Platform: Xbox 360 (Kinect Required)
Here we go again. The very mention of a new dance game - coming out in the holiday season, no less - is usually enough to make any critic run for the hills. Despite attempting to jazz up the traditional formula with a dazzling art style, the Just Dance series has essentially boiled down to a WarioWare-esque minigame of copying controller motions without ever really needing to move your body at all. However, the Kinect version is entirely, wonderfully different as it uses Microsoft's peripheral to devastating and unexpected advantage.
You're not just flailing a controller around while arbitrarily shuffling about the floor.
You're just dancing.
The tried-and-tested structure of mirroring the actions performed by on-screen avatars is still in place, but Kinect allows you to simply throw your inhibitions (and common decency) to the wind and actively dance right along with the virtual performers. The vast selection of authentic routines, such as the Running Man, Jive Bunny and OTT Air Guitar, are graded depending on how accurately you pull them off, which rewards players for just going for it with as much gusto as possible. The gameplay genuinely makes you feel like you're dancing... because you actually are. I'd have liked Just Dance 3 to deliver some dynamic advice about where you're going wrong (like Your Shape: Fitness Evolved doles out from time to time), but otherwise, the system works incredibly well. Of course, it's difficult to know exactly how accurately Kinect is detecting your finer movements, but it seemed to adequately punish every occasion that I purposefully deviated from the routine. Or just sucked.
The singleplayer mode unlocks new tracks as you increase your Mojo score, which proves to be about as compelling as you could realistically expect from a dance game. You can optionally brush up on your technique in the practice mode, but since you can't technically fail any song, beginners are probably better off just getting involved and putting their weight on it.
But never mind all that, because these games are all about the multiplayer. Ubisoft has somehow managed to convince Kinect to recognise four active players (a major first for the platform), meaning that Be sure to leave plenty of room, though. The new Dance Crew mode provides custom routines that are designed to make each player work together like part of a troupe, with plenty of combined moves and opportunities for individuals to shine throughout the track. It adds an element of genuine cooperation and unbridled hilarity that's been missing from dance games since... well... ever.
For the first time in the series, the Kinect sensor provides a two-way street. Once you've grown tired of the enormous selection of routines, you can use the camera to record your own to play through with friends and, more importantly, embarrass the hell out of you at a later date. The finished article overlays your gyrating figure with the trademark neon mask, effectively making you the star of the show. The inability to properly censor these recorded routines (and hence the ever-present danger of flagrant flopping nakedness) means that we can't share them over Xbox Live, but it's an incredibly powerful and unique feature that helps to elevate the package above being much more than just a recycled Christmas cash cow.
Track lists are incredibly important, and Just Dance 3 certainly packs some big names along with an appropriate amount of pure cheese. The likes of Taio Cruz and The Black Eyed Peas rub shoulders with Bananarama, Kiss (?!!) and Queen, providing something for everyone. Naturally the heady stream of DLC has already started if you're desperate for more choons.
Just Dance 3 delivers the same electric neon eye candy as its predecessors, and the Xbox 360 brings a greater degree of visual clarity and crispness to the proceedings. Performing "big" moves, such as punching the ground during the chorus of "Pump It," becomes much more satisfying with the addition of powerful visual feedback and particle effects. Each player is clearly defined, which makes the multiplayer shenanigans hypnotic rather than chaotic. Unfortunately the same can't be said of the menus, which are an absolute mare to navigate thanks to some twitchy, confusing gestures and overly small icons.
- Excellent Kinect integration
- Raucous four player multiplayer and Dance Crew Mode
- Custom routines are a nifty feature
- Awkward menus and GUI
- Not enough pointers and advice for passing harder routines
- Surely it's possible to make singleplayer interesting?
The Short Version: Four-player multiplayer, a strong setlist and the ability to record your own routines make Just Dance 3 one of the best dance games on the market. Kinect brings a new dimension into the decidedly tired formula and demonstrates how Microsoft's peripheral can refresh even the most cynical cash-in when used properly. It's as shallow as usual, but consider this an essential purchase if you own a Kinect sensor and need to strut.