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Just Dance 2


The best workout the Wii's ever offered
Just Dance was the epitome of what the Wii's motion controls allowed gaming to become, where you could just move around and play the game (as the Kinect looks to expand upon on the XBox 360.) The reaction from Wii owners was overwhelmingly positive, moving over 4 million copies of the game, while the reaction from the gaming press was rather negative, viewing it as yet another thin casual title for the Wii without any of depth or features that would make it a quality game. It was followed by a Broadway spin-off, called Dance on Broadway, and now a legitimate sequel, Just Dance 2, which gives the entire concept a polish and a new line-up of 44 songs.

Gameplay:

Some quick disclosures: I don't like to dance, I don't believe I'm very good at it and I'm certainly not in good shape. I have a bit of rhythm, I have higher than average reaction speed and I'm mildly physically coordinated after years as a competitive athlete. As a result of these attributes, I am somewhere on the fringes of the audience for the Just Dance franchise. Sure, I'm a big fan of rhythm games, like Rock Band and Guitar Hero but dance is just not in my wheelhouse. Or rather, it wasn't before I played Just Dance 2. It's funny what busting out some funky '80s dancing to Wham! will do to a man.

just dance 2 danceoff

The concept is so simple, but rather hard to actually do. Hold the Wii-mote and mimic the dancers on-screen. That's it. The problem is, the dances are fast-paced and involved, and though each song has maybe 4-7 repeated moves, they are constantly changing. Thus, you must practice to get any good at them. For someone who's picked up a song in Guitar Hero and frequently scored a near-perfect run the first time, this can be a somewhat frustrating experience. At the same time, the challenge is welcome, because just flailing your body in the hopes to approximating the dances is completely unfulfilling (though, the liberal scoring and the lack of failing out makes it fun for little ones (until the kids version comes out in November.)) When you actually get a dance sequence down though, for someone who wouldn't venture into a dance club (but secretly harbors a dream of shaking what their mama gave them), it has nearly the same wish-fulfillment value as pounding out your favorite band's songs on the drums in Rock Band. That is, when the dances work. Sorry to say but, the Mexican gunman dance for "Viva Las Vegas" and the Devil Chick stomping on "Sympathy for the Devil" feel more like goofy wedding-DJ-forced novelties than genuine dance sequences.

The line-up of songs is naturally going to be the biggest attraction for a game like this, and the first game's 32 tracks were decidedly less than impressive, mixing novelty songs and guilty pleasures with some out-there choices ("Acceptable in the '80s"?) This time out, the line-up is much stronger throughout, with 12 more songs to boot, including a lot of high-energy tracks and more recognizable acts, not to mention a lot of fun stuff to dance to, like Junior Senior's "Move Your Feet," The Ting Tings' "That's Not My Name," Wham!'s "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" and Ke$ha's "TikTok." There's a good deal of variety as well, with a Bollywood-style song, an Elvis track and Quincy Jones' "Soul Bossa Nova," best known from Austin Powers. There are definitely some head-scratchers (who would of thought of Vampire Weekend for a dance game?) but overall, you'll probably want to try every song once before settling into your favorites, if only to see how the song was interpreted in dance and visuals (which is where Vampire Weekend and your hipster stand-in make sense.)

There's no reason you can't just play on your own and have a good deal of fun, or use the Just Sweat mode to set up a dance workout routine, complete with a supposed calorie counter. In fact, I've never felt so worn-out from a video game before as I did after completing the Beastie Boys' "Body Movin'", followed by Outkast's "Hey Ya!," which resulted in quite a bit of legitimate sweating. But there are a few additional game modes to make it a group activity, starting with the straight-up Quickplay mode, where up to four players can dance to the same song competitively at the same time. Obviously, this requires a good deal of room to avoid inadvertently promoting a capoeira fight. Dance Battle allows up to eight players to face off as teams in dance minigames, including your standard dances, Duets, Simon Says, Medley, and Race. Duets are probably where the game's biggest innovations lay (and again, where Vampire Weekend shines.) If you ever wanted to compete on Dancing with the Stars, this is probably as close as you're going to get, with over-the-top pairs choreography that will let your inner Kate Gosselin soar. The other versions add some competitive juice to team play, but they don't change the actual gameplay much, outside of the awkward addition of claps, spins and pauses that Simon Says provides. To really enjoy multi-player modes here you have to probably be really good and care a lot or really bad and not care at all.

