Review: Just Dance 2016 (PlayStation 4)
- Release Date (NA): October 20, 2015
- Release Date (EU): October 22, 2015
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Developer: Ubisoft
- Genres: Rhythm, Dance
- ESRB Rating: Everyone
- PEGI Rating: Three years and older
- Also For: Nintendo Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Did someone say dance?
It's that time of the year again, when new versions of many a game series is released in anticipation for the winter holiday season. Most of the focus is on the competitive multiplayer and immersive single player games, but every now and then we see a good local party game or two. In the previous generation of consoles, most of the successful party games were released on the Nintendo Wii, but this time around the treatment is more available for all platforms. In come Ubisoft and one of their most successful game series with it's newest version, Just Dance 2016. How will the game fare in today's world and compared to last year's version? Read on!
A test of tracking technology and willpower to keep going
For everyone who has played last year's game, Just Dance 2016 will feel immediately familiar. Every time you start the game, you are asked asked to choose your preferred control method from a list of options: your mobile phone, the PlayStation Camera or the PS Move controller. The game shows your next moves down on the right of the screen and you are scored accordingly. Each of the three controller schemes have their own unique input methods as well as their pros and cons. Unfortunately you can't mix the different styles together during one gaming session, which will result in you having to choose from the three each time you play.
The mobile phone route is similar to last years implementation with versions available for iOS and Android in their respective app stores (sadly still no love for Windows Mobile or other platforms). In general the app works like one would expect: hold the phone in your right hand and move according to the instructions on the screen. The app monitors the movement via your phones sensors, and transmits the data to the console of choice via WiFi. Performance can be a hit or miss in many ways as the scoring can be done just by moving the phone aggressively, but then again, getting the player moving is one of the main goals of the game. Just make sure to secure the phone to your wrist with a strap, as the game's moves are in some cases quite fast from side to side. A bit of a relaxed swish and your phone will be sent flying.
The PlayStation camera was the main reason why I was more interested in the game. The basic functionality is there: the camera tracks you and shows the blob of colour on top of the screen. Last time around with Just Dance 2015 I had quite a positive experience with the camera's movement tracking capability. Partially this is also true for Just Dance 2016, but with a few caveats. On one hand, the camera's tracking logic works well in most conditions with somewhat logical scoring to boot. On the other hand, the game lost the players quite often without any clear reason. The lighting was according to recommendations, playing distances were as suggested, and the camera was calibrated multiple times. The same issue did not happen with Just Dance 2015 for me, but other people around the internet have had similar issues with the previous games so your miles may wary in this case. In this sense, I'm more than disappointed in the engine side development (or the lack of), which has been voiced around by quite a few others.
The final option is the good old PS3-era Move controller. The basic idea is to wiggle the Move controller in your right hand in a similar fashion as the mobile phone option. Contrary to the mobile phone option, the controller is more built to be held in your hands and moved around. On a similar note though, the controller's scoring method is closer to the phone option. As you can't mix the controller input methods, it comes down to whether you already own a bunch of move controllers. If you have some, use them, if you don't, skip it (unless you find a good bargain for them).
As before, the game is divided into different game modes with a lot of extra songs and mixes available after generating enough points in order to unlock the levels. The Dance Party mode is the standard game mode, which is similar to the previous games' co-op and versus modes. In this sense, most gamers will prefer going through this game mode and unlocking the new versions of the songs as they progress in the game. The second option is the Dance Quest mode, which could in a way be seen as the campaign side of the game. Those familiar with racing games, Dance Quest acts as a sort of cup including a bunch of different songs. Each song is rated separately based on your performance and tallied to the total score, which decides the winners. These modes also include bonus points for a singing along in a karaoke fashion, but the PS Camera used for the microphone easily picks up the TVs audio and scores without any input from the player.
As with the previous titles, Just Dance 2016 has its own roster of songs and music videos to choose from. The standard version has some 40 songs to go with, though in many cases you have more than one dance routine to choose from. In this sense, the game has something for everyone, but the default song list seems somehow lacking. For some reason, Ubisoft has included more "funny" songs such as an Angry Birds song into the mix of the standard songs instead of including better songs from the top 40 lists around the world. While I understand this could be because of licensing costs, it's . If this was the only list of songs that were available for the game, I'd be quite worried. Luckily this isn't the case, since the game includes Just Dance Unlimited.
Just Dance Unlimited is a subscription service for Just Dance 2016 and replaces the DLC song packages of previous titles. At the present time, the service includes over 100 songs from artists such as Katy Perry, Ke$ha and Nicki Minaj. For anyone new to the series, this will be a boon as the the track list will feel new with hits from the last few decades. Depending on how many of the previous titles you've played, you will automatically start to recognize songs from the mass of previous titles in the series. As such, I see the series transforming into a subscription service instead of yearly releases with virtually only a new song list as a feature. Currently only a few tracks are completely new in the service, but for the yearly fee of $40 this is somewhat of a bargain for anyone really into dance games.
Just Dance 2016 is a great game for many reasons, but still a dull game for many others. The game doesn't bring much new things to the series, which already has around two dozen releases to date since 2009. The track list is quite meh without the addition of the Unlimited subscription service, but quite good with the service. The game's user interface is greatly improved from last year and is very smooth, but the tracking technology used in the game has its woes and heavily affects gameplay, especially during solo playing. As a party game the game is a blast regardless of how well the technology works, but it's hard to recommend it as a single player game.
TL;DR: Like dancing games or the song list with friends? Buy it. Have the previous version of the game or don't like the song list? No large improvements over the previous generation, so you can pass the game.
+ Great party game (if it works)
+ Stability in-game
+ New track list
+ Just Dance Unlimited boosts the amount of tracks available by quite a bit
- Complete loss of tracking with the PS Camera
- Just Dance Unlimited subscription is quite expensive
- Not that much new to genre from a technology point of view
- Space requirements may be tricky in smaller apartments and rooms.
- Very dull single player experience.
- Unnecessary "funny" tracks taking up part of the track list
The interface is similar to anyone who has played a dance game in the last few years, which works great for the genre. The menu interface and gameplay flow without issue or slowdowns. Sadly navigating the menu is forced to the ps4 controller
The game offers nice gaming for people who want to test out the dancing genre's current state. If dancing is your goal, you will most definitely enjoy yourself with the multiple dance modes available. If you actually want to beat the game's levels with top scores, you may be disappointed in many occasions due to the buggy tracking at times.
You have a nice list of songs available straight away with multiple versions available depending on the game mode. If you want more options, Just Dance Unlimited subscription will keep you occupied for even longer, though with quite a steep price.
out of 10
(not an average)
Just Dance 2016 is a great game for parties, where dance mat style of gaming is not feasible anymore. Not much has changed from last year and the subscription service seems to be the future of the series.