Just Dance has become the karaoke dance equivalent for parties for some time now. And to get some idea of how ubiquitous the series has become, it is noteworthy that this 2019 edition not only is available on PS4, the Nintendo Switch and XBox One, but it is also available in one form or another on the Xbox 360, the WiiU and even the Wii – a console first released 12 years ago. If you want a dance party video game, odds are you have a copy of Just Dance lying somewhere around the house. Just Dance 2019 is another competent, if not similar, edition of the game, and while not offering anything ground-breakingly new, the package feels more complete than ever and within the ‘dance video game’ genre, you are unlikely to find a more feature-packed experience.
I played Just Dance 2018 on the Nintendo Switch, however, for the Just Dance 2019 review, I tried out the PS4 version of the game. Ubisoft really does their best to reach everyone and anyone with this game. Not only are versions available for all consoles, but you do not even need a fancy PlayStation Move or Xbox Kinect controller to get involved; up to 6 players can play at the same time – all using their smartphones. Despite being inclusive, this model for control options does present a small issue.
…depending on what technology and console you have at your disposal, the experiences will feel quite different (and may vary in cost too if you do happen to throw your phone while performing a hand jive) .
While playing on the Nintendo Switch last year I found the Joy-Cons to be very accurate controllers and not only do they track movement really precisely, but they are also strapped to your arm. This time, while playing on the PS4 and with no Move controller, I constantly felt like I was going to fling my strapless smartphone across the room. So it is a small concern – but worth noting. Also, despite the marvellous technology in the palm of your hand, only having one hand being tracked means that this is rather limited when compared to the Xbox Kinect sensors (camera and movement). And so the experiences will feel quite different (and may vary in cost if you do happen to throw your phone while performing a hand jive) depending on what technology and console you have at your disposal.
The Mambo method
The Just Dance 2019 homepage has also been beefed up. During my playthrough, ‘Halloween’ themes and playlists were all the rage and you can expect this type of ‘seasonal’ and event-based dance playlists to pop up during the year. The main Just Dance section now includes 40 new tracks and despite a wide range of music styles and even several new languages being included, I found the collection to be less enjoyable than in previous years. Thankfully, every game includes 1-month’s free access to Ubisoft’s Just Dance Unlimited service. Over 400 songs are available and I found that this collection really does have something for everyone.
The visuals are bright and ‘in-your-face’ with “street artist Chanoir and stop-motion studio Clay Animation” also providing some animated backdrops to the dances. The style is bold and won’t be to everyone’s taste, but in general, they provide fun, usually harmonious and at times comical backgrounds to the dancing. The instructions for the movements are usually quite clear and especially in the easier modes, the movement scoring is quite forgiving.
As usual, songs and dances are ranked in terms of difficulty and you’ll score points by hitting just the right move at just the right time. The more points you rack up the higher your star rating. The higher your star ranking the more Mojo (the in-game currency) you’ll earn and the more songs, difficulties, artwork and avatars you’ll be able to purchase.
The progression feels rather unnecessary as it is mostly cosmetic in nature…
This is where the ‘game-ification’ of Just Dance comes through. If you are into the more competitive side of things, achieving perfect scores is rather challenging and the World Dance Floor mode allows you to compete in online tournaments and receive a world ranking. Logging on at certain times also allows you to work together with people online to defeat ‘bosses’. However, if you are not too bothered about getting ‘perfect’ scores and are playing for the fun of it, the progression feels rather unnecessary as it is mostly cosmetic in nature and while it does help with providing some objectives to aim for, it often feels very easy and formulaic.
Waltz off the weight
As a single-player experience, however, Just Dance 2019 does a really good job at providing a fun way of keeping healthy. A few songs in a row and you’ll quickly find yourself sweating the calories away. You can even activate Sweat Mode and not only will you dance to some high-intensity tunes, but it will also give a basic idea of the calories that you may have burned. It is a small addition, but as a mostly multiplayer game, this feature is a good reason to return to the game.
Also, online the playlists are themed. These themed playlists (like 90s hits or 60s Swing music) are particularly enjoyable and encourage you to spend 15 minutes or more dancing to tracks you are more likely to enjoy, and therefore encourage a bit of a workout.
Happily, the Kids Mode is also included once again, and this provides a more secure way for younger children to manage their gameplay. The specially selected songs and choreographies are sure to make kids happy. And parents… well let me just say it includes the some Disney classics like the wonderful earworm from Frozen: “Let it go…” so after you’ve heard it a few dozen more times I’m sure it will also leave you with some ’emotions’.
Despite the critique above, like the versions before it, where Just Dance 2019 shines above all is as a really fun party game. It is that very fun karaoke-like nature that makes judging this genre within ‘video game’ parameters a little tough. Sure, there is a console and Just Dance tries it’s best to throw in a few game-like elements like the points and unlockables, but in reality, this is a very different video game experience. And because of that it just won’t appeal to everyone. For many, it provides a challenge that their shyness may not let them overcome, and in reality, it just does not scratch that ‘video game’ itch. However, what it does provide is something fun and a lot more active and social than almost any other video game. Because of this, it is also accessible to almost everyone – from very young gamers to fit oldies who have never tried a video game before – everyone will be able to play Just Dance 2019.
Just Dance 2019 shines above all as a really fun party game.
Despite jumping in the Just Dance train a bit late – the first edition I tried was Just Dance 2018 – the dancing game is quite a hit in my home. Not only does it rank up there with my wife’s favourite video games, but even I must admit that I have a lot of fun playing it – especially if you get to play it with friends. In fact, each time we’ve had friends and family over to play the game they’ve enjoyed it so much that they’ve gone out and got a copy of the game for themselves. It’s very much a karaoke experience: wildly nerve-wracking at first, but after everyone has given it a go, you really start to enjoy everyone making a fool out of themselves and even start to think you’ve actually got ‘some moves’.
Channelling the Cha Cha
If you have a previous edition, there isn’t too much new or groundbreaking to force you to get Just Dance 2019. However, the included 1-month free Just Dance Unlimited service provides enough music for almost any taste and with Kids Mode and Sweat mode included too, you’ll find fun on your own or with friends and family. Plus, if you feel like something more competitive, the online World Dance Floor should scratch that itch. All in all, the 2019 edition is the most complete version to date and will be a great addition to your multiplayer/party gaming library and just like a popular pop beat, Just Dance 2019 continues to be a lot of fun, especially in groups.