While Kinect still struggles to find a home among core gamers, one thing it has proved is that it is the peripheral for dance games. Just Dance 3, now freed from the nylon shackle of the Wiimote’s wrist strap, is just another example of how shaking your hips in front of your 360 is not only fun but can now earn you achievements.
Above: Technicolor outfits are always optional
Previously exclusive to Wii, the Just Dance series relied on relatively basic choreography to provide the bare minimum of a dance game. Since it could only track how you moved the Wiimote, you could literally wave one arm around at will while sitting down and still do relatively well. While the transition to Kinect has given the game the ability to track entire body movements, the general principle has remained the same. With only three levels of difficulty, choreography still remains relatively basic and isn’t the game’s strong point.
Gameplay on Kinect is straightforward. A dancer performs a routine while person-shaped icons in various positions pan across the bottom of the screen prompting you of what the next move is. A Score Ball to the left of the character shows accuracy/rhythm and stars are accumulated based on how well you’re performing. During the routine, certain icons will appear golden and the background will change to indicate a Gold Move. Successfully performing these gives you more points. At the end of each song, Mojo, or experience points, is calculated based on your performance. As your Mojo rises unlockables like new choreography and modes are made available.
Above: Just Dance rejects Player 1, Player 2 titles and opts for Baby, Funky, Happy, Crazy
There are only three levels of difficulty across the whole song list, with titles like The Sugarhill Gang’s “Apache (Jump On It)” being a level three and B.o.B.’s “Airplanes” a one. Individual difficulty per song can be set to either of two levels by holding one arm up after a track is selected. The Easy setting only tracks upper body movements and while Normal tracks your full body.
The only indicator of success is the Score Ball and it’s difficult to determine how to improve performance if you’ve missed a piece of choreography. Were your arms wrong or was it your legs? Maybe your timing? While the icons used to signify the next move are helpful, we found that we paid more attention to the dancer to determine what to do next. Choreography seemed to stick to 8-counts, so even if we missed the first instance of a move we had enough time to pick it up again as the song progressed to another. Pattern recognition is key for success, as entire routines seemed to revolve around choreography for a verse and chorus and then repeated.
Above: Invisible mic is rarely ever cool
The biggest selling point of Just Dance 3 is its ability to track up to four players at once during certain songs. Arranging four players in a staggered formation meant we didn’t need a huge space to take advantage of this feature. While most of the multiplayer choreography relies on syncopated movements, the most enjoyable instances were when each person was required to do solo moves or poses. Sure, we felt silly playing air guitar during Kiss’ “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”, but when our friend had to wail out via pretend microphone we took a slight amount of smug satisfaction that invisible instrument always trumps invisible mic.
Formation changes, like doing a spin move to switch positions with another player, are also taken advantage of in multiplayer and add extra depth to otherwise basic choreography. Duet choreography during Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous” allowed us to tap into our inner diva by acting out a faux argument against our partner.
Above: Thankfully, we did not punch and/or kick our dance partners accidentally during our review
Exclusive to Kinect version of Just Dance 3 is Just Create which allows recording of entirely original routines. In the Dance Off mode, a routine is initially started by the dancer on screen but you’re given the opportunity to create an original 8-count during certain segments that are then replayed and scored. While we can see the appeal of potentially making your friends do the Dougie at double-speed for laughs during LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem”, we found that the transition from pre-set routine to original choreography in Dance Off to be jarring. As we stated in our preview, there felt to be a slight delay between the original choreography and the preset routine, so in some instances original moves played back off-beat. While Dance Off is fun in a novel way it is not something we imagine we’ll take advantage of often. Just Create also allows you to record and save entirely original choreography to any song on the playlist. These routines can then be saved and uploaded to the Just Dance community or replayed as a regular routine. Original routines can also be uploaded to the Just Dance community at large for others to try.
Above: Even if a routine is listed as Solo, up to 4 players can be tracked
The song list sticks strictly to Top 40 pop, with small nods to r&b, rock and electronic music. The inclusion of slower songs made us wonder if the developers, after producing a series of dancing games and competing with other titles for licensing, started running out of ideas on what music to include. We found ourselves wishing for more recent hits from current radio-friendly artists. Thankfully, the use of cover songs is kept to the minimum and the ones included are performed expertly and aren’t distracting.
Playing solo tends to get dry over time as the difficulty isn’t high enough to maintain a challenge, so mulitplayer is where Just Dance 3 really shines. Gathering three other friends to “throw your hands up in the air sometimes” like Taio Cruz is really what this game is all about, not necessarily showing off how well you can pop lock in front of your television solo. While Just Dance 3 may not take the prize for the most challenging of rhythm games, its a good party game for groups and accessible enough for all skill levels.
Oct 7, 2011