The train that is Ubisoft’s Just Dance franchise keeps on chugging, as we’re now up to the seventh entry in the main series with Just Dance 2016. The accessible gameplay, multiplayer and party appeal, and tracklists of hits have all certainly contributed to Just Dance‘s continued success, but it’s certainly possible that longtime fans are wanting something new from future entries.
Whether or not the numerous additions in Just Dance 2016 will appeal to players is hard to say, but there’s no denying that the core gameplay still hasn’t seen any real reinvention. Still, there are some novel ideas contained in some of the new features that could potentially help extend the game’s replay value for many, and it’s still enjoyable as ever to dance and rack up stars. Much like Assassin’s Creed, the annualization of the Just Dance series still means little in the way of true innovation, but there are still some interesting ideas that fans will want to check out.
The core gameplay works like any other Just Dance game, with a silhouetted onscreen figure pulling off various moves to the tune of various pop hits. With the Xbox One version of the game, players make use of the Kinect sensor to mirror the dancer’s moves, with a scrolling list of poses at the bottom right indicating what to do next. The close you are to exactly imitating a move, the more points you’ll get, which feed into a five-star rating system.
The main mode, Dance Party, allows you to freely choose from any song in the game with anywhere from one to six players. While the traditional competitive mode remains, a new addition allows you to work together to earn points. Another way to experience the soundtrack is the Dance Quest mode, which has players take on CPU opponents in sets of preset songs, rewarding winners with unlockable avatars for their profile. Finally, there’s Sweat & Playlists, which keeps track of how many calories players burn. An in-game currency called Mojo can also be earned by gaining stars in both modes, and can be spent to unlock more avatars and alternate routines for certain songs.
Other new features incorporate more of an online community-based aspect. The World Video Challenge mode allows players to upload their scores for certain songs online, allowing other people to try and top them. JDTV is a more simple mode that allows players to upload video recordings of their own dances for others to view. Finally, there’s Showtime, which functions similarly to JDTV, but instead has you dance and sing however you want to a selection of songs, with various edits and effects added automatically before they’re uploaded.
The last big draw is Just Dance Unlimited, an optional and subscription-based streaming service that provides members access to a large library of songs from earlier entries. It will probably serve more purpose for newcomers to the series than anyone else, but it’s still a nice extra. Finally, for players without a Kinect or other motion-sensing device, a companion app can turn any smartphone into a compatible sensor.
On Xbox One, the Kinect performed generally well in accurately tracking my movements, though there were still moments where I thought I had a move down and didn’t get scored for them at all. Playing many of the routines in single-player can still feel a bit cumbersome when you get to routines that incorporate more than one dancer. In fact, one song I played had a move for my character that was straight-up impossible to pull off alone, since it required two other dancers picking me up. It would definitely be nice if Ubisoft incorporated alternate solo routines for every song in the future.
The tracklist has a heavy focus on modern singers and groups, such as Meghan Trainor, Demi Lovato and Calvin Harris, but also has some more quirky additions, such as Hatsune Miku, songs from Grease and The Little Mermaid, and even an Angry Birds remix, complete with dancers in bulky bird costumes that result in a less-complex routine. There are still a few older choices, such as an Earth, Wind & Fire song, but this list is definitely appealing more to younger generations. Obviously, this means opinions on the overall soundtrack come down to personal tastes, and while I discovered some good songs I’d never heard, I found a fair amount of duds as well, though many of those still remain fun to dance to.
The community-based additions are novel for a bit, but I still found the main draw to be simply playing songs the traditional Just Dance way in both the Dance Party and Dance Quest modes. The Unlimited service also came off as a treasure trove of additional dances to discover. The formula has been set in stone for a while now, but it still generally works.
For players who aren’t interested in the new community features, Just Dance 2016 won’t feel like much of a step forward for the series. For those who just want to keep dancing and are heavily into modern mainstream music, there’s still a lot to enjoy. For newcomers with little experience, the Unlimited service may be the cheapest way to experience a lot of the best earlier songs from the series as well. It may feel routine in many ways, but the series still feels a ways off from truly losing its luster.
This review is based on the Xbox One version, which was provided to us.
Just Dance 2016 provides little in the way of innovation for the long-running series, but the core gameplay still remains as solid as before.