The toe-tapping rhythm-game genre has come a long way since the days of PaRappa the Rapper. While the Singstar franchise saw a whole community of shower singers reach for their microphones, and while their next-door neighbours searched for their earplugs, Guitar Hero catered to the budding rock god inside all of us. Just Dance, as its name firmly suggests, is for all those who like a good boogie. So whether you enjoy busting out a few moves in the privacy of your bedroom when no one is watching, think you’re the next Justin Timberlake, or take great joy from doing “the Running Man” at Great-Aunty Elsie’s birthday bash after a few jars, Just Dance 2015 is very inclusive. This is a party game for party people.
In Just Dance 2015, the action begins by choosing whether you wish to use the PlayStation Camera, the PlayStation Move controller, or a mobile device to capture your dance moves. While the first two options rely on having sufficient living room space available for up to four players to dance together, the latter opens up the possibility to dance wherever you like by downloading the Just Dance Now Mobile app. This innovative new feature means that you can now dance and compete wherever you like, which could be very entertaining for those participating; although maybe not so much for the people on the bus wondering why you’re blaring out “The Fox (What Does The Fox Say)” and jumping up and down like you’ve lost your marbles.
There’s no campaign mode to speak of, so gameplay is straightforward – pick a song, and dance to it. Following the movements of the dancer on screen, you simply have to copy them in order to gain points, with each wiggle, hand, or leg movement tracked via the PlayStation Camera for accuracy. The videos are very stylishly produced, with moves easy to follow and also some humour (high-kicking watermelons, for example) adding some lightheartedness to what can be some demanding routines. Each time you get a move right, you’re awarded with positive words such as “Excellent” and “Perfect,” and it’s nice to see that you don’t get put down at all – though the likes of “WTF was that?” And “you dance like your dad” could have added some extra humour.
After each song, points and stars are awarded to players based on their performance which are then added to the worldwide leaderboards, while hitting certain objectives (such as dancing for one hour in total) unlock items including avatars, new tracks, and additional videos for songs. One of the coolest features of Just Dance 2015 is that there’s often more than one dancer on-screen, so others can join in the fun too, whether they’re challengers from the online community, or friends and family who want to participate. Dancing is fun, and sharing those moments with others is definitely one of the highlights of this latest iteration.
There are 40 songs on offer, from modern tracks such as the superb ‘Happy’ by Pharrel Williams and ‘Bang Bang’ by Jessie J, to older tunes from the likes of Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Holding Out For A Hero’ and ‘You Spin Me Around’ by Dead Or Alive. Then there are the party songs, such as ‘Macarena’ and ‘What Does the Fox Say,’ taking up space alongside tracks that will appeal to young girls such as One Direction’s horribly-named tune ‘Best Song Ever’ and Frozen’s ‘Let It Be’. There’s certainly something for all tastes, but in an attempt to appeal to everyone, their mother, grandmother and daughter, I found there were only a few tunes that I actually liked. Of course, there’s the Store that you can delve into to buy more tunes that tickle your fancy, so it’s not a total downer.
What is more disappointing, however, is the scoring system, which calls into question the accuracy of the technology. During sessions, there were times when I pulled off a move that looked nothing like it should but resulted in “Perfect” flashing up on the screen, while on other occasions I’ve nailed it with some gusto only to be labelled as “Okay”. There’s a possibility that this could be due with lighting, which should be nice and bright for each session, but my living room DOES have a decent amount of light. When the scoring system appears inaccurate, it’s kind of frustrating if you want to take things a little more seriously and are vying for a high place on the leaderboards.
What was even more annoying for me personally is the fact that the PlayStation Camera would not scan my six-year old daughter at all when playing without the Move controller method. She had great fun dancing along, oblivious to the fact she wasn’t being scored, but we had to resort back to the Move controller, even though we wanted the freedom of movement with no peripherals. This could be an issue if you don’t have multiple Move controllers, because no matter how many times I adjusted the camera using this particular input method, it would not register her; this certainly isn’t an issue with the camera, as my daughter regularly enjoys playing Wonderbook.
Nevertheless, I still managed to spend a very entertaining evening with three generations of my family: myself, my wife, my daughter, and my mother-in-law, and we all had great fun playing Just Dance 2015. The Autodance feature, which captures a montage of your “best bits” at the end of each song, provided much amusement and the chance to save those and share them on Facebook, will provide some great memories. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the moment when ‘nanny’ tried to do the splits and struggled to stand back up.
Replay value is extended with DLC tracks as well as the competitive element of challenging other players, and there’s also an excellent feature where you unlock new variations of tracks where you might dance along with other people’s videos or enjoy a karaoke version of a song. Challenger mode prolongs that replay value with the option of dancing against saved player’s scores when they are offline, though it’s much more entertaining and competitively intense if you dance live with other players. Sadly, you don’t see them dancing on-screen, but you do get to see their score in real-time and can just imagine that they’re absolutely busting a gut to beat you. There’s also a neat addition in Sweat Mode where you can track your calorie usage, which I think could be really appealing to those trying to get fit in way that’s much more fun than chewing dirt at boot camp.
Despite the fun I’ve had playing Just Dance 2015, which will undoubtedly be back in my PS4 over the Christmas period, it’s definitely missing some key elements. The lack of real progression means that some songs are unlikely to make your track-list, while the fact that you unlock cutesy, cartoon-like avatars after every dance will frankly mean nothing to anyone over the age of ten – a rethink of rewards is called for. More unforgivable, however, is the lack of an option to slow down dance moves or go through a tutorial to perfect them, not to mention the inconsistent scoring system, which means that those who want to take it seriously really can’t. However, Just Dance 2015 is what it is: a party game that many will undoubtedly enjoy over the Festive period with family and friends. Despite the inconsistencies, I did have fun; and I suppose that’s what it’s really all about.