|System: PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One*, Wii U|
|Release: October 21, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Lyrics|
by Adam Schechter
I have a video game store just a few blocks away from me that I frequent more often than my wife would like to know. Needless to say, they know me by name there and have a good idea of the types of games I like to play. So when I walked in recently and talked about my newly acquired Just Dance 2015, I got more than a few odd looks. And the comments… “Just Dance, huh? Really? I mean, cool, those games usually get really good reviews, and my little brother swears by them, and…” To which I could only reply, “It’s not exactly for me—I’m writing a review on it.” And then the obligatory short concluding “Oh, cool” that really means “Yeah right” made me feel even better.
Suffice it to say, I’ve never really been a fan of the Just Dance series to this point in my life. In fact, until the last couple of days I’d never even played one of the titles. So when I tell you now that I not only played Just Dance 2015, but I actually enjoyed it, you can be confident that I mean it. Because the truth is, as much as I would love in one sense to only review the games that I know I’ll love, it’s probably better for me and for you if I try out some titles that have no place in my gaming background. Bias won’t affect it.
A few opening remarks about my time with Just Dance 2015. First and foremost, I did my playthrough on an Xbox One, for obvious reasons (namely, the Kinect). And boy am I glad I did. The “next generation experience” truly noticeable, as the graphics were gorgeous and the music was as good as any album I would pop in my surround sound system. But more important than that, Just Dance 2015 really gave me the opportunity to take my brand new Kinect 2.0 out of the garage and onto the Autobahn for a legitimate test drive. Let me tell you, it flew like a Ferrari.
If you haven’t played a Just Dance title before, it isn’t too complicated a premise to figure out. Essentially, you quickly create a character from a pre-set group of avatars, and move into a starting group of songs that are—for the most people—easily recognizable. Once you select a song that you want, instructions are given to follow the actual artists dancing on screen with your own dancing moves that are being captured by the Kinect. The better you mimic the moves, the higher your score, and the more unlockables (songs, avatars, venues, etc.) become available to you. In a way, it is similar to the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series’ in that players have the opportunity to embody the rock likenesses of their favorite rock/pop stars, and feel better about their “skills” in the process. Only in this case, unlike a plastic guitar or drum set that requires no real musical talent to play, you actually have to dance a little in order to proceed in the game. Don’t get me wrong, the moves are basic and the game is forgiving, but it’s definitely a step up on the realness scale from the video game versions of Simon that most of us have become accustomed to. That said, your actual dancing prowess only matters insofar as you set the difficulty to something that matches who you consider yourself to be. As with all music games, some songs are naturally tougher than others, but the game is ultimately pretty fair in its scoring, mainly due to the relative accuracy that the Kinect 2.0 offers with regard to the players’ moves (or in my case, movements).
Getting back to my driving analogy, one of the benefits of playing Just Dance 2015 on the Xbox One is it allows the player to see and feel the functionality of the Kinect 2.0 as it was meant to be seen and felt. There is a wonderfully smooth intermixing of voice control and the camera/gesture effects that make the actual Xbox One controller virtually unnecessary. Voice control is also a nice addition when players opt to use karaoke functionality, which allows for you to rid yourself of any desire to lip-sync and belt out your favorite verses as you dance to the rhythm. I put it down at the beginning with the expectation of picking it up between each song, but I never needed to. In fact, I didn’t touch it again until the end, and only then because I wanted to see what the game would play like with it over the motion controls (answer: not nearly as fun).