played for about an hour and fifteen minutes and was sweating like crazy. If you start to get tired, you can just do the arm motions, but that’s not as fun, so I recommend just taking a break if you feel worn out. I tend to play in hour-long sessions with breaks between those sessions, though you can, if you’re a masochist, shuffle through all of the songs non-stop.
There are cards with challenges on them to keep you interested in the game, but even with those, after a few hours, if you’ve run through all the songs, it can be a bit boring and left me wondering what would happen after I unlocked everything. I imagine part of that is playing by yourself: with your friends you have the opportunity to laugh about silly dance moves or mistakes people make, which is missing when you’re playing by yourself. That isn’t to say that I wasn’t amused by how poorly I did some of the dance moves, but I imagine it’d be a lot more fun with friends. Some of the dances (such as “(I’ve Had) the Time of my Life”, like I mentioned earlier, but also “That’s What Makes you Beautiful,” “Time Warp,” and “Asereje (The Ketchup Song)” as other examples) are also better played with friends because these routines require you to interact with another person, and it feels a little weird just holding your arms out during “Asereje (The Ketchup Song)” when an invisible person is supposed to be snaking through them. The alternate routine for “Umbrella” is also kind of difficult because you’re supposed to be dancing like you have an umbrella, and short of actually holding one along with the Wii Mote, it’s kind of weird pretending to hold an umbrella while dancing.
Battle Mode is where two dancers – you and a friend or you and an AI – from two different songs will dance against each other for five rounds; each round is about 30 seconds long. Each player has a health bar which will go down if they aren’t the better dancer. As one might expect, the first player to reach an empty health bar or who has the least amount of health after the round loses. The winning dancer’s song will be played the next round. Basically, you can imagine this mode as being a mix between fighting games like Tekken or Mortal Kombat and Step Up or some other movie with dance battles, except a lot less dramatic.
There are five unlockable battles: “Moves Like Jagger vs. Never Gonna Give You Up,” “Beauty and a Beat vs. Call Me Maybe,” “Super Bass vs. Love You Like a Love Song,” “Rock N’ Roll (Will Take you to the Mountain) vs. Livin’ la Vida Loca,” and “Tribal Dance vs. Rock Lobster.” I was really confused the first time I went through one of the battles, but after going through it once it’s a lot smoother. The battle routines feel like you’re battling the other person with your dance moves; on occasion, the routines reference the Just Dance routines, but in general they seem to be different moves. I had quite a bit of fun with this one, especially since there are challenges with this mode as well.
I did get a weird error when I played one of the battles; I think it was “Beauty and a Beat vs. Call Me Maybe.” I won and got the following text on my Congratulations! screen: “+*rem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod,” which appears to be filler text often used for websites and the like. My guess is that people who looked over the game before release missed the filler text. It’s not a big deal, it doesn’t affect my game, but it did make me do a doubletake.
Dance Mashup returns in Just Dance 4. This mode allows you to go through a song using dance moves from several other songs. The 12 unlockable mashups are as follows:
The mashups confused the heck out of me, but I still found them to be relatively enjoyable. This is probably my least favorite mode, all things considered, because it was a bit difficult for me to keep up. It almost felt like it wasn’t a good idea to participate in it until you’ve gone through most of the songs a couple times, because it’s harder switching between dance routines if you don’t know the moves that are being referenced.
Just Sweat Mode has five workouts: “Aerobics in Space,” which uses 80s pop music for dynamic fitness steps; “Sweat Around the World,” which uses world music for a Latin dance practice; “Electro Body Combat,” which uses electro music to give you cardio fighting exercise; “Cheerleaders Boot Camp,” which, oddly enough, uses punk rock music for “extreme training”; and an unlockable “Swinging 60′s Workout,” which uses classic pop music for “funny health conditioning.” Each workout has a 10 minute, 25 minute, and 45 minute level. You start out using the song that matches the workout you’re in (for example, “Aerobics in Space”) and once you finish that at either an Intense or Cool level (judged from the amount you’re moving to the music), the next song – one of the Just Dance songs – will be at that level. After that, you’ll be hit with another workout song at either Intense or Cool, then another Just Dance song, and finally a cool down song a la workout. In other words, just imagine yourself being in one of those late 80s-early 90s workout videos and you’ll do fine.
I really wish they had the cooldown as a separate option, because that would be nice to do after the Just Dance mode as well. I tend to forget to stretch after workouts, especially if they’re in the form of playing a video game, since I don’t really associate video games with exercising. Having that cooldown as a separate option would provide a nice way for people to ensure they don’t get hurt by allowing them the opportunity to adequately cool down. There’s also a calorie counter, though I don’t know how accurate that is.
The game looks impressive, to be sure, and the routines are easy to follow, as they’re clearly laid out most of the time via smooth animations and figures floating across the bottom right of the screen. I paid far more attention to the dancing person than I did to the figures on the bottom right of the screen, especially since the figures didn’t always make sense or I didn’t have enough time to figure out what they represented. It’s just easier to follow the dancing person. The game is very pretty though, with bright colors and interesting backgrounds, and a cast of great dancers to guide you.
I haven’t yet answered my question about whether the game tracks your movement well. The game isn’t perfect with its motion tracking, and I would get frustrated sometimes when I knew I was on beat and doing the move correctly and it was giving me just “OK” ratings. On the flip side, I know there were times where I was late to switching to a different move and it gave me credit for it, so I think it’s pretty balanced as far as that goes. Just Dance 4 is not meant to be a tryout for America’s Best Dance Crew. It’s meant to be fun, so a little leeway with the controls is forgivable in my book. I would have appreciated a tutorial mode or something for the songs, though, because there were times where I would miss a move consistently (especially noticeable when you feel like you’re hitting Gold Moves and it’s not giving it to you) and it’s hard to tell whether I’m just stupid and doing the move wrong or if it’s the fault of the game not registering my movement.
This isn’t a game I would play every day, but I did end up having a lot more fun than I expected to have. This is a fun title that manages to not take itself too seriously while still providing entertainment. It could use an online component, like scoreboards or something, but since this was reviewed on the Wii, I can’t imagine that would be possible considering Nintendo doesn’t have the infrastructure to support something like that, so I’m not going to hold that against the developers. It would be nice to be able to see how well your scores do against other people, though, even if you can’t actually do dance battles online. The game is worth picking up if you don’t already have any Just Dance titles, but if you do, you may need to ask yourself if it’s worth it, given the options you already have. But give it a try, and see how you like it.
Modes: VERY GOOD
Control and Gameplay: DECENT
Balance: VERY GOOD
Appeal Factor: CLASSIC
FINAL SCORE: VERY GOOD GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
Just Dance 4 has a nice selection of modes and offers up an entertaining time through a great soundtrack and stunning visuals. Motion control is decent for a game focused on fun and not tryouts to America’s Best Dance Crew, but could still use some work. It could use a tutorial section and online scoreboards, but the latter is not likely on the Wii due to the way Nintendo’s online infrastructure is set up (or, rather, that it doesn’t really exist). If you’re new to Just Dance like I am, this is a good title to pick up, but if you own other titles, I would check to see if it’s worth the price tag to get an updated song list and new mode.