Just four years after the series’ inception, Just Dance 2014 sees Ubisoft dropping the traditional sequel numbering and committing to a yearly format. In a short amount of time, Just Dance has quickly become synonymous with video game dancing in a way that’s only happened with Dance Dance Revolution. It’s the Madden of dancing games and has settled into a similar grove to that series where the core game stays the same year after year, with only interface changes and mode variances separating it from the previous installment. Madden updates the rosters, while Just Dance updates the soundtrack. As Just Dance quickly nailed what makes dancing in front of a TV so fun, however, swapping out the Lady Gaga hits is enough to make yearly return visits worthwhile.
As always, Just Dance is less of a rhythm game and more of a jump around your living room game. There’s no complex patterns to memorize and the game is forgiving of less than perfect accuracy. Players simply mimic on-screen dancers and try their best to nail the moves as well. Doing so earns points which increases the star rating at the end of the song. There’s no way to lose and it, unlike something like DDR, doesn’t make you realize you’re a horrible dancer. While this would be frustrating for almost any other rhythm game, Just Dance makes it clear from the outset that this is purely a game about having fun and not about learning how to dance. Unless you spend time studying dances and practicing your moves (which can be personally rewarding), you’ll probably leave Just Dance no better a dancer than when you started. That’s absolutely fine, however, as trying your best to nail the creatively-choreographed dance moves is a blast.
The interface of Just Dance 2014 is one of the smoothest yet, taking cues from Just Dance 4, and immediately drops players into the game with the entire song selection just a swipe away. There’s no tutorial, story or need to unlock stages. You, well, just dance. Many modes return from previous titles like Battle, Mash-up and Sweat. Battle has two players performing a choreographed dance that has them play fighting attempting to nail the most dance moves for dominancy, Mash-up takes a song and adds multiple dancers plus new choreography that frequently changes and Sweat is for those who are playing to get a workout. Sweat lets you play multiple songs in a row for ten, twenty or forty minutes and tracks burnt calories in real time. You can follow the pre-selected or random program or simply choose the songs yourself. While there’s not as much movement as pad-based games like DDR, Just Dance will certainly get you sweating and out of breath after extended sessions.
In addition to the returning modes, Just Dance 2014 adds a few other modes, most of which are quite novel. “On Stage” lets two players become backup dancers to the star, leading to realistic and neat looking choreography with friends — especially for those who enjoy putting on performances with the game. Karoke has been added to the game for the first time ever, although it’s less about belting out pitch perfect notes and more about correctly yelling the lyrics. As many people who play the game find themselves belting the songs aloud anyways, it’s a smart addition that adds more interactivity to the game. Of course for those who are more shy or simply don’t want to sing, it’s not a requirement and simply adds bonus points to a performance.
There’s also a new one-off Chair mode this year which takes Gwen Stefani’s Rich Girl and choreographs the song with a chair in the center. With plenty of sexually suggestive moves, it’s an odd addition for a game intended (almost) for all ages, but it adds a new dancing dynamic that should both be appreciated by onlooking spouses and lead to plenty of awkward moments with practically everybody else.
Just Dance 2014 boasts one of the best soundtracks of the series, no thanks in part to the improved popular music landscape this year. Highlights include Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” Duck Sauce’s “It’s You,” Lady Gaga’s “Applause” and more. Additionally, Katy Perry’s current smash hit “Roar” is included via a DLC code in the box. There’s also a fair selection of “joke” songs including “Prince Ali” from Aladdin, “Ghostbusters” from Ray Parker, Jr. and the ever-present “Y.M.C.A.” from the Village People. There’s some stinkers too like “#thatPOWER” from the horrifying collaboration of will.i.am and Justin Bieber, but most of the selections are solid for popular music. As always, it would be preferable if they included a handful of non-pop songs popular in the dance world or some indie tracks, but this will likely always remain the “Now That’s What I Call Music” of video games.
Dependable as ever, Just Dance 2014 is another solid entry into the hit dance series that simply wants players to have a good time. Its low entry price makes it a great yearly purchase if only to have on hand when you’re trying to entertain guests who are otherwise adversed to video games. Aside from the intriguing features of the Xbox One version looming on the horizon, there’s simply not much working against it. With one of the best soundtracks yet, great new modes in both On Stage and World Dance Floor and the sensible addition of karaoke, Just Dance 2014 is a blast.
Version Reviewed: Xbox 360 (Kinect)