After a few years of playing the Just Dance games, you find that the little changes are what count. Just Dance 2016 is another fun party game with examples of great additions and also things that really need a change.
The main addition to the standard Dance Party (your standard dancing to a track in solo or co-op) and Sweat Modes (which counts calories burnt in a playlist of tracks) is Dance Quests, which is a really worthwhile addition that extends the longevity of Just Dance 2016 for solo players. This mode has a player going up against multiple CPU opponents in a set of three songs, where points are awarded for the position you finish in. These points are added up and, after three songs, the target is to get the most points, or at least unlock the next set. With three difficulties wisely put in – and a solid amount of Quests – this can keep you going for a long time. This kind of mode is just what Just Dance needs to become something with a little more substance.
It is slightly disappointing, then, that the gameplay itself is seemingly unchanged. If you have played a Just Dance game before, you will know what is going on here. You use your controller – which can be a Wii Remote or, now, your smartphone – to follow the moves given to you on screen, with ratings given for how well you do at each move. At the end of the track, you will have built up a points score which gets you a star rating out of 5. Standard Just Dance stuff, and the lack of change is indeed a shame.
Sure, there is the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” view, but the gameplay does have issues with tracking your movements that have been going on for years. On the whole your movements are well responded to, but you do get the occasional move or section of a song where the game loses a bit of precision. It would be great to see a little more polish and innovation here. Some new elements to the gameplay would be welcome – maybe in the vein of the golden moves that happen at key parts of tracks. Each year the lack of change in this department is an issue.
Despite this, Just Dance 2016 is still a blast to play at times. Just as with Just Dance 2015, the art direction is a big part of that. The dancers and backgrounds accompanying each track are vibrant, energetic and full of detail. The sense of style is strong, such as with the lively dancers of “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars or the sweeping camera of “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga. You can see a lot of effort went into making Just Dance 2016 visually interesting, and it really helps get you into that party mood. At the end of the day, this game is suited to the party setting.
Actually, some more of the new modes lean towards that. The recording aspect of previous Just Dance games has been well developed, and actually makes great use of the Wii U GamePad. By setting up the GamePad to record you dancing (this is really easy, as it uses the front-facing camera and even shows you what is being recorded on the GamePad screen), you can then make use of multiple modes. For example, you can upload your dancing online for people to play against (which is very entertaining to watch!), or upload a highlights clip with effects like sped-up dancing (again, very entertaining!).
Perhaps the best use of this is in Showtime, which takes away the shackles of pre-set moves and rankings and asks you to dance freestyle. This is then applied to a themed template which applies the great art of Just Dance to your recording. These templates are great, and the results can be funny and even pretty awesome.
I’ve mentioned good examples from the track list so far, but despite highlights like the aforementioned “Uptown Funk” and “This Is How We Do” by Katy Perry, the soundtrack for Just Dance 2016 does feel a little sparse. In terms of big names, they are there – Ellie Goulding, Jason Derulo, etc. – with a good variety that means everyone should find something they like. That is just the problem, though. I found there was a small bunch of songs I loved, but the rest were all throwaway for me. Online is the same deal, with the likes of “I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas popping up a lot. This suggests to me that many find the track list hit and miss (like I did).
To counter this, Just Dance Unlimited and the massive library of previous Just Dance tracks comes in to save the day. Unlimitedbrings in both new and old tracks, making the overall library pretty fantastic. You won’t run out of new tracks in a hurry (especially if you like Katy Perry… there is a whole section just for her tracks!). The one drawback is that it will cost you – beyond the one month free trial that comes with the Wii U game box, it costs $6.99 a month, $14.99 for three months and $39.99 for a year. This is pricey, though, and shouldn’t be needed to give Just Dance 2016 a great track list. Even so, it must be mentioned, as it turns a solid if unspectacular track list into a mammoth one that should keep Just Dance fans going for… well, a long time!
With the addition of Dance Quests and developed recording modes like Showtime, Just Dance 2016 has added substance to both the solo and party aspects of Just Dance. The main thing holding Just Dance 2016 back is the actual dancing; it is hard to get past how the gameplay is basically identical to past games. While still fun, it needs something to freshen it up. Furthermore, the track list isn’t as strong as previous games, and a paid service shouldn’t be filling that gap. In summary, Just Dance 2016introduces some good new ideas, but is still held back by the familiar gameplay. The title Just Dance shouldn’t be taken literally!
Disclaimer: A copy of Just Dance 2016 for Wii U was supplied by Ubisoft for the purpose of this review.