Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Just Dance - A Review For Reluctant Hardcore Gamers

Here is my latest attempt to sell hardcore gamers on the merits of Ubisoft's Just Dance on Nintendo Wii, as originally shared on the Digital Press forums:

My go-to Nintendo Wii game these days? Just Dance. Now I know this game is hated by the "hardcore" gaming sites, but bear with me here. Just Dance is an excellent game. The songs are widely varied, covering the '60s to today, and everything from Surfing Bird and The Beach Boys to '70s disco, '80s pop, '90s rock, and modern pop tunes from Gorillaz to Fat Boy Slim to Brittney (yeah, I know). And they've got MC Hammer - and the dancer wears the Hammer Pants. The dancers wear a lot of goofy period costumes, in fact, keeping everything tongue-in-cheek and fun.

Just Dance is a classic arcade game at its core. You hold the Wiimote in your right hand and follow the dancer on-screen. The scoring is based on controller momentum, and keeping the beat. The game is actually quite sneaky. Sometimes it judges your hitting the beat, sometime it judges your final pose, sometimes it judges your movement towards the pose. Sometimes it even checks to see if you're standing still. It's more subtle and varied than Dance Dance Revolution, taking advantage of the motion controls.

The scoring system is quite strict, but you can score, and more importantly, you can learn. You'll get a lof of X's early on, but you will turn those numbers around very quickly if you're paying attention. As I've said, the game judges velocity and momentum. If you're not scoring moves, be patient, follow the dancer carefully, and slow down. If I can do this, you can do this.

I hope this isn't rambling. I just wanted to help communicate how Just Dance works to some genuine gamers. This is THE exercise and party game of the season. I think this is the next step beyond the older rhythm games like DDR and Guitar Hero, which challenges you to press buttons. This is more involving, more three-dimensional, and I think it opens the door for real improvisation, the way Wii Music opens up improvisation and breaks the Guitar Hero mold.

I'm not demanding that you love this game, run out to the store, and score a pair of Hammer Pants.  I'm not asking you to give up your XBox 360 games.  The world is big enough for Modern Warfare 2 and Just Dance.  I'm asking you to give this game a fair chance.  If you look deeply, you'll discover that Just Dance isn't alien at all; it's an arcade game with modern controls.  And you might even enjoy yourself.

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