My fear after reviewing Just Dance 3 last year was that the series was already beginning to go the way of the likes of Guitar Hero – too many iterations too quickly, and without enough innovation. With this the fourth main release in as many years, not to mention the additional spin-offs, it was always in danger of becoming a little big stale. Yearly releases can often be very successful, with each outing not only improving upon the last, but often bringing new features and ideas. It is here where Just Dance 4 falls down unfortunately. Without doubt, Ubisoft has refined the game once more and it is the best in the series, but it’s just more of the same. Therefore, if all you were really after with Just Dance 4 was a soundtrack update then you’re in luck; however, it really doesn’t warrant the full price tag as a result.
In previous years, the Wii versions of the game have been the defacto platform but with the console now on life support it was time to move to Kinect on the Xbox 360 to try out “controller-less” dancing. As with all previous dancing games you have to be a bit forgiving and hope that the game picks up your motions – as is the case with all motion games really. This is the same situation as before with it being slightly difficult to tell within dance routines whether it’s registering your moves or not, however, it never frustrated or angered so it managed well enough. Unlike the Wii version, there are no errors with players not holding the controller correctly and the tracking of each players face for their pictures usually worked without a hiccup.
“Just Dance 4, like each iteration prior to it, is the best Just Dance title to date. However, a severe lack of anything more than tweaks, minor improvements and set-list updates has left it feeling far too familiar.”
A shame the same cannot be said for navigating the menus though. In order to get from one screen to another you have to raise your hand, slowly move towards the desired location and then thrust your hand forward to imitate a pressing motion. To say that this was difficult would be an understatement; you are essentially using your hand as a mouse cursor, only the mouse has been greased and you’re drunk. Each button highlights in an attempt to let you know you’re in the right place but as you press forwards your hand will invariable move and either select something else or miss altogether.
This is nightmarish for the general menu items but is still topped by the infuriating difficulty at simply selecting a track. The same difficult motion is required to select, but to scroll the them you have to push forwards and then swipe. This will lead to one of three things: on the very rare occasion you will scroll smoothly through a handful of tracks, looking at each of them as they glide on by; a more regular occurrence would be to accidentally select a track instead of scrolling; or the most common outcome is that the tracks go flying by at such a speed that you’ve gone through half of them before you even know it. Hopefully you like all of the songs and an albeit very strong track-list as you’ll end up picking whatever’s on the screen to save you putting your fist through the TV in frustration. Some tracks even have alternative modes which you select by dragging that particular track up and down; balancing a spoon on Pinocchio’s nose whilst he recites the accounts of his adventure to the forest to Geppetto would be an easier task.
If you can get through the spaghetti mess of a menu system then you’re in for a treat. Each routine is fantastic fun, with the bright neon art style as crisp as ever accompanying your song of choice from the 50 strong set-list Perhaps not the most first-time friendly interface, but the moves are varied and enjoyable with a pleasant mix of easy and more challenging sections – but that’s always been the case. One of the biggest advantages remains the ability to play with up to four players. As dancing is inherently a social experience for most people it is far more likely to be played with friends, so being able to have two fewer people sat at the sidelines is great.
The unlockable bonus routines, levelling aspect via “Mojo”, online leaderboards, and new expansion of the Just Sweat mode offer limited additional playability but nothing of any real value. Just Dance 4, like each iteration prior to it, is the best Just Dance title to date. However, a severe lack of anything more than tweaks, minor improvements and set-list updates has left it feeling far too familiar. Unless the series takes a serious turn in the near future I fear it’ll fizzle away just like the big hitters in the music genre.