Whenever people talk about the Just Dance series, they normally associate it with Nintendo’s Wii due to the remarkable sales it has accrued since its initial inception back in 2009. Activision has seen Guitar Hero, and its various spin-offs, fade just as quickly as it burst onto the scene, Electronic Arts has watched as Rock Band failed to make the desired impact, and Konami continues to flog a dead horse with its Dancing Stage series, even resorting to bringing its US name of Dance Dance Revolution to Europe in recent years and taking a fitness slant in the hope of fooling consumers into thinking it is a brand new range of products. In the meantime, over the past three years Ubisoft has actually seen increased sales for Just Dance, despite it originally being Wii-exclusive. Now, the PlayStation 3 fans have the chance to sample the newest mainline title, Just Dance 3, to see exactly what all the fuss is about.
For previous entries Ubisoft has relied on a mixture of development teams, from its Paris arm, to Longtail Studios, and even Japanese group LandHo!, but for the PlayStation 3 edition of Just Dance 3 it turned to Reflections, the Newcastle, UK-based outfit that is renowned for its work on Destruction Derby, Stuntman and Driver. In all honesty, though, it cannot have taken too much effort to produce a fresh release given how the core gameplay mechanic has remained unchanged since day one. For those that have been living in a cave, the basic idea behind Just Dance is to use motion controls, in this case a single PlayStation Move accessory, to mimic the choreographed dancers on-screen, following their glowing hand in a mirror-image fashion, being rated for how accurate the whole routine is carried out.
2011 saw the release of DanceStar Party (Everybody Dance in the US) on PlayStation 3, which also used the Move motion setup and worked in almost exactly the same manner, yet launched much earlier than Ubisoft’s third mainline Just Dance due to the Sony edition being considerably delayed compared to the Wii and Xbox 360 Kinect iterations. However, anyone holding out for some specific Sony-related exclusives will be rather disappointed, as this barebones effort is exactly the same as other versions.
In fact, anyone loading Just Dance 3 up may feel somewhat cheated since there are not that many options to choose from initially, with extra songs, dance sets, and game modes only opening up after enough ‘Mojo Stars’ have been accrued by dancing your way through the songs already on offer. The stars cannot be used to open up specific extras, though, with them unlocking one-by-one in a systematic method. Patience is definitely required to get the most out of Just Dance 3, but perseverance is recommended to tuck into the likes of Simon Says, where elements from Just Dance Kids have been implemented, having to clap, spin, shake, and more, all without skipping a beat.
The flip side to restricting options, obviously, is that Ubisoft has attempted to ensure players are rewarded for their efforts, instead of laying everything bare from the get-go. Given the casual nature of the market sector this product is shooting for, however, it may not have been the wisest of choices. Whatever the case, cruising through the simplistic menu system to reach the repertoire of songs, players are faced with an influx of neon colours, a veritable rainbow of bright hues strewn all over, an approach that surprisingly evades tacky and lands in chic territory. This spills over to the dance routines as well, with the silhouetted dancers all spruced up with fanciful shades to add to the retrospective ambience that Just Dance 3 is imbued with, and even the Move controller’s globe changes colour dependent on your current performance, adding to the disco feel.
With a running total exceeding the 50 mark, the number of songs included is truly commendable, although it is quite surprising that no option for downloading more is included given how the Wii version has a pay & play model. The selection spans all sorts of genres, with Ubisoft hoping to cater for everyone. In doing so, however, there are going to be several songs on the list that are unfamiliar to many mainstream consumers.
Jumping from Price Tag by Jessie J to Are You Gonna Go My Way by Lenny Kravitz, and from Boogie Wonderland by Groove Century to the classic No Limit by 2 Unlimited is quite the contrast. Watch out for Danny Elfman’s This is Halloween from The Nightmare Before Christmas and Robin Sparkles’ Let’s Go to the Mall, from US sitcom How I Met Your Mother for evidence of the quirky catalogue of songs included. Those picking up the Special Edition will also find two extra Katy Perry tracks, Teenage Dreams and E.T. in addition to the standard version’s California Gurls. Anyone unsure what to dance to can, thankfully, choose set playlists, bunching different music styles together, or providing a non-stop danceathon for those planning on all-night parties with three friends dancing along (each with their own parts in certain songs!).
Finally, for anyone that just so happens to want to use Just Dance 3 as part of their fitness regime, there is the Just Sweat mode, with either a Free Session option for up to four players to dance away to the aerobic-esque routines, earning Sweat Points along the way, or taking on the ultimate seven-day challenge, which throws a selection of tough tasks your way to boost stamina levels over the duration of a week.
Just Dance 3 succeeds in surpassing its precursors’ quality, yet still falls down in terms of motion controls either being too lenient at times, allowing for people to sit and merely waggle the controller, or proving overly stringent, with dance experts copying moves in a seemingly perfect way only for the game to penalise efforts somewhat unfairly. The range of music on offer is also of note, yet again can be a turn-off for some due to the sheer breadth of the selection meaning there are too many unknown or disliked tracks included. Technically the dance series from Ubisoft is just about managing to dance its way into our hearts after three years, but the next mainline effort definitely needs some dramatic re-think to prevent tedium drawing in.