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Best song selection and graphics of any Just Dance game so far - but the worst motion tracking since part 1
on October 10, 2013
I've kept up with the Just Dance series from the beginning, and own almost all of them to date - Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, Summer Party, Greatest Hits, ABBA, Michael Jackson - and now JD2014. Not only are they incredibly fun, but I also use them as my primary workout regime. In fact, I've been playing them for 20 minutes or more every single day since last December and have lost over 45 pounds with very little modification to my diet. I only mention these things so my later criticisms come off as more credible and not just the rantings of a casual player who simply can't keep up with the steps or hold the controller properly. Trust me, I know these games inside out, lol.
The Just Dance games are one of those rare instances where the next in the series almost always outdoes the last and they just keep getting better and better. Like I said above, I've played these games literally every single day for almost a year, so I was very ready for some new variety, and JD2014 doesn't disappoint in that area. There is a great selection of new and old tracks from around the world, some obscure and others more popular, including several that are in heavy rotation on the radio right now, like "Blurred Lines" and "Get Lucky," along with some that aren't even out on CD yet, like "Applause" and "Roar." Plus, most tracks have at least one - but up to three - alternate modes/choreographies that can be unlocked by earning in-game mojo points. The avatars for your player card are actually pretty cute, and the graphics overall are more colorful and realistic than ever before. (I think I'm in the minority here, but I actually preferred the Just Sweat mode as presented in part 4 where you had the "instructor" guiding you through your session with warm up and cool down periods, though others will likely be glad to see it return to its more traditional format.) The choreography as a whole is more intricate and challenging as well, and the developers really went all out to make this a striking and personal experience. With the wealth of content offered here there is no reason anyone should be bored with this game for quite some time.
However, we need to talk about the motion controls. In a nutshell, they're very hit or miss, and at times downright terrible. I did already admit that some of the choreography is more difficult than in past games, which is great and probably does account for some of it, but many times even the most straightforward of moves rarely scores a "Perfect," and it's not uncommon to receive an "X" for a gesture that may be as simple as slowly pointing your hand to the ground. At one point I sort of joked to myself that I'd probably get a better score just standing still for a few moments, so I tried it - and I did! What's that all about? And don't even get me started on the Gold Moves. They're so awkwardly placed, mostly as non-movements between poses, that landing one really is a random crapshoot that requires no technique whatsoever. The instructional pictograms in the corner are a mess; for instance, they may tell you to move your hand from your hip to your head, which sounds easy enough, but fail to mention anything about the three claps and full body turn in between. Even the moves that are correct still tend to be three or four beats ahead of the moves they actually correspond to, so it's pretty much a useless feature all around. Of course practice makes perfect when learning any new dance, and eventually it will come down to your own memorization, but it really is like somebody worked overtime to make sure you're already going into it facing some unnecessary trial and error. I'm not saying every song on the disc is a complete catastrophe like that, but maybe half the ones I've tried so far are, so definitely more than enough to not go unnoticed. Every Just Dance game has had a handful of "quirks" to watch out for, but after nearly perfecting the art of motion tracking accuracy in parts 3 and 4, it really shocked me to see it so degraded this time around, especially when almost every other aspect improved so vastly. (This isn't a complaint about gameplay, necessarily, but the mash-ups are pretty awful, too. Instead of the usual "who's who" compilation of dancers from past games, they use the same four or five characters from THIS game over and over again with the same set of boring moves that never register correctly anyway. If I see that chick in the blue denim shorts pop up in one more song I'm going to scream.) On the bright side, the points per move seem somewhat generous, so you can afford to biff 2/3 of a song and still end up with upwards of four stars.
Now, with reviews like mine that go against the general consensus, I realize people are going to have questions and try to pinpoint the issues on something I'M doing wrong, which I totally understand as I would normally do the same. Are your batteries charged? Is your controller calibrated? Are you doing the right move at all? And the answers are yes, yes, and yes. As much as I love these types of games they aren't exactly rocket science, lol. Anyhow, despite all that I'm giving this game a rating of three stars because what's good here is REALLY good. It honestly kind of pains me to say so because based on everything I had seen and heard about it beforehand I was fully expecting a 5 star experience. In the end I guess one's enjoyment of it depends on how "serious" of a player they are and what they intend to get out of it. For me personally it functions as a workout more than anything else and it's still a fun way to be active and stay in shape, so it really does suit my needs perfectly in that regard, and the points don't ultimately matter. But, at the end of the day, it IS still a game that's meant to be competitive and scored, even if only against no one other than yourself, and it just simply does not function properly as such so I have to knock some stars off for that reason alone.