The Just Dance series has been cleaning up for a couple of years now over on the Wii, with would-be hot-steppers using their natural body motions in conjunction with the Wii remote to get their groove on. Just when it was looking like things wouldn’t change for the series, Ubisoft made a startling announcement that Just Dance 3 was going multiplatform, including PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. This offered some promising ideas for the Move and Kinect, possibly offering players a better way to get into their rhythm. However, after a few hours with it, we found it’s just the – mind the pun – “same old song and dance”.
Now, if you’ve never played Just Dance before, part three might be your cup of jive. The game features a wide array of strange dancing characters on the screen, including “smiley mummies”, a dude in a frog costume, whom you must follow with on-screen prompts. These prompts appear on the corner of the screen, so they stay out of your way while still giving you an idea what move comes next. The dances range in difficulty, but the game is quite forgiving when it comes to your accepted dance moves. You can either track just the upper half of your body, or both your arms and legs, if you feel like you’re up to nailing the choreography.
The problem is, while it’s fun to dance along with the right sort of game, Just Dance 3 clearly isn’t it. Ubisoft kind of missed the point of accurate Kinect tracking with this game, and as a result, it’s way too easy to nail a perfect rating. You never really learn about dancing because of that, making this an ideal party game – and little else. Even Harmonix’s Dance Central – and its upcoming sequel – offer some sort of learning tutorials so you can understand what these dances are all about.
What’s more, the moves don’t exactly look that hot. We tried to get through Cee Lo’s “Forget You” by following this guy on the screen, and he looked like he was having muscle spasms, rather than working out a natural routine. Some folks might be into that, but we were looking for something that chained a bit more naturally, not “lemme jump up here and go into a half lawnmower."
If you CAN tolerate the forgiving gameplay and somewhat iffy dance routines, you’ll probably have some fun here. Just Dance 3 does support multiplayer, including up to four players in the action through multi-layered stances. That alone should make Just Dance 3 a must for groups. What’s more, if you’re REALLY talented (or just need blackmail material), you can record your sessions and share them with others through Xbox Live.
Visually, Just Dance 3 seems a bit prehistoric compared to Dance Central. The pre-recorded dance routines, while vibrant, aren’t that interactive, and without any indicatiors to tell you how well you’re doing, you’re stuck watching a bland grid of yourself in the upper corner. Still, at least Ubisoft made it worth looking at compared to stoic music videos or, even worse, real dancing idiots.
The song list is mixed with both upbeat hits and disappointment. We’re not sure what inspired Ubi to throw in Kiss’ “I Was Made For Loving You” as a DANCE song (Rock Band, maybe, but dance?), nor Danny Elfman’s “This Is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Other hits, however, are spot on, including Duck Sauce’s catchy “Barbra Streisand” (which, thankfully, doesn’t actually include Streisand), Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1000 Dances” (NA NA NA NA NA!), and Bananarama’s surprisingly catchy “Venus” (which is also in Dance Central 2, by the way). You’ll like some of these songs, but skip others.
Just Dance 3 could’ve really gone a long way had the folks at Ubisoft really involved Kinect interaction beyond other dancing copycats. Instead, it just follows the straight and narrow, and while party people may get a kick out of it, it’s hardly the ultimate dancin’ machine. Something tells us those honors will go to Dance Central 2 when it releases next week.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]