Now into its third main entry, Ubisoft’s Just Dance series has finally shimmied its way onto PlayStation 3 with Just Dance 3, albeit a couple of months later than Just Dance 3 on Wii and Just Dance 3 on Kinect. Does Ubisoft’s key title do enough to stand out amongst PlayStation Move’s already crowded dance game line-up?
Just Dance is an established concept by this point that should need little introduction. Grasping the Move controller, players follow the on-screen dancing folks’ motions as if looking into a mirror. Every move is judged, with feedback given after each, to add up to a final score. Following the carefully choreographed routines would be difficult without help, so each upcoming move is signalled by a helpful stream of drawings at the bottom of the screen that roughly show what's coming up. Every so often these are confusing, but for the most part the requirements are clear.
Up to four players can pump up the jam simultaneously, either testing each other on the same routine or combining their forces for team dances. These involve synchronised movement, but each player is also thrust into the spotlight for their chance to shine individually at some point during the song, taking on their own choreography separate to others.
Ubisoft has outdone itself with track selection in Just Dance 3, with 53 songs that span the expected pop, rock and dance genres. Katy Perry’s California Gurls is clearly a hot scoop that Ubisoft's happy with, while other big catches include Britney Spears’ Baby One More Time, Daft Punk’s Da Funk, a-ha’s Take On Me and a whole bunch of other hits from Girls Aloud, The Black Eyed Peas, Queen and Janelle Monáe. There’s even the occasional movie track thrown in for good measure; an appearance from The Nightmare Before Christmas’ This Is Halloween surprises and delights.
Each song has been given its own backdrop, often related to the track’s music video, and is displayed in Just Dance’s unique style. Which is to say, everything’s a bit neon, the scenes and dancers painted over so that they look like they’ve rolled out of a nightclub covered in glow sticks. The colour schemes would ordinarily be described as garish, but here it somehow works; it’s party-friendly presentation that fits well with the desired atmosphere.
Just Dance 3 is extremely easy to hop into, whether that’s by selecting songs one at a time or by activating one of several playlists that cater to those in the mood for 80s tracks or pure pop only. Non-stop setlists can be launched within seconds to sort a gathering out for the rest of the evening. Whichever way, each performance is rewarded with Mojo points, provided at least some of your moves are smooth. These total up towards a variety of unlockable extras, from new game modes and songs to additional dance routines. It’s not possible to select what opens up, but it gives constant incentive to continue jiving away. One such extra is Simon Says mode, which challenges players to dance while watching out for directions to stop, shake or spin; failure to comply results in point deductions.
For those feeling adventurous, or a little worse for wear after the traditional festive graze, the Just Sweat aside aims to get everybody healthy. While the standard dances are energetic enough, Just Sweat pulls out aerobic-style routines and seven day workout plans. Every movement is rewarded with Sweat Points here, the workouts essentially asking players to build up a certain amount of points per day for a week by dancing themselves to fitness. The exercise side can even be approached in groups.
PlayStation Move proves an able home for Just Dance 3, monitoring and reading movements fairly accurately. There are times where the recognition feels a little unfair and loose, but usually the mood sweeps players up too much for it to be a significant issue, and there’s never a penalty for a bad move other than a quick cross that swiftly disappears to make way for the next move. The routines are both challenging and easy to get into in equal measure; they’re simplistic enough to learn rapidly with practice even for those with two left feet, yet just difficult enough to remain interesting. For the multi-talented, the lyrics to each song can also be displayed and sang along to through a karaoke option that uses the PlayStation Eye’s in-built microphones.
The user friendly nature is extremely appealing — not just in the routines, or the presentation, but in the little touches. It’s the self-assured flourishes that turn a good dancer into a great one, and Just Dance 3 is no different. The Move button can be tapped at any time to light up an icon next to that controller’s associated avatar/points; players need never ask “which one am I?” again. As well as displaying the verdicts on each move on-screen, one of the game’s great touches is also in its use of PlayStation Move’s colour-changing orb, which continually lights up to reflect performance quality. If it’s red, you’re doing it all wrong; purple, blue and green indicators are very acceptable, though.
The Just Dance series’ PlayStation 3 debut is packed with enough floor-fillers — and even the odd relative obscurity — to keep any music party buzzing until the early hours. Recognition isn't always 100% accurate, but Just Dance 3 exudes enough pure fun through its presentation, track list and accessibility to hide any significant faults. An essential winter warmer for those in need of some Christmas or New Year’s Eve entertainment.