Just Dance will always be one of those games that you love or hate. Self-involved ‘real’ gamers tend to scorn it for its lack of AAA visuals and big guns, while the more casual gamers among us tend to view it as nothing more than an expensive party piece. The truth is, it’s a perfectly valid way for people to let their hair down, get their groove on and dance like there’s no tomorrow. Yeah, it’s not for everyone (no one is suggesting it is), but there’s a market there and no one can deny that.
For the uninitiated among you, the premise of Just Dance is pretty simple. You follow the dancer on screen as your TV (or undocked Switch in this case) blares out tunes from the past few decades/years/weeks (delete according to musical tastes). It really is that simple, you do what they do, you get scored for it, you generate a new high score on solo or beat your friends if playing co-op.
On to the review itself. First off, it’s worth saying I’m reviewing Just Dance on the Nintendo Switch. It’s important to address the hardware here because it’ll make a difference to your experience. What you gain it portability from the Switch – which isn’t a lot considering how hard it is to follow the dances when the screen is undocked – you lose in accuracy. From what I hear, the Xbox One version of the game uses the Kinect to monitor your whole body, but the Switch will only be monitoring whichever hand you’re holding the JoyCon in. It’s not a huge disadvantage as most of the time you’re only able to loosely mirror the on-screen instructor anyway but there is a noticeable lack of accuracy in the motion sensor. At times I would execute a move perfectly (he says confidently) but the game would brand it with a less than encouraging ‘OK’ or ‘Good’, and at other times I would wave my hand indiscriminately, completely lost on a routine and get told I was ‘Perfect’. As I said, this is noticeable, but not hugely important given half the fun is trying to keep up anyway.
You get a decent selection of songs to choose from. Everything from ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ (Queen) to ‘John Wayne’ (Lady Gaga is covered on the preloaded set list). It’ll cater to most tastes and it’s good for making sure you can shake things up after a particular genre. The most annoying thing about the list of songs is that so many are locked behind a paywall. Songs from games gone by, and some exclusive new songs, can only be played if you purchase an annual pass to Just Dance Unlimited. Of course, the rights to some of these songs demand a premium price, we all get that, but the price seems steep considering the game will already set you back £40.
Even better than the decent variety of songs is the variety of game modes. You’ve got the classic Solo and Duo modes but also the Just Dance Machine and World Dance Floor (PVP). Again, these are great for keeping things feeling fresh when you’ve started to get a little bored of a particular mode. You can even use the game as a workout companion by activating the Sweat mode which counts the calories you’ve burned in your play time. It’s likely not 100% accurate (that would be pretty much impossible) but it’s a good indicator of energy spent on the game. I can even see it becoming a less repetitive version of dancercise DVDs for those you that love dancing and hate exercising.
There are some good pros and quite a few cons to Just Dance 2018. So balanced are these that I was struggling to justify giving the game anything above a 5. On one side you’ve got plenty of variety and a good selection of songs, on the other you’ve got some hammy motion controls (at least on the Switch) and a stinker of a paywall blocking the rest of the roster. Looking over these words you’d probably agree with me.
But the thing with Just Dance is – it’s the feeling you get playing that game that you remember. For anyone that likes to move – no matter how bad you might be at it – it’s a joy to try and learn some dance while having a laugh with your friends. You can’t really understate joy, especially given so many developers forget that’s what games are for these days. For that reason, I’ve given Just Dance 2018 a much healthier score than it deserves on paper.