To be perfectly honest with you, in the Xbox 360 Kinect heyday (remember that six months when it was going to be awesome?) I was firmly on team Dance Central ahead of Just Dance when it came to the dance based rhythm games of the videogame console wars.
At the time it was because Dance Central used the Kinect to pick up the whole body, while Ubisoft’s Just Dance, not an Xbox exclusive, could only follow hand gestures because of the motion controls available on other consoles.
Fast forward to this year, and even the Xbox One Kinect isn’t in favour with developers and it’s Just Dance 2018 that’s been getting crowds up for a boogie and a giggle at conventions and expos around the world in the lead up to its release on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii, Wii U, and Nintendo Switch this week.
It would be easy enough to just say, “Just Dance 2018 is exactly what you’d expect, and it’s just as great at home as it looked at conventions, minus the back-up dancers” but if you’ve been with Geek Mountain for a while you know I’m not one to half-ass a review… especially if it means dancing in my living room until 2am in the name of “research”!
(Let the record show that if I can do it at stupid hours of the night and morning, anyone can dance)
But enough about me, here’s the review:
There's no story in Just Dance 2018. I know that's probably not too shocking considering the nature of the game, but there's always the possibility of a career mode or similar, and this game doesn't have one. I'm not marking it as Bad, but it's not getting top marks either.
No characters either. While this seems like a redundant omission because of the lack of story, Just Dance 2018 isn't a dancing game that gives you a customisable avatar or a version of yourself in-game, instead you're purely watching the choreography... until you see the 10-15 second highlight reel of yourself after it's over. Again, not necessarily Bad, but room for improvement.
Now we're getting to the important parts of this review, Just Dance 2018 is the definition of fun. I'm sure there's plenty of people who cheer for the villain in Footloose and loathe the thought of dancing altogether, but to them I say "Footloose is one of the songs in this game, sucked in!" and also "You're really missing out on a great time with this one. Why are you like this? Who hurt you?"
Very stylised and perfect for the party and dancing atmosphere, minor issue with the clarity of the guide icons to show you which dance moves are coming up next, but I'll save that for the Execution criteria. Other than that though, a very nice game to watch as well as play!
You'd want this to be a high score considering the genre, and with 40+ tracks (more if you subscribe to Just Dance Unlimited) ranging from 1959's "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini" to 2017 hits like Despacito, it's getting full marks here.
Not every song is performed by the original artist, but since it's a dance game not a singing one, it does the job well.
Sure, there's not all that much too it really, you dance, it follows your movements, you get high scores the better you dance.
But with the fitness modes, playlist features, options to use a mobile phone app as the movement sensor if you don't have a Kinect, Wii-motes or PlayStation Move controllers, a Kid friendly game mode and even a real-time online multiplayer dance floor (complete with boss fight dance battles) there's plenty of great ideas to really flesh out the game beyond a pick up and play party game.
I played with the Xbox One Kinect, so mileage may vary with other motion controls, but I didn't run into any issues or flaws at all and I felt like the scoring was fair and consistent (even if it erred on the easy side for most songs).
As mentioned earlier, the dance move guide icons could be much clearer, most songs you'll need to learn the moves the hard way and go for high scores on a second attempt, or just fumble your way through and hope the choreography can be picked up in real-time instead.
In the end though, the biggest issue I've had with the game is trying to find where the saved autodance videos are (so I could add one to this review). I still can't find them after far too long searching, so I've had to rerecord in the morning.
This is the 9th major Just Dance title since the franchise debut in 2009. There's plenty of new songs and new features, but ultimately it's never going to be the most original game because there's one every year. Still good, but not unique enough for a perfect score.
Some people won't be able to play this game, simply because it's a movement based rhythm game and not everyone has mobility to the extent some dance moves require, but with that said Just Dance 2018 goes above and beyond to tick the accessibility boxes as a game.
Kids can play, adults can play, everyone will love it. You can play by yourself, you can jump online with a dozens of strangers or you can jump in with a whole dance crew locally in your house and all dance together.
The dances are enough to work up a sweat if you commit yourself to it, but there's no requirement for full body movements either, so it's entirely possible to play seated with only the hand gestures.
Throw in the cross-platform play on so many different consoles and this is about as accessible as they get.
Remember that bit about me dancing alone in my living room at 2am? Yeah.
So long as your friends aren't too shy, this is one of the best party games on the market right now. Without being too serious about it, it's a solid fitness app too for those who need a little more fun to stay motivated (expect to sweat) and I can definitely attest that it's a pretty entertaining time single player to boot. So what are you waiting for, get out there and try to beat my score on Moana's "How Far I'll Go" already!