One of the few motion gaming based franchises still active, Just Dance returns with a 2017 edition. We review the PS4 version this time, after having played with its Kinect cousins for years.
Dance games have seen a similar evolution as rhythm-based titles like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. They were all the rage a few years ago and publishers couldn’t pump out new releases fast enough. Last year’s Guitar Hero and Rock Band entries didn’t perform as well though, and Just Dance is just about the only dance franchise left these days. Luckily, for fans of the genre, Ubisoft has just come out with a 2017 edition for the game.
At its core, Just Dance 2017 is exactly the same game as the previous ones in the series, but with a different soundtrack. That’s selling the game short though, since there are a few innovations that have been introduced since we first played Just Dance, and they’re worth pointing out.
One of those innovations is in how the game is controlled. Earlier titles saw you waving a motion controller around and/or being tracked by a camera, depending on the platform you were playing on. Now that motion gaming isn’t the hit that it was a few years ago, purchasing a camera or motion controller doesn’t feel as appealing to gamers anymore – and buying one just for one new game is excessive. Just Dance 2017 realizes this, and offers gamers the chance to connect their smartphone to the game to serve as a motion controller (using wi-fi).
It’s a great move that lowers the entry barrier for people interested in the game, and it works surprisingly well. It is, however, not a proper alternative for the real deal – in the case of the PS4 version, the combination of a Playstation Eye camera and a few move controllers. Tracking seems more accurate, and it’s more fun to see yourself as well. So if you have them, use them! If you don’t, then a smartphone will offer you a nice casual alternative – and one that’s a lot more forgiving since it only tracks a single hand.
With core gameplay that’s as familiar as ever, the soundtrack has to be a big draw. Just Dance 2017 emphasizes recent hits, with very few classics included. One exception is Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Know”, and everything else that is pre-2000 uses a cover band version – which is a real shame to me but that might be down to personal preference. Last Christmas should have been done by Wham, not the Santa Clones – and Ultraclub 90 and the Equinox Stars aren’t Haddaway and Earth, Wind and Fire. If you’re interested in the classics, then this probably isn’t the compilation for you. If you’re more into present day hits, then you’ll be happy to know that there’s a good amount of songs from 2015 and 2016 present, as those two years make up about two thirds of the tracklist.
Want more juice out of your game? Then there’s Just Dance Unlimited, which is a subscription-based service that gives you access to hundreds of sounds that were in previous Just Dance games or unique to the service. It’s a great way to alleviate the shortcomings of the included tracklist, as experienced through personal taste – but it’s also content that’s not actually included with the game itself. Discussing the game with others, the soundtrack was a reason for people to not be interested in the game – while the content in Just Dance Unlimited would have been. Unfortunately, you can’t have one without the other – which is Just Dance 2017’s big dilemma.
Just Dance 2017 is good fun, assuming you and your friends click with the songs included. Ubisoft would do well to change their business model up slightly, offering a better fusion between their digital service and their disc-based games. Giving buyers of the disc version a DLC code for five or ten songs from the library might not just increase game sales, it may even serve as a teaser for subscriptions to the full thing. Without something like that, Just Dance 2017 is hit and miss.