Just Dance 2017 Review
For years music and games have played an essential role in local multiplayer game nights. From Singstar to Guitar Hero, the genre appeals to all sorts of players and helps liven up the mood of social gatherings. Despite the original game being critically panned, the Just Dance franchise has continued to be a success both financially and amongst fans for seven years now and has truly cemented its place as quintessential party game. But how does Just Dance 2017 stack up?
For those who haven’t Just Danced before, the games are fairly simple. On the screen a selection of eccentrically dressed mannequin-like people will boogie to some kind of song and it is your job to imitate them as closely as possible… well sort of. You see, the games only track the player’s right hand, so it isn’t necessary to imitate every move one-to-one, but honestly, where is the fun in that? While many would argue that the game would benefit from a more accurate and complete tracking system to really push players to properly dance, I tend to disagree. Having a more simplistic tracking method really helps keep the game easy to jump in to, without having to worry about your actual ability to dance. It also lets the developers incorporate some extremely difficult dance moves without forcing the player to reliably replicate them.
Likewise, while the game does include a scoring system, and it works fine for the most part, I am sure someone trying to play this competitively would take issue with how accurate it is. Ultimately the inclusion of scores is a great motivator to practice songs and try and improve, without intimidating new players in the same way games like Guitar Hero and Rockband could.
The game features a number of key modes. The main one being “Just Dance”, which allows you and three to five friends (depending on your system of choice) dance to any of the tracks included in the game, as well as potentially sing for bonus points. The game will also record select moments of the dance routine and edit them together at the end for the players to laugh/groan at. These videos can also be shared on Just Dance TV (props to anyone that finds the videos I uploaded). This mode can be done competitively or Co-op which allows you to set the mood for your play session!
“Just Dance Quest” is essentially a campaign mode. The tracklist is broken down it to sets of 3 songs called quests, with your goal to place in the top 3 after completing all the songs. The structure is very similar to that of the Cups in Mario Kart and has you competing against NPCs. There is no story involved, but it’s an ideal way of working your way through each of the songs, before returning to your favourites in the main Just Dance Mode.
“Just Dance Machine” is an interesting new mode, where two aliens run out of power for their spacecraft and need dancers to recharge its battery. Rather than play through songs, you will be tasked with trying a random set of dance moves and generating enough energy for their ship to take off. While it provides a bit of a break from the standard modes, I feel without being backed up by strong songs it falls a little flat.
“World Dance Floor” is the online mode allowing players to compete against potentially hundreds of players simultaneously for the high score in any given song. It’s a fun way to play the game if you are on your own, however I personally feel the game shines best when you can see your fellow dancers.
“Sweat Mode” provides an intense workout for those looking to stay in shape. I personally find this a great alternative to more conventional aerobic exercises, and of course way more fun, and I think the inclusion of this mode continues to be a smart decision and is my go to mode if I am planning on doing some solo dancing.
The main new thing, and really the reason to purchase the latest version of Just Dance in any given year is the tracklist, and I would say Just Dance 2017 doesn’t disappoint. The game features forty-two new tracks, most of the essential pop hits from recent years such as Justin Biebers “Sorry” and DNCE’s “Cake By the Ocean”, as well as quite a few out there songs like Hatsune Mikus “P Pi Po” and O-Zone’s “Dragostea Din Tei” (which you perhaps know better as the “Numa Numa Song”) which just have absurd dances that are heaps of fun to perform in a group.
Current-gen versions of the game also come with a 3-month free trial of “Just Dance Unlimited”, which allows players to stream almost the entire back catalogue of songs from previous titles, alongside new ones that get added from time to time. This is a feature that appeared in last year’s Just Dance and continues to be an amazing addition that is worth activating when you know you will have a lot of social gatherings where Just Dance will be played. Probably the one thing this feature highlights to me is the need for Just Dance to do away with yearly installments, and just move to a service model. There are few features they can add to the game that players would truly value, outside of new songs and dance routines, and it can become costly to buy a new game, as well as pay for Unlimited each year.
Another fantastic feature that returns is the ability for players to use mobile phones as controllers, preventing the need for you to own any extra hardware to jump straight in to the game with all your friends.
I played the game on Wii U and there were some issues that I encountered while playing the game. First, the load times were horrendous. The game takes minutes to boot up, which is odd given previous versions I have played haven’t suffered this issue, and the title doesn’t appear to be pushing the system to its limits. The second issue I had was the game crashed on me twice. Once before patching and once after, both requiring a reboot of the system. Neither of these things ruined the overall experience, but they were annoying and should not be issues I need to bring up in a game like this.
Just Dance 2017 is the culmination of years of refining the same formula the original set down back in 2007. It doesn’t change much, but it realistically doesn’t need to. Much like it’s predecessors it doesn’t make for a fantastic solo experience and the long load times and occasional crash can kill the mood when playing it. However, none of these issues change the fact that getting a bunch of your friends in a room to throw away their inhibitions and dance like idiots in front of a TV is truly one of the best video game experiences you can have in this day and age and Just Dance 2017 continues to deliver on that front.