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Another great step forward for the Just Dance franchise with a great set list and some compelling Wii U-only features
on November 21, 2012
In 2009, Just Dance for the Wii pioneered a new genre of dance games where you danced using real dance moves vs. just jumping on a mat or pattern-matching with a game controller. After some early fits and starts, they've since sold over 30 million units in its three year history. That's enough to get every man, woman, and child in Canada dancing away.
Of course, success has spawned dozens and dozens of spin-off and knock-off games of varying quality. But each title in the original series of Just Dance, Just Dance 2, and Just Dance 3 have been excellent and have moved the franchise forward with great new songs and technical innovation. I'm happy to say that Just Dance 4 for the Wii U continues that tradition.
As with previous Just Dance games, the opening menu is delightfully simple and has just two options: Just Dance and Just Sweat. One thing I liked right away about Just Dance 4 was that you can use either the Wii remote or the GamePad to make your selection for all the menus throughout the game. Right away, I much preferred using the GamePad to scroll through dozens of songs rather than the Wii remote.
Selecting "Just Dance" shows you a cover flow where you can flip through songs to dance to. Each song has an icon showing how many separate players the song has unique choreography for. For example, for Solo songs, whether it's one player or four, everyone is dancing to the same moves. For Quartet songs, four players will each be dancing to his or her own moves, making for entertaining dance routines.
You'll also see a difficulty rating of 1 to 3. A song with a rating of 1 can be picked up and played by just about anyone right away. Songs with 2s or 3s have more intricate moves and require practice to master. Interestingly, they decided to do away with the "intensity" rating of the song which had been there from the first Just Dance.
As with previous versions of Just Dance, the songlist is great and contains many current hits. There are a few cover versions, but for the most part the songs are licensed tracks from the original stars.
Ain't No Other Man - The Girly Team - Solo - 2 of 3
Asereje (The Ketchup Song) - Las Ketchup - Duo - 1 of 3
Beauty and a Beat - Justin Bieber featuring Nicki Minaj - Solo - 3 of 3
Beware Of The Boys (Mundian To Bach Ke) - Panjabi MC - Quartet - 2 of 3
Call Me Maybe - Carly Rae Jepsen - Solo - 1 of 3
Can't Take My Eyes Off You - Boys Town Gang - Duo - 1 of 3
Crazy Little Thing - Anja - Solo - 3 of 3
Crucified - Army of Lovers - Quartet - 3 of 3
Disturbia - Rihanna - Solo - 3 of 3
Domino - Jessie J - Solo - 1 of 3 (exclusive to Wii U)
Everybody Needs Somebody To Love - Dancing Bros. - Duo - 2 of 3
Good Feeling - Flo Rida - Solo - 2 of 3
Good Girl - Carrie Underwood - Solo - 1 of 3
Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)" - Blu Cantrell - Solo - 1 of 3
Hot For Me - A.K.A - Solo - 2 of 3
I Like It - The Blackout Allstars - Duo - 3 of 3
(I've Had) The Time of My Life - Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes - Duet - 3 of 3
Istanbul - They Might Be Giants - Quartet - 1 of 3
Jailhouse Rock - Elvis Presley - Quartet - 1 of 3
Livin' la Vida Loca" - Ricky Martin - Solo - 3 of 3
Love You Like A Love Song - Selena Gomez and the Scene - Solo - 1 of 3
Make The Party (Don't Stop) - Bunny Beatz - Solo - 2 of 3
Maneater - Nelly Furtado - Solo - 2 of 3
Mas Que Nada - Sergio Mendes featuring The Black Eyed Peas - Solo - 1 of 3
Moves Like Jagger - Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera - Solo - 2 of 3
Mr. Saxobeat - Alexandra Stan - Solo - 1 of 3
Never Gonna Give You Up - Rick Astley - Solo - 1 of 3
Oh No! - Marina and The Diamonds - Solo - 3 of 3
On The Floor - Jennifer Lopez featuring Pitbull - 1 of 3
Oops!... I Did It Again" - The Girly Team - Quartet - 2 of 3
Rock N'Roll (Will Take You To The Mountain) - Skrillex - Solo - 2 of 3
Rock Lobster - The B-52's - Duo - 2 of 3
Run The Show - Kat DeLuna featuring Busta Rhymes - Duo - 3 of 3
So What - Pink - Solo - 1 of 3
Some Catchin' Up To Do- Sammy - Solo - 1 of 3
Super Bass - Nicki Minaj - Solo - 3 of 3
Superstition - Stevie Wonder - Solo - 1 of 3
The Final Countdown - Europe - Duo - 3 of 3
Time Warp" - Halloween Thrills - Quartet - 3 of 3
Tribal Dance - 2 Unlimited - Duo - 3 of 3
Umbrella - Rihanna featuring Jay-Z - Solo - 1 of 3
Want U Back - Cher Lloyd featuring Astro - Solo - 1 of 3 (exclusive to Wii U)
We No Speak Americano - Hit The Electro Beat - Solo - 2 of 3
What Makes You Beautiful - One Direction - Quartet - 1 of 3
Wild Wild West - Will Smith - Quartet - 3 of 3
You're The First, The Last, My Everything" - Barry White - Quartet - 1 of 3
Something else that's new to Just Dance 4 are "Dance Quests", basically a checklist of five goals to hit for each song (for example, getting 5 stars on the song, hitting all the "Gold" moves properly, and so on).
