Just Dance 4

Reviewed by Angel Cortes, Posted on 2012-11-02


It has only been a year, almost exactly, since the last Just Dance game came to the HD consoles. Having been born from motion controls on the Wii, it was only natural that this franchise would make its way onto Microsoft's motion-based peripheral, the Kinect. Honestly, it is on the Kinect hardware where the Just Dance franchise seems to fit best. Of course, it really has only been a year since Just Dance 3 came out, and one would be justified in his/her distrust of yearly releases. Does Just Dance 4 have anything worthy to bring to the dance floor?

There are about 44 songs available on the Kinect disc version of the game with more available to download. Popular artists include Christina Aguilera, Carly Rae Jepsen, Maroon 5, Nicky Minaj, Justin Bieber, and Rhianna, just to name a few. As you can tell from that short list, the music in Just Dance 4 is mostly pop songs, although there are a handful of songs that break that mold. A couple of songs are cover versions and some are radio edits. For interested parties, “Gangnam Style” by Korean sensation Psy will be available to download shortly.

Just Dance 4 clearly focuses on getting the player dancing. There are very few steps involved in getting right into a dance routine. You pick a song, select one of four dancers and then you dance. Cues to the next dance move slide in at the bottom of the screen. Your performance is tracked by the Kinect and you are given live feedback on each move you perform. Up to four friends can join you. At the end of each song you are rewarded stars based on your performance. These stars fill up your Mojo bar. The more players that dance with you, the faster your mojo bar fills up. Every time you fill your bar you gain a level and are taken to the Wheel of Gifts. The Wheel of Gifts awards you alternate choreographies, game modes, mash-ups and avatars.

Just Dance 4 Screenshot

Just Dance 4 introduces a battle mode where players can battle the AI or each other. Groups of players can also battle each other in rounds, where the round winners choose the next song and the winner of the most rounds wins the battle. There is a dance mash-up mode that mixes dancers and dance moves to create new choreographies. You can also select Non-Stop Shuffle to play through all of the songs available without interruption. Lastly, all of the songs feature Dance Quest, which is essentially a check-list of challenges like getting five stars or posing perfectly at specific moments.

Just Dance 4’s visual presentation has improved somewhat from the previous version. The dancers are much more detailed, although you still can’t quite make out their faces. You can see their clothes wrinkle and fold as they move. There is more depth to them without sacrificing the cutout neon look completely. Their fabric and hair sway more clearly and their movements generally seem more fluid and organic because of the added detail. The backgrounds are also more detailed and use more depth and perspective. There are plenty more smoke effects, stage light effects and stage platforms than before. The backdrops are also less abstract than before. Unfortunately, the loss of that abstract art aesthetic makes the backdrops less interesting overall.

The audio quality of Just Dance 4 is limited only by your audio setup. Just Dance 4 features in-game Dolby Digital so you can turn it up to dance to rich and crystal clear music. Just Dance 4 has a new theme song that seems to have some audio from the previous theme song mixed in and also features one line of lyrics, “dance.”

Just Dance 4 Screenshot

Just Dance 4 adds up to a ton of dancing but it is not as easy as it seems. The choreography cues tend to be a bit vague. They convey a general motion but you will understand them better once you see a particular step performed. There are no tutorials to learn any of the dance moves or choreography. The only instruction you will find are the cues that tell you what dance move is coming up. There’s no spectator mode in case you just want check out the entire choreography of a song before dancing to it but the game does showcase routines randomly after it has been idle for a while in the menu.

The game’s menus are some of the simplest designs of any game I have played but interacting with them through the Kinect can feel clumsy at times. The motion gestures for the menu in Just Dance 4 are different from the last version. Rather than pointing your arm out at a selection and swiping to confirm, the required motion in Just Dance 4 is more akin to plucking things off the screen. Your gestures are mirrored on-screen by a floating hand but it does not always seem to reflect your motion accurately. I never quite became used to this motion as it felt imprecise overall. Additionally, some parts of the user interface feel less mindful of the clumsiness of the gesture controls. You find yourself making the wrong selection or selecting nothing. Thankfully, the dance portion of Just Dance 4 doesn’t suffer from such clumsiness.

Sweat mode is an aerobic exercise mode that extends the game’s replay value. This mode comprises five exercise classes with names like Cheerleaders Boot Camp and Aerobics In Space. Each class is described in simple terms and is limited to a music genre. The classes are divided in ten, twenty-five, and forty-five minute dance sessions which themselves are structured with warm-up and cool-down periods. Each session has a live scrolling graph showing your effort throughout the workout and a calorie counter. Each class also has a set of quests to complete. There is a Dance Card that tracks the total time you have played the Just Sweat Mode and total calories that you have burned.

Just Dance 4 Screenshot

Predictably, Just Dance 4 makes use of the Kinect’s camera to capture short clips and pictures of your dance moves. These can be remixed and uploaded to Just Dance TV for the whole world to see. Just Dance TV, abbreviated in-game as JDTV, is a portal of sorts where you can see your dance clips, those of your friends or those of total strangers. After each dance routine, Just Dance 4 prompts you with an option to see the clips that Kinect has captured and upload them to JDTV. JDTV is an interesting social space that features silly video clips of Just Dance 4 players but also allows you to peep into the homes of strangers who have opted in to uploading said clips. JDTV is an interesting feature that seems a bit gimmicky. Just Dance 4 and its JDTV feature are not for the timid. Thankfully, you can disable the video capture functionality in the settings menu.

Ubisoft's own achievements/reward system, called Uplay, is included in Just Dance 4 in addition to Xbox Live Achievements and PlayStation Trophies. These achievements award you points that you can later spend on additional content for any other Uplay-enabled Ubisoft game on any platform. There are only four Uplay-based achievements in Just Dance 4 and they are fairly easy to acquire. There are also only four Uplay-based rewards for Just Dance 4. Unfortunately, Uplay does not have a motion-based interface so you will have to switch to the controller to navigate within Uplay and switch back to the Kinect to resume playing Just Dance 4.

Just Dance 4 accomplishes one thing well and that is to get you dancing. There are no convoluted menu options and configurations. You just pick a song and dance. That ease of use comes with a caveat; if you don’t know the moves there will be a learning curve as there is no tutorial. Just Dance 4 is user-friendly but do expect to look plenty silly if you don’t have a clue how to do those dance moves. Just Dance 4 makes for good group entertainment if your friends are into dancing and it can also be used as an exercise tool by an individual.

I do not feel as if this new version of Just Dance really brings much more to the dance floor than the previous version. The gains in this numbered version are small, the music selection represents few genres and there is no option to import the songs from the previous versions. Just Dance 4 is more akin to an expansion than a new game. If you are a fan of the franchise, you will probably enjoy this game just fine.

Reviewed by Angel Cortes