Game review by Steve Cullum
Game – Just Dance 2014
Version – Wii U
Rating – E10+ for Everyone 10+
Original MSRP – $49.99 (Game Only ) / $69.99 (Wii Remote Plus Bundle)
Obtained – Review Copy from Ubisoft
A few years ago, I was given the opportunity to review a little game called Just Dance 2. Now, three years later, we revisit the genre that has taken video games by storm. Ubisoft has expanded the game in many ways and switched to an obvious yearly release pattern. So, is it wise to buy yet another dance game, or should you sit this one out?
Story and Plot
You dance, you sweat, and you try to win. Well, that is pretty much it. Honestly, the games in this genre do not need a storyline, and I am glad Ubisoft has strayed away from adding one. People play these games not for any sort of plot; they play them for the fun of dancing with friends, working out on their own, or just to have fun. Way to go, Ubisoft, for not muddying the waters with an unneeded backstory of why people are just dancing.
Gameplay and Controls
Just Dance is all about gameplay, and the 2014 edition keeps the franchise going in the same direction many have all come to know. In case you are unfamiliar with the game, here are the basics: You and a group of up to three friends can grab a Wii Remote, choose a song, and follow an on-screen dancer. If you match the moves correctly, and time them properly, you will score higher. Some songs have one dancer, but others have up to four dancers, where each player follows a different dancer. These dances get crazy, but they are usually a good type of crazy. Additional modes add the option for another player to control the GamePad, which allows for that person to video the dancers, sing along via karaoke, choose the next dance move, switch songs, and more. More on these additional modes later, including the new online multiplayer. Overall, the gameplay works just as you would have expected, and again, it seems to work well.
Other than GamePad input, the basic controls have not changed from the first Just Dance. This is the biggest problem I see. While other platforms with cameras track the full body, Wii U has no way of doing this. The GamePad camera is great for shooting in-game video, but it is not the caliber needed for tracking you in 3D space. However, the Wii Remote now has Motion Plus ability, so why not take advantage of it? Additionally, why not use a Wii Remote in each hand to track both arms? This would prevent songs from focusing movements to the right arm, allowing for the evening out of arm strain at the end of a play session.
Just Dance 2014 expands the game quite a bit from its simple beginnings a few years ago. Many features are carried over from recent versions, and a couple new modes are added in for fun. Here is a list of the additional modes:
- World Dance Floor – Dance with anyone in the world. You can join a virtual crew with others around the world and track your standings against global leaders. I found it is rather difficult to know which dancer you are following in multiplayer dances, though, especially when you have multiple players on your Wii U.
- On Stage Mode – One player takes the spotlight, and two others follow. The star can do whatever they want, taking it seriously or just goofing off.
- Party Master – One player grabs the GamePad in order to change moves randomly on his or her dancing friends. Sometimes, this also involves switching songs altogether. This could be fun, or it could just annoy those trying to dance. It all depends on your group of friends.
- Custom Just Sweat Mode – Personalize your workout by creating a custom playlist set to a specific amount of time. So, you could do a 20 minute workout with six chosen songs. Unfortunately, a song’s difficulty does not show up in the song-select screen, though. It only comes up after you choose it. Additionally, only one player’s calories can be tracked at a time. So, if you want to add your calories burned to your profile, you need to do your workout alone. The second player in Just Sweat mode is just assigned a random name — that player is not allowed to choose your profile. Also, these customized playlists cannot be saved, which is very annoying if you accidentally back out. You will have to start that playlist all over again.
- Autodance – At any point during a song, you can turn on the GamePad camera to capture about 20 seconds of dancing footage. Once you finish your song, you will be shown a remixed music video. If you choose, you can also share this with Just Dance TV and Twitter (YouTube and Facebook not support, which is unfortunate). If you do not have someone who wants to avoid dancing, one player will have to step away for a bit to turn on the camera. It would have been nice to add in a quick button on the Wii Remote to enable the camera. Also, apparently there are options to change video effects, but it never tells you how to do that. After the video is shot, during preview, you can only shuffle the effects.