just dance 2 girl dancing

Here's the full track list, with the most enjoyable tracks in bold:
  • Avril Lavigne - "Girlfriend"
  • Bangles - "Walk Like An Egyptian"
  • Beastie Boys - "Body Movin'
  • Benny Benassi presents "Satisfaction"
  • Blondie - "Call Me"
  • Bollywood - "Katti Kalandal"
  • Boney M. - "Rasputin"
  • Charleston - "Mugsy Baloney"
  • Cher - "The Shoop Shoop Song
  • Digitalism - "Idealistic"
  • Donna Summer - "Hot Stuff"
  • Elvis Presley - "Viva Las Vegas"
  • Fatboy Slim - "Rockafeller Skank"
  • Franz Ferdinand - "Take Me Out"
  • Harry Belafonte - "Jump In The Line"
  • Ike & Tina Turner - "Proud Mary"
  • James Brown - "I Got You (I Feel Good)"
  • Jamiroquai - "Cosmic Girl"
  • Junior Senior - "Move Your Feet"
  • Justice - "D.A.N.C.E."
  • Ke$ha - "TiK ToK"
  • Mardi Gras - "Iko Iko"
  • Marine Band - "Sway (Quien Sera)"
  • MIKA - "Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)"
  • Outkast - "Hey Ya!"
  • Quincy Jones - "Soul Bossa Nova"
  • Reggaeton - "Baby Girl"
  • Rihanna - "S.O.S."
  • Snap! - "The Power"
  • Sorcerer - "Dagomba"
  • Studio Allstars - "Jump"
  • Studio Musicians - "Crazy In Love"
  • Studio Musicians - "Jungle Boogie"
  • Supergrass - "Alright"
  • The Frighteners - "Monster Mash"
  • The Hit Crew - "Holiday"
  • The Hit Crew - "Toxic"
  • The Jackson 5 - "I Want You Back"
  • The Pussycat Dolls - "When I Grow Up"
  • The Rolling Stones - "Sympathy For The Devil
  • The Ting Tings - "That's Not My Name"
  • The Weather Girls - "It's Raining Men"
  • Vampire Weekend - "A-Punk"
  • Wham! - "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go"

Online Play

There's no online play available in the game, but there is an online store, which is a big step up from the previous release. There are only a few songs currently in the store, including "Fireworks" by Katy Perry, which is a free download. It's a smart move on Ubisoft's part to get people into the store and try it out.

Controls

It doesn't get much simpler than the controls for Just Dance 2, as all you need to do is hold the Wii-mote in your hand, and follow the movements of the dancer on the screen. That said, it will take practice to get good at this game, and you will need to have some rhythm and quick reaction speed to do the dances correctly. There's a small indicator of what's coming up, but for more complex moves, they will only be warnings, not guides. The Wii's recognition of your moves is good but not great, considering it only has the Wii-mote to use for judging. This is good and bad, as frequently it seems you've done things correctly, and it won't register, but at the same time, there's some leniency for less agile players and little ones. Overall, it didn't feel like the game was hampered by the controls.

One can't help to think though that using two Wii-motes could have made it tougher and more engaging, or if the Xbox Kinect really works, the ability to capture your entire movement, versus just tracking the Wii-mote, could take this game to another level.

just dance 2 danceoff

Achievements

Unless you consider the calories counter in Just Sweat mode an achievement, there are none to be had.

Graphics

Compare Just Dance and its follow-up and there really are no comparisons. Everything has been given a tune-up, from the excellently animated neon-flavored dancing avatars to the backgrounds to the head-up display. They even added an excellent little touch by coloring in the hand you hold the Wii-mote in to make it even clearer. Take a look at the presentation on The Ting Tings' "That's Not My Name," with a constantly changing color scheme on the dancer and an active background that goes with the song, and try to find anything in the previous version that's even remotely close. There's a whole lot going on while you're dancing, including the upcoming moves display, the score ball, lyrics to the song and your dancer, but it's pretty cleanly separated, letting you take it all in relatively easily. The only two things that are at all bothersome is the way the blurring loading screen pixelates on blurs, and the lack of depth on the whitewashed avatars, which can sometimes make forward and backward arm movements hard to discern. These are minor issues though.

Sound

Obviously, the key here is the soundtrack, and it sounds great, pumping out the jams and making them sound great. Honestly, there's not much more to say, as there's not much else to it aurally, aside from some notifications when you nail a move or the celebration when a song is over. Though it should be noted that these songs are edited to remove any sensitive lyrics, which is a bit annoying, but it's an all-ages game, so you just deal with it.

And in the End...

At the 2010 New York Comic Con, the most consistently large and engaged crowds were those around Ubisoft's volunteer-driven demo for their upcoming Michael Jackson game, which is essentially a Jackson-specific version of Just Dance 2. It just went to show that if people like the music, they'll enjoy dancing to it, and people will enjoy watching that. There's enough variety and quality in the lineup here to please anyone likely to dance for fun at home, though you'd either have to have some very good friends with no shame/low alcohol tolerances, or be friends with very specific demographics for this to be a party game. It's far more effective as a fun aerobic workout or a way to get your groove on if you wouldn't step foot "in da club."



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