Just Dance 2014 Review (PS4)
Rhythm games aren’t dead, they’ve simply changed over the years from using plastic controllers, to real instruments, to our voices and bodies. Music is an essential part of the human culture and it makes sense that developers constantly try to capture that. While I have played the Rock Bands, the DJ Heroes, and the Rocksmiths of the world, I haven’t ever just… danced.
Let’s get one thing straight: The majority of the songs on Just Dance 2014 are not ones that I would ever put on my iPod. With that said, there is no denying that these tracks are great dance tunes. Any rhythm game is ultimately defined by its track list and how much people actually want to listen to the music contained within. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of at least a few tracks on this game (and likely a great many more). Whether you actively listen to them or not, they’ll get you tapping your toes, and eventually jumping around the room like a fool.
There are two control methods that can be used for Just Dance 2014 while mirroring the choreographed dancer on screen. The first is using the PlayStation 4 Camera, which is not unlike the Kinect, meaning that your body movement is wholly picked up by the camera using the depth sensing capabilities without any peripherals being used at all, aside from a controller to navigate menus. The second method is by using Move controllers which do not require the camera to work, but at that point the game is only tracking the movement of your right hand using gyroscopes, accelerometers, and other such witchcraft. Neither method is perfect, but in my opinion the camera is preferred over just using the Move.
Dancing requires a freedom of one’s own body and having your hand tethered to a controller that you have to worry about limits that freedom. Due to only tracking your hand movement, the accuracy required seems to be quite intense, meaning that the orientation and movements of the Move need to be precisely in line with how the on screen dancer would be holding the Move. It’s a tough sell and some moves that I felt I should have gotten perfect scores on were barely being recognized. In addition, you are constantly aware that your hand is holding onto something and it distracts from the “magic of the dance”, so to speak. The camera, on the other hand, frees you from that peripheral, seems to be more forgiving with its tracking, and adds the fun benefit of getting a short highlight real of your moves at the end of each video that can be shared on social media or Just Dance TV.
The camera isn’t perfect in its tracking either though. Periodically,it would pick up random shapes in the background as “faces” and add them into the dance. Dancers who get too close together can on occasion be confused as one person, swapped with each other, or lost entirely. The choreography doesn’t have you moving around the room a whole lot, but you are going to want a fairly decent amount of space to play, especially as you add more people. The PS4 version supports up to four people, but with my limited space, we could really only test out three comfortably, which worked pretty well most of the time. I would say the caveat to your success with the camera’s tracking would be in the amount of space that you have to play so that the camera can track each individual dancer.
There is a surprising amount of content here too. Each choreography is unique and I never felt like I was just repeating the same basic moves across multiple songs. In addition to the main choreography for each song, you can unlock a variety of different versions of the song using a currency called Mojo that you earn doing various things in the game. The unlockables range from extreme choreography, to Sweat, Battle, and Mash Up versions, and even some versions in which you dance with a chair (which, for the record, is currently the most hilarious video highlight on JDTV, seen here. Mad props to that guy).
The online multiplayer component for Just Dance 2014 is called the World Dance Floor. There is a constantly running tracklist that you can jump into in real time with players around the world. As players earn stars in this mode, they go towards a community total to unlock a new song for everyone, which I think is a pretty cool incentive to hop in and see what’s happening on the dance floor. There are also fun little votes in between songs that team up certain players for a light competitive aspect. Not looking for community, but for a workout instead? Sweat mode has dances that are designed to be workouts. These are set lists that can go for up to 40 minutes to help burn some calories and are more focused on an exercise side of things than they are on a showy dance side of things.
Having not ever played that other Just Dance titles, I can’t compare this one to those, but I can say that Just Dance 2014 is a fun game. Having this in time for the holidays has made entertaining family and friends extremely easy to do, and anything to keep Uncle Herb from telling his horrible jokes for the hundredth time is a win, right? Most people who play aren’t even focused so much on scoring as they are on dancing and having a good time, so on the off chance that the camera screws up, no one ever seemed to care.
Just Dance 2014 isn’t a must have next-gen (current gen?) experience. In fact, it’s available on five consoles, so this is simply Ubisoft’s way of bringing it to an even bigger audience, rather than a utilization of the PS4’s power and capabilities. However, if you have a PS4, the currently underutilized PlayStation 4 Camera, and two or more people, Just Dance 2014 is worth consideration. In fact, if you want to play it alone… don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. I do it all the time! Just Dance is a guilty pleasure that few want to admit they are playing, but that everyone is having fun with, so give in to your heart’s desires and just… dance.