Game play works pretty much like it did in earlier versions of Just Dance--you mirror the moves of your on-screen counterpart, and as you hit moves correctly you'll be rewarded with positive messages and up to five stars. Pictographs will scroll along the bottom of the screen to cue you to upcoming moves, and occasionally you'll see a "Gold move" that will get you extra points if you hit it correctly.
The motion control problems that plagued earlier versions of Just Dance are virtually non-existent. Of course, the system doesn't detect precise hand, arm, and foot movement like the Xbox Kinect does, but it's still surprisingly accurate--you'll get more points dancing using your whole body than you will if you just phone it in and sit on the couch with the Wii remote.
The better your performance, the more "Mojo Points" you collect. Once you've collected a certain amount of Mojo points you can jump to the next level, at which point you can randomly select a new feature to unlock.
Something else to Just Dance 4 is "Battle Mode", where you can play against another player (or against the computer). You start by choosing a character that corresponds to a song. Then, you basically compete in a dance-off. It's an interesting twist on fighting games like Street Fighter, where the player that dances the most precise dance steps will score "hits" on the other. Whoever has the most life left at the end of a round wins that round and their song will be imposed on the next round. At the beginning your only song choices are Rock N Roll Will Take You To The Mountain or Livin' La Vida Loca, but presumably as you collect Mojo Points, other songs will be available for Battle Mode.
Something else new to the Wii U version is the ability to create "Dancer Cards" (which are basically user profiles). You can select an icon to represent you or use the GamePad camera to take your photo. You then select whether you're a girl or a boy, and select an age range (in a Logan's Run-esque kind of move, there are 6 age groupings: 0-9, 10-14, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, and 30+...which makes some of us who might be in our 40s or beyond feel awful sheepish :P). Finally, you enter a nickname, a welcome improvement after years of being stuck with the name "Happy" in previous versions.
From that point on, anytime you dance you can select your dance card and all your stats will be recorded. Your card will show the total time you've danced, the average star rating, your preferred dance style, and favorite songs.
"Just Sweat" mode lets you play several songs in a row for a set amount of time, either 10 minutes (burning around 50 Kcals), 25 minutes (about 100 Kcals), or 45 minutes (about 200 Kcals). Instead of choosing individual songs to work out to, you choose from the following four genres of music:
Aerobics in Space (Dynamic Fitness Steps / 80's Pop Music)
Sweat Around the World (Latin Dance Practice / World Music)
Electro Body Combat (Cardio Fighting Exercise / Electro Music)
Cheerleader's Boot Camp (Extreme Training / Punk Rock Music)
The routines start out with a slower warm up routine and end with a cool down routine. Your energy level from song to song is tracked in real time through a running graph at the top of the page, and will determine whether the next song is "COOL" or "INTENSE", effective customizing your workout based on your individual level of energy. That they're using a little artificial intelligence to give you a personalized workout is a nice improvement that's definitely more sophisticated than in previous versions of Just Dance.
The number of Kcals you burn is displayed in the upper left hand of the screen. Take the calories with a grain of salt, as it's an average number that's likely to be understated for heavier players and overstated for lighter players. I would have liked to see the ability to measure weight using the Balance Board for a more precise calorie calculation.
One of the things I was most looking forward to was seeing how the Wii U GamePad was integrated into the game. At first, what the person holding the GamePad to do is limited; he or she can be the DJ, selecting the next song the group dances to, and he or she can also draw or write messages that are displayed to the players as they're dancing (and can have a lot of fun trying to throw dancers off by making them laugh). It's a nice way to involve someone who may for whatever reason be unwilling or unable to participate as one of the four players dancing with the Wii remotes.
One of the features Ubisoft advertised a lot was "Puppet Master Mode", where a player could control some of the action using the GamePad. Inexplicably, they decided to lock this mode until you collect enough Mojo Points to move up a level, and then happen to choose it when you're asked to randomly select which bonus feature to unlock. While I appreciate the use of Mojo points as incentive you to keep coming back to the the game, I found this a rather odd decision on the developers' part. A lot of people will buy this game for use at parties or family gatherings, and may not realize that they have to play for a few hours before being able to lock one of the most anticipated multi-player features in the game.
I finally did unlock Puppet Master Mode (once you do, every song will have a "Puppet Master Mode" option if you select the song icon and click the "Up" arrow on the GamePad), and it was definitely an innovative use of the GamePad. One to four players can dance using their Wii remotes, and a fifth person holding the GamePad will periodically see four icons of dancing Just Dance characters on the screen. By tapping the icon, he or she can determine what the next dance move the players have to dance is. I was happy to see some classic and some silly dance steps from past Just Dance games (some icons even had the original characters performing them). From time to time, the person with the GamePad can also select a "Strike a Pose" position and assign bonus points to players.
I've been impressed with every version of Just Dance starting with the original, and I'm just as impressed with the Wii U version. Ubisoft has once again done a great job in moving the franchise forward in this new version. Just Dance may not be the most precise dance game in the world, but for my money it's still the most fun one, both individually and in a group (which neither the PS3 nor the Xbox do as well). The two- and four-person choreography is better than it's ever been and after a few sessions will make you and your friends feel like professionals. The improvements to the Just Sweat mode help make it a viable replacement to a fitness and exercise game. And the new GamePad features are a great way to involve those who may not be able or willing to dance.