- Just Dance TV – Browse through others’ videos they have done through Autodance. Some are quite good, others are hilarious, and still others are just people playing the game. You do have the ability to “like” and report videos, so this seems to point to the videos getting better over time.
- Additional Dances – Not only do you have the “traditional” dance for each track, many also have alternate choreographies for Just Sweat, mash-ups with other songs, and harder dances.
- Battle – Players compete on two different songs. This changes things up a bit.
- Karaoke – Bonus points are added when players sing along with any song.
- Shop – DLC and alternate versions are all displayed in the same Shop menu. This is a bit of a problem, especially if you are only looking for new songs, and not alternate versions. There is an option to filter the shop, but it is not that intuitive or helpful.
Graphics and Sound
One of the biggest progressions over the years with the Just Dance franchise is the graphical improvements. The environments and dancers look better than ever. It is nice to actually see the dancers’ expressions instead of just a white silhouette, too. The colors are as vibrant as ever, which sets the stage well for this genre. It is a fun backdrop to a fun game.
In addition to gameplay and controls, this game is all made or broken when it comes to the music. Just Dance 2014 brings over 40 tracks this time with popular songs like “Applause” by Lady Gaga and “Roar” by Katy Perry, but it also brings songs like “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor and “Prince Ali” from the Aladdin soundtrack. Every song sounds great, and it seems like they have a wide selection this time around. In group play sessions, there was always a song someone wanted to dance. Hopefully, they will continue adding more and more songs via DLC, as that will help keep the game fresh in a world of ever-changing preferences in music. The songs that are popular now might not be as popular a few months from now. One final note is that songs are not played through the GamePad speakers, so those who wanted to play “off-TV” are out of luck.
Normally, the menu structure is a simple sub-point of review. I could not do that in this game, though. This is not because of the overwhelmingly brilliant menu, either. No, it is one of the worst menus I have ever seen in a game. While previous game menus in the franchise made sense, this one is not intuitive at all. Let me give you a few examples.
- The overall menu is one giant side-scrolling style that seems to be influenced by Windows 8. On the main menu, you will see Just Sweat, Shop, World Dance Floor, Just Dance TV, and one song in the middle. In order to find additional modes, you must change pages. To the left, you will find On Stage, Battle, and Party Master. To the right, you will find a list of songs that shows three per page, until you wrap back around to the original main page.
- If you are looking for a specific song, you better start scrolling through, because these songs are not in alphabetical order at all. It is quite random, which means you might even pass the song you want a couple times before finally finding it. Why not have one screen with all songs, or at least split them between two or three pages in some sort of intelligible order?
- Changing your profile is not as easy as you think it would be. I had a novice player, someone who closely fits one of the target audiences for this game, and she struggled to figure it out.
- Going back to main section of the menu is incredibly unintuitive. Here is a tip: Click “Just Dance” at the top-left of the screen. However, on the Shop, click the same button that now says “Back.” Why does it not say that every time?
- Backing out of World Dance Floor is incredibly difficult. If you accidentally jumped in, but want to quickly get out, you better know exactly what to do ahead of time, or you will find yourself dancing online no matter what. Here is another tip: That “Just Dance” button will get you out of the main World Dance Floor menu, but after you go deeper, you will now need to click the “World Dance Floor” button. If you are in the middle of a song, you will need to push the + button, then click the button, then click the other button.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
Just Dance 2014 is a fun game with great music, new dances, and fun additional modes. The features my friends and I enjoyed most were the 4-player dances and Autodance videos. Other modes could be great, but they were brought down due to the poor menu structure. For someone willing to learn this unintuitive menu, Just Dance 2014 is still a very fun game. The basic game is as fun as ever! I think they have much to work on for future versions, though.
Pros & Cons
+ Wide variety of music.
+ Easy-to-learn controls.
+ World Wide Dance Floor brings a new way to play online.
+ Lack of story.
- Poor menu structure.
- Lacking ability to save Just Sweat playlists.
- No advancements in control over previous games.
*Additional Note: Just Dance Kids 2014 is for those younger players out there. We did not receive a review copy for it, so we cannot give you a full review, but we do suggest parents look into it for young children. The songs are more kid-friendly, and it costs less.
Just Dance 2014 Trailer