Review: Just Dance 2016, the latest from the series that seems to have lost its groove

Push the sofa back, you've got some muscles to pull

Just Dance sees itself subject to more than a few unkind words. Sure, we’re never all that excited to see another installment, I mean, it’s not often you ask someone what they’re most excited about at the next Ubisoft conference and have them reply “Just Dance, I’m a huge fan.” But when you take these games for what they are they really don’t deserve all the flack they get. I can think of more games than Just Dance that should raise ire for more serious matters than just being harmless good fun.

Because that’s the thing about Just Dance, it’s one of the most inoffensive game franchises on the market; it tells you in its title exactly what it wants you to do. If you can gather enough people together, either your friends with a few drinks, or even some excitable kids, you’ll probably be able to pass your time happily enough with this latest instalment. In fact, there are some new features in this game that actually make it feel like an effort has been made to refresh a series that’s more than 15 games in. I’m going to call that commendable, even if it’s not entirely effective.

One of the most notable things is that in Just Dance 2016, there are more ways to dance than ever. No playstation camera? Use the move controllers. No move controllers? Use your smartphone. There’s no escaping the dance. None. I made use of the smartphone app, and I’m happy to say it works quite well. There are some annoying inconsistencies with the scoring when it doesn’t quite register what you’re doing with your legs and perhaps gives too many points but at the very least it makes the game more inclusive, bringing in up to six players with minimal faffing, thanks to not needing the camera or the move controllers you’ve probably thrown in a drawer at some point and forgotten about.

Some new modes have been thrown into Just Dance 2016, and others have been modified as well. Some of them are more enjoyable than others.

Showtime mode is a nice idea that lets you piece together a music video of sorts, featuring you dancing and singing to a song selection of your choice that you can then share on Facebook or to the Just Dance community on JDTV. I never shared mine because I do enough embarrassing things as it is, but it’s nice to watch these things back, as short as they are.

Dance Party is the mode that let’s you play solo or co-op to the song of your choosing and it’s probably the one you’ll use most often when friends and family come to visit.

One mode that could be a reasonably viable option for solo play is Sweat and Playlists which allows you to customise playlists and treat your dancing as a workout. The game tells you how many calories you’re burning, but how accurate this is I’m not entirely sure. It is, however, a pretty fun way to feel like you’re making an effort to get fit.

Dance Quest is a notable addition but not really for good reasons. In this mode players face off against AI in a round of three songs selected by the game, fighting for points to win. It feels like a pretty pointless mode; I can’t really see myself turning Just Dance on to compete against AI characters at songs I haven’t even picked when I could just go into dance party and do what I want. It just seems like an empty attempt to pad out the game.

It’s nice to see an attempt to spruce up the series a little with these new additions, but to be honest, it might be better to just not release a game every year and saturate your own market – it would make new elements easier to appreciate.

Now, probably the most important part of any music-based game: the songs. Honestly? They fall a little flat. There are definitely some good ones in there, but there are also some songs that I haven’t danced to since school discos, and frankly never wanted to tap even a single toe to again. Songs like “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas. I mean, what place does that song have on anything that dares to claim it’s been made for the year 2016? There are still some good and more recent top 40 tracks to be had in the game, but it’s more than a little annoying to see more than a few that just seemed too old to be there.

Outside of the included songs there is the option to purchase more songs at a price (I promise, it’s not your soul) with the new Just Dance Unlimited service. There were 150 songs initially with more to be added regularly, many of them more enjoyable and more modern than the ones that come included with the game. Just Dance Unlimited is a subscription service, though, so you can’t buy the songs individually but you can pay £32.99 for a year of access (actually, maybe I would rather give my soul). You can take less of a commitment and sign up for one month or three months instead, too. One problem with this service is that the songs are being streamed so it can sometimes feel like you’re not really getting your money’s worth when you’re facing buffering issues.

Overall, Just Dance 2016 is inoffensive fun. If you can gather your friends or your family around this holiday season, have a few drinks, and be willing to make complete tits of yourselves you’re guaranteed to have a great time, particularly with the ease of using smartphones as controllers. That said, it’s clear the franchise is flagging a little with new modes that just don’t add much and on-disc song selections that fall flatter than me trying to moon walk. I can see the Just Dance Unlimited service replacing the physical releases of the Just Dance series in the end, it just makes more sense. Just Dance 2016’s core gameplay remains reasonably sound, and although it doesn’t get me quite as excited as plug-in dance mats did, it’s definitely a great social experience and it will get a smile out of you.

Just Dance 2016 is available now on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii, and Wii U. Our review was done using a PS4 copy of the game provided by Ubisoft.

Main Image via Ubisoft.