|System: Wii*, Xbox 360, PS3|
|Release: October 9, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p||Comic Mischief, Lyrics|
by Sean Engemann
With the days getting cooler and autumn among us, it's time to pack up the running shoes and bid farewell to outdoor exercise. However, Ubisoft has found the perfect remedy to keep us off the couch during our indoor hibernation. It's their annual rhythm game, of course, Just Dance 4.
Since the fad of the genre is starting to recede, Ubisoft is taking the opportunity to not only keep their brand rolling, but learn from criticisms of previous titles to improve the formula. Just Dance 4 doesn't revolutionize the series, but the new features are evidence that the developers aren't simply regurgitating the same experience with a new playlist.
I must say that I am very impressed with the song selection in Just Dance 4. Unlike Just Dance 3, in which the variety seemed a little inconsistent, the fifty songs in the freshest installment cover a wide variety of music genres, albeit with songs that have a rhythmic dance beat. I won't spout the names of the dozens of notable artists here, but let's just showcase the range by saying it has everything from Elvis Presley to Justin Bieber. The '80s tunes are the only era lacking a little in quality and quantity (which is a personal disappointment since retro music is my favorite) but overall it is a great range for fans of all music styles.
However, I am shocked that Katy Perry, the unofficial Just Dance poster girl in my opinion, did not make the core list. Now, you fact checkers may try to trip me up by saying that Just Dance 2 didn't have her in the lineup either, but she was a free download at launch to promote the then new in-game store. Her song "Part of Me" is the lone song available in the Just Dance 4 store right now, but you'll have to fork 300 Points ($3.00) to add it to your playlist.
The menu screens are simple to navigate and easy to understand, and you'll have little trouble getting right into the action. Just Dance and Just Sweat modes are plastered front and center on the main menu, giving you the option of playing for fun with friends or exercising alone. There's still no rhyme or reason to the layout of the song selection in Just Dance mode, but you can quickly scroll through the cover art to find your track of choice.
You're then greeted with the familiar neon color sprayed on the dancers and the backgrounds. The presentation is one area where I actually found subtle improvements over the last game. First, the characters have a nice crisp outline this time, whereas before the lining was too broad and made the dancers bulky and hard to follow. All the different colors are clearly separated, which also helps the player keep tabs on the different limbs flailing around. The animations are precise, but not much has changed in the motion capture from previous titles, which is a compliment to the prosperity of that department. The pictograms in the bottom right, designed to give you advanced warning as to the next move, make a return, but they're still more confusing then helpful. After all, your eyes can only focus on the dancers or the pictograms, but not both at the same time.
I am frustrated with the controls, not so much due to inaccurate motion registration (although I do have a beef with that too), but more so because they haven't improved. At least not on the Wii. By now every new Wii title should be developed exclusively using Wii MotionPlus, especially ones like Just Dance 4 with complex movements and a grading system dependant on how accurate the player is with the controls. I tested my criticism by redoing Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger" until the routine was ingrained in my head, and even when I was certain my gestures were spot on, I'd still receive an "OK" rating. It's a good thing the Wii Remote was attached to my wrist. Fortunately the overall score tally is forgiving, and you're not required to get a "Perfect" on every move to land a five-star rating.
As in past titles, each song is rated with a difficulty between one and three. Interestingly, many of the harder songs I tried weren't necessarily more complex in the choreography department, but rather the game required more accurate timing and sticking the moves to get a high score. You're star rating earns you mojo, which fills a meter to level up. When you gain a level, a roulette wheel offers you a random unlock, which could be an Alternative Routine for a song (some even labeled Extreme Versions with a level-four difficulty), a Battle Mode, or custom options for your Dancer Card.