So You Think Kids Can Dance!
If you’ve found yourself having a good time with Just Dance and/or Just Dance 2, it’s now time to share the experience with the young ones. Ubisoft aims to give everyone a dose of this latest brand of party fun, but is Just Dance Kids a worthy legacy for the next generation?
Much like its older siblings, Just Dance Kids is a simple package designed for easy access. You’ve got just three main components that make up the package – Dance, Play Lists, and Parents – but for the asking price (about $30 at retail), it’s not light on content. The presentation is streamlined and attractive, and the premise is simple and straightforward.
If you’ve yet to hop on this virtual dance floor, Just Dance is a rhythm game that has you mimicking the motions of onscreen dancers. You simply hold your Wii Remote in an upright position (with the A button facing yourself), mirroring the moves in sync with the music. Though the mechanics are easy to wrap your head around, each dance requires loads of practice in order garner high scores.
Just Dance Kids doesn’t tone down the difficulty much, which is surprising considering the target audience. Though the selection is divided between songs for older and younger kids, the music likely won’t appeal to anyone over the age of eight. Therefore, the challenge level of almost all of the dance numbers makes it almost impossible for kids to do more than flail about to the music. Preschoolers will likely get the most entertainment value out of the package, but Just Dance Kids has little potential as viable party game for younger gamers.
In Dance mode, you have just under fifty songs to choose from, each ranked by dance-move difficulty and the amount of physical workout you’ll receive. Songs range from typical classics, such as ABC by the Jackson 5, to Happy Birthday and I’ll Be Working on the Railroad. Regardless of your taste in music, the song list is weatherworn in the extreme; Funkytown was perhaps fun to groove to back in the 80s while roller skating, but it’s not something any kid should be subjected to in 2010.
In Play List mode, you’re dipping from the same selection of songs, though the dances are strung together to create medleys based on various themes, such as animals, humor, and a general party setting. Play Lists is an inspired addition, and kids can even create their own dance selections. Unfortunately, there’s no online store to allow you to spruce up the set list from time to time, but it’s wholly understandable considering the demographic Just Dance Kids is aimed at.
Lastly, the package includes a component called Parents. Here you can track your kid’s play time, how many calories they’ve burned, when they last played, and how many times they’ve played a particular song. You can also take a look at high scores, as well as view a detailed tutorial. One of the more interesting parts of the Parents section is called Philosophy, where Ubisoft explains to parents their inspiration and motives behind the game; an odd addition perhaps, but it’s kind of endearing at the same time.
Regardless of which mode you play, the gameplay in Just Dance Kids is mostly the same throughout. You can opt to play solo or in teams (2v2), or you can play in a mode call Freeze & Shake. Freeze & Shake simply tosses in occasional cues that tell specific players to either freeze (you lose points if you move while the cue is onscreen) or shake your Wii Remote for extra points.
Like previous Just Dance games, the accuracy of your movement isn’t all that great. There were times when I was moving precisely along with the dancers onscreen, yet I’d only earn an “Ok” for a move. Conversely, I could merely move the Wii Remote up and down mindlessly and still get the occasional “Perfect” mark for a particular move. For really young kids, this might not be the biggest consideration, but the game mechanics certainly aren’t going to help older kids become better dancers.
Additionally, Just Dance Kids’ visual approach, though pretty to look at, doesn’t help the gameplay along as well as previous games in the series. Whereas the silhouette dancers from past games highlighted the hand you were intended to follow, the live-action dancers in Just Dance Kids do not. You still get move markers that move along the bottom of the screen, cuing you to which moves are up next, but the dance moves themselves are every bit as challenging and exhausting as before.
Aesthetically, however, Just Dance Kids looks really good on Wii. The developers keep things simple, but the game has a wonderful polish from top to bottom. The dancers appear as live-action footage over colorful backgrounds, offering a playful presentation up-and-coming hip-hoppers are sure to enjoy.
As with any rhythm-game package, the sound and music are pretty darn integral to the overall experience. From a technical standpoint, the fidelity in Just Dance Kids sounds fine. The selection menus offer inviting audio cues, and the music comes across crisp and clear. Unfortunately, not only is the music selection out of date and downright hokey, you’re not getting any of the original performances with the licensed tunes. All songs are sung by young kids, and regardless of what song you’re dancing to, Just Dance Kids sounds like a collection of nursery rhymes.
Just Dance Kids isn’t a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. I was left with the impression the developers put real effort into the software, but Just Dance Kids doesn’t quite add up for me. As a parent of three children, I wouldn’t be inspired to add this title to our collection. The game’s got polish and TLC, but it’s just not all that fun to play. I enjoyed Just Dance 2, however, and I believe in this series. I think they need to work on tightening up the mechanics a bit more, and if they could do a better job matching a stronger song selection with a more age-appropriate level of challenge, the next Just Dance Kids could be a real hit. This dance class, however, doesn’t quite have all the right moves.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
Just Dance Kids has a fun look and vibe fitting for its intended audience. Visual cues, however, aren’t nearly as helpful as they were in previous installments. 2.9 Control
Still highly inaccurate, and with the lack of solid visual cues, it’s even tougher to land moves successfully. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The technical elements of the audio are fine. The actual content, however, is…well, pretty lame. 3.5 Play Value
In spite of its flaws, Ubisoft offers a hefty selection of options and gameplay. Just Dance Kids needs work, but it’s still a valiant effort all the same. 3.2 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best