Just Dance 3 Review

Our Rating
out of 5.0

This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.

In a new age of video gaming, where it’s no longer necessary to use controllers to play, developers are pushing out games of all genres – there’s something to appease everyone.  Amongst the slew of motion-controlled games is the Dance category – growing ever more popular, with high energy music and amazing choreography, daring anyone who loves to dance to get their booties up off the couch and show off their talents.  Just Dance 3 from Ubisoft is no exception, urging players to quite literally do just that, whether they have professional training or just have a passion for dancing.  But with the likes of Dance Central, Dance Paradise, and Dance Masters out in the market, does Just Dance 3 have the moves to make it to the finals?

In Just Dance 3, players can either dance solo or with up to three other people.  Even during the loading periods, mini-tutorials flash by, letting you know that if you and your friends stand in a staggered pattern, the Kinect will be able to track all four players, making for a fun group experience.

The game’s setup is quite simple, with a small menu to navigate through.  The main menu consists of the options to Dance, Just Create, Extras, and Shop.  In Dance, you’re given four options: Songs, Play Lists, Specials, and Sweat.  These modes all have the same theme: follow along with the onscreen dancer and try to get the highest score.  In the Songs and Playlists modes, you can select the song or genre you’d like to dance to, with a straightforward scoring system.  The Sweat mode is very similar, except that it focuses on your ‘sweat points’, which is basically how much energy you used while dancing.

Once you’ve chosen a mode, you then select the level of difficulty, either Normal or Easy.  Normal means that the game tracks your entire body’s movements, down to the fancy footwork, whereas Easy only tracks your upper body (torso, arms and hands), when judging your scores.

You also have a choice of four different dance coaches to mimic, each with their own stylish flare: Happy, Crazy, Funky, and Jazzy.  When you’ve selected everything, you’re taken to the dance floor, where you follow your coach’s movements as though you’re looking in a mirror.  In Dance modes, you only really see the game’s dancers onscreen (rather than your own silhouette), with little cookie-cutter people silhouettes scrolling across the bottom to indicate what the next moves are.

As you dance, there’s a five-star gauge next to your Coach’s name.  It measures how well you perform each move, and fills the stars (or doesn’t) depending on how well you do.  It’ll tell you if you completely botched a step (by giving you an X), or if the move was good or perfect.  There are also Gold Moves: when the coach is outlined in a glowing aura, and if you perform it correctly, you get a “Yeah!” and extra points.  At the end of the round, however many stars you accumulate out of 5 will then show up on a thermostat that tells you how well you did and your sweat points (i.e. how much energy you used).  The stars are then put towards the Mojo Bar– once you fill this up, you level up, unlocking Gifts including new routines or game modes, which then show up in the Specials menu.

Unless you have real dance training, and a knack for picking up choreography, you might want a training session once you see the dance sequences in Just Dance 3.  Unfortunately, this is nowhere to be found in this game.  Unlike in Dance Central, where players have the chance to practice the routines, with moves broken down for you step by step, players are just thrown into the dancing with the expectation that you learn while watching.  The only thing that comes remotely close to dance coaching is in Just Create, with the Coach Me mode.

However, Coach Me is a highly deceptive description.  Once you select a song, you find out that this mode is also known as My Choreography – you get to record your dance sequence and share it online with other players that have Just Dance 3.   Yes, you get a trainer on screen, and your silhouette is superimposed next to him/her.  However, there is no breakdown of dance moves, and you don’t get to rewind the choreography to repeat that last step that was too fast for the eyes to follow.  Instead, you’re again expected to learn through watching and doing.

While the lack of true dance coaching may be frustrating, players will quickly realize that the choreography break-down is not really necessary here.  The choreography has some complex moves, yes, but the same moves are repeated throughout the song, allowing you to learn it over time.  If you don’t catch it the first few times, you’re almost guaranteed to have the moves memorized in the third play-through of any given song. If you like dancing to the beat of your own drum, the Just Create mode is perfect for you!  In Freestyle, it allows you to create your own choreography for any given song and then have friends dance to it.  If that’s too hard-core in the creativity department, you can choose Dance Off, which sees you following a coach’s moves, with random intervals where you can create your own steps – all of which is recorded for playback after the routine is completed.

The music selection in Just Dance 3 is sure to please just about everyone, with popular songs from a variety of genres ranging from R&B (hello, Black Eyed Peas) to 80s (Bananarama’s “Venus”) to Pop (Britney Spears and Katie Perry), to a random mish-mash, like Danny Elfman’s “This is Halloween” from The Night Before Christmas.   Whether the songs are for the hip hop, jazz, pop, or theatre enthusiasts, they’re all high-energy, making you want to dance until you drop.

You can browse through the full music selection in the Songs menu, or you have the option to dance by different genres in the Playlist mode.  Here, the categories include R&B Vibes, Pop! Pop!, Dance Mashups – just to name a few.  You also get a chance to dance with your friends in the Duets.  Yet, one small thing that seems to be missing is an actual list of songs within each group.  Initially, I thought that whenever you selected the playlists you had to dance through the entire set, without an option to select the songs.  However, through trial and error, I found that if your hand hovers over the genre title, it’ll give you an audio snippet of a song, cycling through the list; when you select the category during this playback, it’ll act as though you’ve selected the song.

What makes this game spectacular is the musicality of the visuals in conjunction with the choreography.  The graphics consist of a kaleidoscope of colours, lights, and sometimes even billboards, flashing at just the right moments to emphasize a beat.  Juxtaposed with these dazzling hues are the in-game coaches, who are real dancers who are then digitally rendered, looking like something you’d see in a thermal image, except with more detail to clothes and such.  The costumes are also extremely colourful, matching each coach’s style.  For example, the Crazy coach dresses up in outlandish outfits (think boas), while the Jazzy coach wears classy suits that match his smooth moves.

While the graphics keep you entertained, the music keeps your body pumping.  Luckily, the developers at Ubisoft worked out most of the Kinect’s kinks, making the tracking smooth and seamless.  Just Dance 3 is one of few Kinect games that have impressed me, as there’s no need for that irritating calibration.  Kinect tracks you, and it’s almost hyper-aware.  The slightest flick of your wrist will let you choose your mode, and the tracker doesn’t bumble and stutter along while following your every step.   You can jump in and out of the game, and have friends join in at any time, without having any issues.

While gameplay is amazing and keeps you entertained while sweating over your moves, Just Dance 3 packs a few frustrations – most of them navigation-related.  It would have been beneficial if Ubisoft had made their instructions and mini-tutorials a bit clearer, so that I didn’t have to learn through trial and error.  In addition to the song-selection fiasco in the Playlist Mode, I didn’t know that there was a Kinect pause during game-play; until by happenstance, I remembered that in Dance Central all you had to do was hold your right hand out to the side.  Also, for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out that I could toggle between using the controller and the Kinect to make in-game selections.  Once I used the controller, I felt like I was stuck with it – until the game finally cycled through an instructional blurb advising that a button would switch on the Kinect tracking. These simple controls caused a bit of headache, which could’ve been avoided if Ubisoft had just added them into their manual!

Overall, aside from the minor bumps and bruises, Just Dance 3 is an amazing dancing game to add to your collection.  From its easy-to-learn choreography to the eye-popping graphics and hopping soundtrack, it’s sure to provide a great time for all!  So, what’cha waiting for, dynamite?  Go get it!

Just Dance 3 receives a 4.0/5.0

Our Rating
out of 5.0

About This Post

October 21, 2011 - 9:30 am