Sitting at a desk most of my day, I recognize I’m not in the best shape. However, it wasn’t until I played the new Just Dance releases that I realized just how out of shape I truly am. Just Dance 2016 and Just Dance Disney Party 2, which were both released last week by Ubisoft for all modern consoles, may be considered just slightly improved versions of their predecessors to some, but for me, this is uncharted territory.
I’m not totally unfamiliar with rhythm games. I was a huge fan of Guitar Hero back on Playstation 2, and I have embarrassed myself a handful of times on a Dance, Dance, Revolution machine in my local Dave & Buster’s. Admittedly, I was a little late on the modern console bandwagon having only picked up a Wii U a few months ago, but I have really enjoyed the new crop of games that allows not only me, but my entire family a chance to have fun gaming together. That’s why when I saw an opportunity to review the new Just Dance releases, I was willing to step out of my comfort zone and make a fool out of myself. Ah, the things we do for our kids.
Seeing as Just Dance 2016 was the heir apparent in the Just Dance series of games (this is the seventh release for the series), I decided to try my luck with this one first. I dove right in and picked the “Dance Party” option for competitive play with my daughter and scrolled through the forty-plus songs to find one she enjoyed. As a faceless avatar appeared on screen to guide me through this journey into the unknown I thought back to my days in high school show choir and thought, ” You’ve got this.” Nope. Not even close. What happened next could only be described as a criminal assault against both rhythm and dance for the next three minutes. Already sweating and out of breath once it ended, I complimented my daughter and casually tried to pretend that whatever fly-swatting dance I performed was better than it was (despite the howls of laughter from my loving family), but as if to rub salt into my wounded pride, an instant replay video which was filmed from the Wii U handset displayed all of my gangly awkwardness on the television for all to see. My first foray into the Just Dance universe was an absolute trainwreck, and I loved every minute of it.
Now, what I just described is probably par for the course for those familiar with the series. That said, there are several new features for the 2016 release including a lip-sync mode using a Wii microphone, a video challenge mode, and a new cooperative dance mode. Those are all well and good, although I personally don’t think I’ll ever be brave enough to challenge anyone with a video unless I want to punish them with That Which Cannot Be Unseen™. One feature which I am on the fence about has to be the new ability to use a smartphone as your controller. Just Dance 2016 allows players to download an app to use their phone instead of the controller. While I can see it as a benefit for those who may not have enough handsets for all their friends to play, I would urge caution to the player who is willing to hurdle around what could be several hundred dollars worth of untethered technology.
After getting a feel for the flagship of the Just Dance series, my family and I popped in the new Just Dance Disney Party 2 disc to have some more fun (Available for Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One). The basic premise of the game is the same as that of 2016, but all the songs are from Disney Channel movies and shows. What went from me being familiar with about 25% of the songs on the list dropped to nearly zero. That doesn’t matter, however, since my daughters were able to recognize several familiar tunes and shows that they were quick to push me aside and dance to together. Obviously a more kid-friendly product, instead of faceless avatars, Disney Party 2 features real teenage dancers to instruct kids on the moves to their favorite songs from Descendants, Austin & Ally, or Teen Beach 2.
I had secretly hoped that the kid-friendly product would be a tad easier for me to master, but the moves are just as rapid and wide-ranging as the more adult release. Fortunately, I did get the sense that the sensor was a bit more forgiving in gauging accuracy and my Wii remote was regularly buzzing with encouragement for what was most likely NOT a perfect performance despite whatever the screen counter showed. After several rounds of sweaty laughter, I poked around the extra features of the game to discover a health tracker that estimates how many calories you’ve burned during your cumulative dance routines. For my wounded pride and wheezing lungs after a couple of songs I learned I burned a total of six, yes SIX, calories. If nothing else, this game will certainly make you appreciate all those nutrition labels so you can gauge whether or not you can dance off that extra donut with your coffee.
Overall, the new Just Dance releases offer what I anticipated, but also some fantastic extras I wasn’t expecting. I love the cooperative or competitive play that makes it a great party or family game, and I love that this isn’t a traditional video game you play while seated. I begrudgingly admit that the video replay feature is pretty fun and although I’m not a fan of all of the music selections, I can appreciate their variety and appeal to others. Just Dance 2016 and Just Dance Disney Party 2 are great options to capitalize on motion technology, and to have fun dancing your butt off solo or in the company of some friends and family. Just make sure you stretch before you press start.
Disclaimer: I was provided with review copies of these games.