I love this record baby, but I can’t see straight anymore
I am not a professional dancer. I’m not even whatever falls between a professional dancer and “amateur” status. Novice, I guess? Whatever. The point is: I lack the qualifications to recommend Just Dance 2014 to anyone who expects the game to be some kind of serious dance-choreography simulator. But I do like to dance, so what I can say—flexing that oh-so-shady term “fun factor” somewhat—is that Ubisoft’s console-generation-spanning dance game is undeniably fun, and it may have provided a more vigorous aerobic workout than my morning jogs.
OK, that last part may be a bit of a stretch, but not by much. And keep in mind that I’m not exactly out of shape. But courtesy of Just Dance’s full-body commitment when playing on Xbox 360 (which requires a Kinect—that goes without saying, right?), I was moving (convulsing, jerking, thrusting) in a manner so demanding that after two or three songs, there was always a fine sheen of sweat coating my face. But unlike other forms of exercise, which can feel like an exhausting grind, Just Dance 2014—despite pushing me to the point of having lower back problems after a few too many pelvic thrusts—masks what is functionally an intense workout in a shroud of silly fun.
I say “silly” because it’s hard not to feel like a goof when, upon completing a song, the game plays back your dance session at slightly accelerated speed, somewhat highlighting the awkwardness with which you may (or may not—after watching a few videos uploaded by users around the world, I’ve come to realize that I just suck) be executing moves.
Practice makes perfect, of course, and while this fifth installment in the main series ranks your effort and energy with OKs and Goods and Perfects—typical of any music and rhythm game—that contribute to a point-based score, none of that is what really motivated me. Ultimately, my compulsion to replay a track was purely personal—to become more masterful at the choreography.
And, as far as I’m concerned, this is where Just Dance excels. The dancing is complex, but it’s accessible and nuanced. You can get the gist of things pretty easily on the fly through observation and mimicry—which is the crux of the Just Dance experience. But really nailing down the subtle details to a routine requires replay after replay, something you’ll take to without ever feeling like it’s a grind. Just Dance 2014 masterfully engages its players in a way that leaves them never feeling out of their league—just “not there yet.”
There is, of course, much more to Just Dance 2014 than playing and replaying its 48 tracks (which are pretty diverse in style, with tunes by Lady Gaga, PSY, ABBA, and One Direction—and there’s also Ray Parker Jr.’s Ghostbusters theme, ’cause why not) until you’re ready to apply as one of Miley Cyrus’ backup dancers. Alternate modes offer plenty of dance-based variety, such as a you-got-served dance-competition Battle mode that pits song against song, player against player. Or, if cooperative play is more your thing, there’s On-Stage mode, in which one player takes lead while two others act as backup dancers. If performing the standard routine to Nicki Minaj’s “Pound the Alarm” is getting too easy for you, try it on Dance Mash-Up mode, in which moves from other songs’ routines are constantly thrown at you, keeping you on your toes.
And if competitive multiplayer is your thing, then there’s World Dance Floor, a massively online competitive multiplayer mode in which players can dance to the same playlist to compete for leaderboard bragging rights. Unfortunately, I can’t really comment on this option beyond what it is conceptually. I tried to log online and go toe-to-tapping-toe against players worldwide every day last week, only to consistently be met with an error message about Ubisoft’s servers being inaccessible (presumably in North America, or perhaps just my region, since I could see others online).
In a really weird way, Just Dance 2014 makes me glad that every Xbox One comes with a Kinect. I had a blast playing it, and I think many other gamers—regardless of how talented at dancing they might be—would, too. Unfortunately, there’s a pretty big barrier of entry for average consumers: investing in an additional peripheral that doesn’t have a whole lot of value beyond gems like Just Dance, which remain something of a rarity these days.
Perhaps the Xbox One will change that, what with the Kinect more or less a mandatory extension of the console experience. Playing the current-gen version on the Xbox 360 also has me curious what the new Kinect will bring to a franchise like this in terms of precision and body tracking. Honestly, it’s just been a nice break from business as usual. As much as I love to roll down to the nearest alien world and blow away monsters with big guns, I’m also all for wildly different videogame experiences. And you don’t get any more wild and different than the arm-flailing required to get through Daft Punk and Pharrell’s “Get Lucky.”
|Developer: Ubisoft • Publisher: Ubisoft • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 10.08.2013|
Just Dance 2014 has a lot going for it. The tracklist is solid and offers a varied selection of musical stylings (though it never strays too far from dancey, which is to be expected), and the choreography is accessible, but still provides something of a challenge for anyone looking to really nail a routine down to its details.
|Just Dance 2014 is available for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, Wii and will be a launch title for Xbox One and PS4. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.|