Why should adults should get all the fun? Ubisoft’s Just Dance franchise has been selling like the X-Factor winner’s single at Christmas since its first days on Wii, becoming one of the system’s biggest third party sellers in the process. The series has now spread across multiple formats, and with the French publisher’s musical output now encompassing the likes of Michael Jackson: The Experience and The Black-Eyed Peas Experience on Kinect it's also deemed it a worthy time to cater to some miniature dancing shoes in spin-off Just Dance Kids (known in America as Just Dance Kids 2).
Just Dance Kids’ 40-strong tracklist is not completely filled with the chart-topping tunes found in the mainline titles for the most part, instead delivering a variety of songs that speak directly to the intended audience. While some hits do make it in, such as Willow Smith’s Whip Your Hair, there are also remixed nursery rhymes, television and movie favourites and even the odd season-appropriate festive piece. Ubisoft has been careful to make the game accessible for children of any age or skill level, allowing the song list to be filtered for younger or older players, or so that it only displays the easier or harder offerings.
Though the modes are few, they’re targeted well and don’t feel too restricted thanks to the breadth of music on offer, and all accommodate up to four players. There’s the standard mode where dancers compete for the most points, or team high score, in which points are combined and bonuses are awarded for simultaneous success. Freeze & Shake is a more abstract mode that cribs from musical statues, telling participants to stop still at a second’s notice or challenging them to shake the Move controller like a displayed instrument at random points throughout the dance.
The final alternative is the medley mode, which plays through short segments of multiple songs in quick succession, players having to adapt to new songs regularly. There are more medleys than you would expect included — 20 — categorised into gender and age groups as well as thematically, so players who only want to jig to German jingles are covered. Medleys lose their effect when the song transitions are not smooth, however, and here they are marred by unseemly pauses between tracks that ruin the mode.
Just Dance Kids’ routines have been choreographed well, providing enough challenge to prevent players from getting bored but also usually only including uncomplicated moves that won't frustrate youngsters; they generally flow well and the recognition never proves to be a problem. Some very talented youngsters tippy-tap away on-screen in a stark contrast to the usual stylised Just Dance games, making for a more colourful and friendly approach. Lyrics also display at all times, so there’s plenty of opportunity for a sing-song.
Non-stop party shuffle and playlist functions prove helpful in setting up lengthy sessions. The former allows players to set an amount of time for the dance-fest to continue uninterrupted, and also to specify which types of songs and mode are played. Up to ten playlists of ten songs can be created to store favourites for easy access, and there are plenty of playlists that follow the same pattern as the medley options pre-loaded.
While it’s all outward-facing fun for the kids, with few options to speak of, parents can access extra information behind the scenes. The play tracker keeps count of the amount of time played and estimated calories burnt during play, while the most popular songs can be found through the progress pane; helpful for pre-planning playlists. Lyrics, move indicators and animations can also be switched off here.
Just Dance Kids does a great job of playing to its audience, with a host of songs and dance routines that will appeal without frustrating. Ubisoft has ensured that the game is constructed to be as friendly as possible to both children and parents, simplifying the dance series without downgrading its quality.