Alongside the likes of FIFA and Call of Duty, one of the staple videogame releases for November is a new entry in the Just Dance franchise, and Just Dance 2021 delivers exactly that. This is the first time the game is coming out for next gen systems as well, but we’re taking a look on a PS4.
Last year was a bit of an anniversary release for the franchise, with some of the most popular tracks from its first 10 years included in a fun trip down memory lane. I wasn’t expecting any big innovations in gameplay, so I was curious to see how the new edition was going to turn out and how it was going to hold up in 2020. The latter may seem like a weird comment, but party games (and I consider Just Dance to be one) and 2020 aren’t a great combination.
One thing I immediately look for with every Just Dance release is the tracklist – which has consistently been a mix of older and newer songs. This year’s edition veers more towards this year’s hits than Just Dance 2020 did, with over half of the game’s 40 tracks being less than two years old. Even though I generally prefer them, having fewer classics on the tracklist isn’t too big of an issue, but the fact that a lot of them aren’t the original recordings doesn’t help. “In The Navy” should be by the Village People and not by the Sunlight Shakers, and The Girly Team isn’t Britney Spears. I’m assuming this is a license thing, but when so many karaoke games feature classic tracks with their original artists it stands out when Just Dance does not.
The gameplay itself is as addictive and familiar as ever – you still follow the dancers on screen in your best attempts at copying their routine. Each song has its own routine, and they’re all marked in terms of how challenging they are to perform. When you’re not the one dancing, you can also see that each dance is visually well realized, with a lot of detail happening in the background and between the various on-screen dancers. Of course, it’s easy to miss this because you’ll be busy watching a friend or loved one make a fool of him/herself – or doing absolutely great, of course.
The look and feel of the menu interface is nearly identical to last year’s, with the exception of an option to create custom playlists for yourself, picking from the included songs. There are eight kid-friendly options that are more forgiving as well, so if you have a few little ones running around that’s a great way to keep them occupied for a bit. Camera-only tracking still doesn’t work great with kids though, and obviously it’s not a stellar idea to give them phones to hold so those can be tracked as they flail their arms around. Move controllers (with a cord) are a better option there.
As with previous games, Just Dance 2021 includes a month of free access to Ubisoft’s Just Dance Unlimited service, which boosts the number of available songs up by quite a lot. If you’re not planning on subscribing, plan on playing a lot during that first month – it’s a great way to make good use of that custom playlist feature as well.
With few new features, you’d be picking this one up for the new tracklist. If the included songs by Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez and Justin Timberlake don’t strike your fancy and you already have Just Dance 2020, you’re probably better off getting a full year subscription to the Unlimited service for a year, which is roughly half the price of the new standalone game. But hey, then you don’t get the awesome “Without Me” by Eminem or the 90s classic “Bailando” by Paradisio – and those two are original recordings.