I’ll admit it: I’m somewhat of a fanatic when it comes to dancing games. I played Dance Central 3 for 12 hours straight last year, for god’s sake. And so I’m in a better position than most to judge whether Just Dance 2014 is any good or not. And the conclusion is…kind of.
The choreography is…decent. You will undoubtedly feel absolutely ridiculous whilst prancing about your living room, waving your arms and legs in the air: that’s the nature of a dance game. However, the truly great games (eg. Dance Central), use choreography to make sure that you feel ridiculous but in a good way. This involves preparing you for what’s coming next with clear signals as to what the next move is. This also involves naming the moves hilariously, so that you’re so busy laughing at their names that you forget that you’re the one performing them. Just Dance 2014 doesn’t do this.
The “next move” icons are unclear and poorly positioned, and none of the dance moves have names. This, coupled with the generally awkward and outlandish choreography, means that you feel absolutely and utterly ridiculous: to the extent where you just sigh and wait for the song to end. The fact that each song is very, very repetitive (expect to perform each set of moves at least 10 times per song) further adds to this.
Having said that, in co-op mode the ridiculous choreography can be outright funny, and I’m pretty sure that was Ubisoft’s intention. No matter how much you try, you can’t help but burst out laughing when you see your friend pretending to shoot ghosts whilst dancing to Ghostbusters (especially considering the hilarious, real life costumes that are displayed on screen: there’s no 3D motion capture here, which increases both the awkwardness and the hilarity). This is why it’s so odd that Ubisoft have included an online multiplayer mode. On the surface, it’s a no-brainer: it means that you can enjoy the wonderfully fun dancing multiplayer whenever you want. But it completely misses the point of dance games: gathering around and taking in turns to point at a friend whilst laughing.
It’s also not great if you want to get better at dancing. There’s nothing to indicate what you’re doing wrong, and there’s also no way to practice a song at a slower pace. The scoring system is also unfathomable: at times offering points when I was clearly performing moves incorrectly, whilst other times refusing to give me anything at all. If you want to improve your groove (did I really just say that?), Just Dance isn’t the game for you.
The redeeming feature of all this is the track list, which is, quite frankly, glorious. If, like me, you’re into nonstop outrageously saccharine pop music, Just Dance 2014 is perfect for you. We’re talking everything from Katy Perry’s Roar to Lady Gaga’s Applause, with some Daft Punk, Robin Thicke and ABBA thrown in for good measure. JD 2014 is the only game featuring the last year of pop music, and for that reason alone it’s worth your cash.
Whilst Just Dance 2014 isn’t nearly as good as Dance Central, especially if you want to improve your dancing, it’s worth picking up if you feel like dancing with your friends to the biggest hits of the last few years (along with some older stuff). It’s an enjoyable experience, and the lack of a Dance Central title this year means that this may well find its way onto your Christmas list.
Just Dance 2014 is out now for Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, Wii U and Wii, and is coming to Xbox One and PS4 in November.
Many thanks to Ubisoft for kindly providing a review copy.