I Don't Feel Like Dancing
It's clear to see that Ubisoft have created quite a name for themselves amongst those who enjoy mimicking the actions of an on-screen avatar cheerfully dancing along to terrible music. Cynicism aside, the Just Dance series was a surprise hit when it arrived on the Nintendo Wii in 2009, selling millions of copies and plaguing quiet nights in ever since. After a sequel, the imaginatively titled Just Dance 2, was released in 2010 to even greater commercial success, Ubisoft have decided to release the latest instalment for Kinect on the Xbox 360 as well as the Nintendo Wii, with a Playstation Move version arriving in December.
The Kinect is no stranger to dance games, however, with the slick and well-presented Dance Central launching alongside the peripheral late last year. Winning critical and commercial plaudits, is it really wise for Ubisoft to try and usurp the new king of dance games by invading its platform? After all, Harmonix's sequel to the original, Dance Central 2, has also been released during this hectic final quarter of the year. Can Just Dance 3 really win the dance-off?
Hands In The Air, Like The Sensor Don't Care
The traditional Just Dance gameplay has, as you'd expect, been transferred over to the Kinect. This has necessitated some changes with how you play the game - instead of emulating the movements holding the Wii Remote and Nunchuk attachment, you mirror the on-screen actions of the avatar and follow the 'signposts' at the bottom of the screen. It's fairly simple to understand, but seemingly impossible to master. However, despite the fact that the game is geared towards a very specific market, there is still some fun to be had for everyone.
This fun is aided partly by the soundtrack. Considering I'd heard of only a few songs, and classed myself as liking just one them, there was a surprising amount of fun to be had. Best played in 4 player, there is an amazing amount of variety to be had in the game, with the artists featured ranging from ska legends Madness to How I Met Your Mother's fictional Canadian popstar Robin Sparkles. Not every song hits the spot, with several mediocre and obscure songs scattered in there. In general, however, there's something for everyone here, apart from the most stubborn of metalheads, but even they will enjoy it after a few drinks. It's the perfect party game.
Are You Gonna Go Away?
Unfortunately, however, a social situation is the only time Just Dance 3 is enjoyable. Graphically, it's nothing special but the visuals do what they need to do. They generally consist of colourful figures with too much neon essentially dancing their way through the songs, often with no related themes to the song (the extremely camp Scissor Sister's song 'I Don't Feel Like Dancing' has an Inuit cheerily dancing along to it, for example). But the game has problems recognizing where you are on the Kinect, meaning that selecting the next track is a constant pain.
There are other problems with the game as well. Whilst the game is best played with a group of you, issues arise in a smaller room with 4 of you, as the 'boundaries' between you begin to blur with movement. As this happens in the middle of the song, you will find that whilst you were originally the best dancer score-wise, you turn into your neighbour in-game and suddenly your moves are judged for their score. It's not necessarily a problem with the game itself, but more a problem with Kinect in smaller rooms.
Just Dance 3, for its Xbox debut, has some new tricks up its sleeve, meaning that it is a cut above previous iterations on the Wii. The Kinect camera allows you to choreograph your own routine to the existing soundtrack in a mode called Just Create. You can then either dance along to the mirror image of yourself in a very vain attempt to convince yourself you are famous, or share them with the world.
As well as using Xbox Live to share your own attempts to choreograph, you can also use it to download additional tracks from the Marketplace. Whilst this isn't anything new, as it was used in both Just Dance 2 and Dance Central, there is promise for more content on the Xbox 360 version than in previous versions, due to the ease of use of Xbox Live Marketplace.
Dancing The Same Old Jig
Not so much a revolution of Just Dance than a minor step up, the first iteration of the series on the Xbox 360 isn't necessarily a bad game if you were a fan of the earlier iterations. However, with Harmonix revolutionizing the way you pointlessly dance in your front room with Dance Central ,and further refining that experience with Dance Central 2, Just Dance 3 is left wanting in any situation that doesn't involve a party.
Fun in a group situation, first appearance on Kinect works well, a broad soundtrack and a wide variety of dance routines.
Tracking often fails to work properly, boring without a party situation, not as refined an experience as Dance Central 2. Garish visuals.