Just Dance 2015 (Wii U) Review
It’s been a pretty long time since we here at Vooks have had a look at one of the Just Dance games. While the games receive a pretty divided response from our community, they’ve always been a pretty fun party game. Just Dance 4 was one of the more prominent of the Wii U launch titles which did a good job at utilising the GamePad despite its multiformat nature. Dropping the numbered titles and instead using an annualised moniker instead, Just Dance 2015 is the latest game in the series and probably one at the top of fans’ wish list this Christmas. But is it good?
For those who’ve never played it before, Just Dance is a game where players must follow an on-screen avatar and icon to mimic dance moves on screen to a variety of licensed songs from all breadths of music. It’s a simple concept, and the simplicity of said concept if probably why the series has resonated so well with such a wide audience. Thankfully, between the on-screen icons that flow across the bottom of the screen and the energetic dancers it’s pretty easy to jump in and pick up a choreographed routine rather easily.
The routines themselves are pretty fun, most of them are set to the theme of the song they’re based on pretty well too. There’s all kinds of routines as well – some allow players to dance in a group of four, each with their own individual routines while others allow players to just go at it by themselves. There’s even routines made for two people if you’re romantic with your partner as well as the typical fitness orientated ones or the very atypical “Chair” ones which has you sitting on a chair and doing complex hand choreography instead. It’s bizarre, but the sheer amount of variety in the different routines shows how Just Dance 2015 is attempting to better itself rather than releasing soulless, annualised updates.
For those returning from previous games, the first thing you’ll notice is just how slick the presentation is. Menus are shiny and very glamourous, suiting the aesthetic of the game rather well. While these are a joy to navigate on other consoles, on the Wii U it appears they’ve been given the short end of the stick. An obvious problem is that the game relies on pointer controls to navigate the menu to a particular song. Good in some cases, but being able to use the + or – buttons would’ve been much easier much like using the shoulder buttons on other platforms controller. It’s a minor qualm, but it severely hinders the pace of the game if you’re trying to change songs quickly with friends or at a party.
Thankfully the game does have a simplistic and yet very functional playlist feature. Players can choose an endless, almost Jukebox like playlist more or choose a specific timed one. The latter of these options acts as a de factor replacement for the dedicated Fitness mode – as all fitness details and biometric data can be activated at the tick of a checkbox rather than in a separate mode. Such streamlining is a great benefit to the game, although we won’t lie, we had trouble finding fitness options initially and were worried it was removed from the game entirely.
Whereas other platforms have more comprehensive motion tracking systems, the Wii U still only really relies on the Wii Remote to track your movement. While this sounds like a bad thing, especially compared to the full body feature of things like Kinect, it’s not necessarily a detriment to Just Dance. This is probably because Just Dance is an incredibly lax game when it comes to motion detection and accuracy – it’s not really about the technical finesse of the dance moves but rather about the fun that you have pulling them off. If you’re a singer and not a dancer, the game now scores your singing via the GamePad microphone too so there’s options and fun to be had for everyone.
The big jump from previous games to 2015 is easily the way it plays with online functionality, however. Players can dance to a song and then challenge other players to beat their score, with challenges appearing on the menu seamlessly. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s simple and it’s probably the best way to do multiplayer for a game like this without live multiplayer. There’s “community remix” modes where players can dance along to video footage of other players performing a routine too – and while it’s really just the same routine but with real people – it does give the game a greater sense of “community” and connectedness.
Thankfully, Ubisoft have put a lot of thought into how they can use the GamePad specifically to make the Wii U version of Just Dance 2015 much better. First off, if you set your GamePad up in front of your play area then it will record intervals of you all dancing and stitch it together in a humorous vignette. This “AutoDance” feature is nothing new – it’s been an app on smartphones for quite some time – but it’s still a cool, if not slightly embarrassing feature. Dance Mashup mode gives a fifth player the GamePad and allows them to choose portions of a routine for the rest of players to dance along to. It’s a simple feature but one that can be quite fun. Honestly, it’s not a huge addition but it’s nice to see a developer attempting something with the GamePad nonetheless, much like Ubisoft did with Just Dance 4 two years prior.
There’s heaps of songs to dance to and heaps of routines to unlock in Just Dance 2015 so it’s hard not to recommend it to someone looking for a good time. There’s a wide breadth of songs too, from You Spin Me Right Round and Walk This Way all the way up to the very recent Let It Go from Disney’s Frozen. There’s even a few more exotic dance numbers thrown in for good measure including a bizarre angry French rap and a Bollywood styled Christmas routine. There’s even a slow celebratory Greek dance too. My point is – the soundtrack is great and very varied and it’s hard to believe many people, if any, will not be able to find something they’ll enjoy dancing to.
As we hinted at earlier, the game’s presentation has been much improved from previous games. Menus are slick and the routines with their neon themed stylings look as great as ever. Whereas in previous games, these silhouetted dancers would just move on a background, sometimes the camera will pan around them or add visual effects to spice things up. They’re small visual touches that help keep the franchise fresh – Ubisoft could’ve easily just plopped another bunch of choreography videos on a disc and called it a day but by the looks of it a bit more effort and care went into things this time around.
But there’s one glaring fault with Just Dance 2015 that I can’t shake, and that’s definitely the way downloadable content was handled. While there’s heaps of songs in previous games and in this one, some of the downloadable content on offer is basically ripped 1:1 from the previous games and put up for sale here. It just doesn’t sit right with me to be paying for content you already own just for the convenience of having it accessible from the latest disc, but it does on the flipside offer an opportunity for those who missed Just Dance 2014 to experience some of its best tracks. It’s a minor gripe, but one I thought bared mentioning.
All in all, Just Dance 2015 is a really fun package to work your way around. The choreography routines are fun to perform and incredibly varied. The soundtrack is fairly exhaustive and all-encompassing for anyone from any demographic whether it be children or grown adults. The online functionality is great, and even better, hasn’t been compromised for the Wii U. And even the GamePad functionality is well thought out without stepping into the realm of useless gimmick. But if you’ve never really liked the Just Dance franchise, this isn’t for you. But if you’re growing tired of it, I encourage you to give Just Dance 2015 a go – it feels fresh and new enough to warrant your time and attention.