Whilst I have no problem listening to/watching/reading various guilty pleasures (as can be seen by the alarmingly large quantity of Nick Hornby novels on my bookshelf), gaming is a very different beast. Even when I remove the mantle of “serious game critic,” I’ll often still turn my nose up at my non-gaming friends’ attempts to coerce me into a “fun night of Singstar.” This isn’t a good thing of course, with various accusations of gaming snobbery being levelled at me regularly by my cohorts, but regardless, it had to come to an end so that I could review Just Dance 3. Putting on the silly hat, I delved into the abyss of the motion controlled dance game and, once I managed to get over my own ego, I actually had fun.
Just Dance 3, as the name implies, has you waggling your Wii remote around in a manner that unacquainted individuals may believe is dancing. You follow various diagrams and an on-screen performer to mimic the set dance routines, with points being awarded for accurate movements. My usual problem with this particular genre is the inability to fully understand a complex dance routine on your first attempt at a particular track, a problem not shared with more simple button based rhythm action games. JD3 is surprisingly good at informing you of what’s coming next however, rather unlike the myriad complexities of Xbox 360 competitor Dance Central. An element of this is how repetitive and basic some of the choreography is. Whilst dance enthusiasts may see this as a criticism, for the slightly inebriated party gamer, it is actually a positive. Just Dance winds up doing what it says on the tin, successfully allowing people to get involved with a mild degree of success without prior knowledge of the track. The basic mechanics are accessible enough for anyone to get into, though I’m still questioning exactly how accurate the motion detection truly is. It would be all too easy to rack up points just by waggling the wiimote randomly, but such in depth analysis sullies the spirit of Just Dance. This is a game designed for cheap thrills, but it delivers them fairly well provided you play by the rules.
Though the game is set up so that even the least musically knowledgeable of us can flail our limbs randomly, the likelihood is that you’ll know at least some of the songs on offer. The tracks offer solo, duet and group choreography types, and the songs cover a wide array of styles. There’s plenty of modern hits, but a few surprises crept in that really helped even an old soul like myself get into the proverbial swing of things. No one can resist dancing to A-ha, and that’s a fact. The inclusion of Lenny Kravitz and a song from the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack also cements the set-list as one of the most eclectic in any music game. There’s even a How I Met Your Mother reference in the form of a Robin Sparkles track! Now I’ve seen everything.
All dances are performed against a themed backdrop that reflects the song you chose. Some of the backgrounds offer… interesting interpretations of the source material, but they normally work well enough with the neon dancing figure to give Just Dance 3 some visual clout. The backdrops are a little lacking in movements and variety as opposed to other games in the genre, but it all looks shiny and pleasant enough.
With over forty tracks comprising the set list, Just Dance 3 offers a fair amount of content for such a low price. There are a few unlocks here and there as well, though it must be said that the game offers no real sense of progression. Songs and playlists are ranked in terms of technical and physical difficulty, but working your way through them is the only sense of moving forward Just Dance 3 has to offer. That said, if you’re playing it properly, you’re probably too drunk by this point to actually notice. Once you and your friends get bored of the on disc songs, there are downloadable tracks available as well. Being on the Wii, it must be said that they retail at a questionable price, but DLC on a Nintendo console is novel enough to be a point of celebration.
Overall you have a title that, though possibly lacking in terms of depth and content on closer inspection, stands up really well under minimal scrutiny. Whilst I’m sure this undermines the point of what game criticism is all about, JD3 isn’t a game that is designed for the seriously discerning gamer. For someone who just wants to get a little steamed and act like a mug in front of their TV with some friends, JD3 is a fun way to do so. Just don’t go expecting too much from the experience and you’ll find that Just Dance is as accessible and enjoyable as it is humorous.
The full track list for Just Dance 3 is:
This game was reviewed on the Wii.
Varied list of songs, Plenty of tracks to dance too, Smooth visuals, New tracks to download, Fun party modes, Well planned dance routines
Sometimes sketchy motion detection, Lack of progression, Backgrounds lack variety, No fun alone
Arguably the most polished of the pro-waggle dance genre, Just Dance returns with a varied enough set-list and extreme enough party modes to offer an accessible multiplayer romp