Another year brings another instalment into Ubisoft’s multiplatform dance juggernaut, predictably entitled Just Dance 2015 this time. The aim of the game is as simple as it gets: you have to replicate the dance moves that the on-screen silhouette dancers perform in time with the music and as accurately as you can. The ethos is simple, but can the game provide enough lasting entertainment with such a basic premise?
A dance game is only as good as the songs packed into it, and thankfully the selection of tunes on offer here is quite varied. With variation, however, comes a problem, as because the developer has tried to cover as much ground as possible – even going so far as to include ‘Let it Go’ from Disney’s Frozen – you’ll only really be interested in a handful of the 40 plus songs on offer on the disc. However, if you’ve got a craving to dance around like a madman to the likes of 'Gangnam Style', then Ubi has you covered; this, and many other individual songs, can be purchased as DLC from the online store.
Once you’ve chosen your song, you’ll be able to select which role in the dance-a-thon you want to take on. Some of the songs only have one dancer, but many have multiple, each with their own moves and stylings. Then the dancing begins. Clutching your PlayStation Move controller in your hand, you’ll be presented with your dancer and any others that there may be in the song, and you’ll need to follow the one that you chose as though they are a mirror image of yourself.
Due to the nature of the PlayStation Move as an input method, it’s not as accurate at picking up your movements as would be ideal. Four times out of five, if you perform a dance move correctly, the game will recognise it, and, providing that you performed it with the same gusto as the dancer on the screen, you’ll get a green flash beneath your score that says ‘perfect’. Unfortunately though, sometimes the game just doesn’t recognise that you’ve done a move with any real clarity, and will give you an ‘OK’ to signify this. Initially, one could be forgiven for thinking that the timing was out or that there wasn’t enough enthusiasm, but after careful investigation, it turns out this appears even if the PlayStation Move is just waggled without any rhythm or mode, so this is the game recognising that you’ve moved, without being able to tell if it was the right movement.
As with last year’s game, you can also opt to play the game using only the PS4 Camera, which works well enough. Players simply walk into view of the camera before starting a song, and are assigned to one of the dancer silhouettes on the track. The game really does struggle to recognise small children, but adults are found with the greatest of ease. In our time testing this mode, we are still not sure if the game offers full body tracking or is simply just tracking the player’s right hand – but we suspect the latter from our experiments. We tested with a few different players of varying rhythmic ability, and we generally found performances would be no better or worse than if the player had used a PlayStation Move controller instead. This version of the game also offers a third control option where you can use a smartphone to track your movements. Simply download the Just Dance 2015 app from the iOS or Android app store and you are in business.
You can also play this game with so-called ‘challengers’. These are real people’s scores, and you can choose to face off against them to see who’s the cock of the walk. Unfortunately, all this really does is highlight just how inept you are at dancing compared to the rest of the world. Of course, sometimes you’ll win, but there’s not much to be gained compared to simply playing the game solo. You could use the online capabilities to dance against other users in real time with traditional matchmaking voting on which song will be next, but this suffers from the same problem: all you can see of your opponents is their score and their avatar, which isn’t enough to make you feel like you’re making a fool of yourself and loving it with an audience. Simply put, these features don’t do enough to enhance gameplay – and you’re probably going to have exactly the same experience dancing by yourself.
The real fun in this game comes from playing it with friends; having four people struggling to keep up with the professionals on screen is not only immensely enjoyable to be a part of, but also incredibly entertaining to watch. Many people will be fairly sheepish to begin with, but after a while, everyone will have realised that they look no stupider than anyone else and really get into the groove. Sweaty brows, giggling, and accidental or friendly slaps on the bum all boil down to good, clean fun that many individuals won’t have experienced since they were a child. An evening in with a few friends all prancing around to the sounds of ‘Walk This Way’ by Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C. is difficult to top.
At the end of each dance, you can easily share your coolest dance moments recorded by the PS4 Camera using the Autodance feature in the game. Autodance uses footage of you playing the game and creates short, funny, shareable mini videos. This is automatically generated while you are dancing, so sharing with the Just Dance community or your Facebook friends can be done in an instant. The most popular Autodances based on community votes will be displayed for the Just Dance community to gawk at, so make sure that you have tidied up your living room before you strut your funky stuff.
You can also choose to dance to songs by watching the instruction of real people as opposed to motion-captured sprites in the new Community Remix mode. It’s a nice addition to see real people involved, but at the end of the day, you’re still doing the same dance moves to the same song you were in the standard mode, so there’s not an awful lot to gain in this mode.
Overall, Just Dance 2015 is much like its predecessors, but in the struggle to do something ‘new’ with the game, Ubisoft has added a lot of features that are not really worth bothering with. Luckily, these don’t interfere with your enjoyment of the very entertaining main game, and as long as you’ve got some good friends and enough self-confidence, this title could well give you the licence to be the dancing buffoon that you've always wanted to be.