Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Wii
We played on: Wii
Just Dance 2016 is the latest installment in the prolific motion gaming series Just Dance by Ubisoft. Every game is vibrant, silly, and makes you feel like the CW and Radio Disney had a musical lovechild and left it on your front porch. Needless to say this is not a game for dignified people, or any people who unwisely wish to remain dignified. We are all equals on the dance floor; throw your pride away and get ready to shake it.
If you are familiar with the series, you already know exactly what to expect. If you are a beginner, I welcome you with open, wiggling arms.
When I reviewed Just Dance 2015 one year ago, it was the first time I had ever played a Just Dance game. Playing JD16 now, it’s hard not to be cynical. This game is so profoundly similar to its predecessor it amazes me that it is in fact its own game, and not actually bonus downloadable content.
But at the same time, I know it’s easy to be cynical of a colorful party game all about shaking your butt, and I know that these games have a valid and valuable place in video game canon. If I were 10 or 15 years younger and playing this game with my friends instead of by myself in an office building, my experience would have been completely different.
Just Dance 2016 does have some new features, of course, in addition to about 40 brand-new songs.
For one, you can use your smartphone as a controller on the Xbox One, PS4, and Wii U (though this was an option last year for Xbox One and PS4, it’s new to the Wii U). I am really glad that Ubisoft has kept this feature because not everyone has a ton of controllers for their console, and Just Dance is a game best played in large groups. To use this feature you’ll need to install a free app on your phone.
JD16 introduces Dance Party, a cooperative multiplayer mode in which dancers are working together to get high scores as a team. It also brought in a cool feature called Showtime, which lets you record lip-syncs of songs à la Jimmy Fallon. Plus, it brings in a new feature called “Dance Quests,” which have you battling against computer-controlled dancers. This brings a new campaign element into the game.
Fair warning, though: all of the above features require that you own an eighth-generation console (PS4, Xbox One, or Wii U). Sorry, seventh-gen gamers.
Lastly, JD16 introduces something called Just Dance Unlimited, a streaming service that gives you access to 150 extra tracks (a few of which are unique to this service, the rest have been featured in Just Dance games before). Unfortunately, Just Dance Unlimited is (surprise) only available on Xbox One, PS4, and Wii U, and it is not free. It costs $6.99 for one month, $14.99 for three months, or $39.99 for a year.
World Dance Floor, an online aspect of Just Dance 2016, is not a new feature, but I do want to mention that it is pretty cool. And, it is something that’s available to seventh-gen gamers. If I wanted to, I could drop into a group dance and compete with players from around the world. We couldn’t communicate (though our avatars would often sprout little word bubbles with innocuous phrases like “I won!” or “Oh no!”), but it was nice to compare my scores to someone else’s. It made me feel a little less alone. I stand by my observation from my JD15 review, though, that this game is best played with friends in the same room.
Compared with Dance Central or Dance Dance Revolution, Just Dance’s choreography can be a little hard to follow. While some moves do repeat, they don’t repeat often enough to really teach you what you’re meant to do. So, the first time you play through a song is always somewhat unsatisfying. This is a problem I had with JD15 and it absolutely persists in JD16. However, the moves overall were simple enough that I felt like I could eventually learn them if I played through each routine several times. It would have been nice to feel more satisfaction out of the gate, but I at least never felt totally hopeless.
I also mentioned this in my review of JD15 last year, but playing this game with a motion-sensitive controller (or a smartphone) is not nearly as satisfying as playing on a Kinect or PlayStation Camera. I often found myself ignoring all parts of body aside from my right arm, where I held the Wii remote, since I knew that that was the only part of me that would impact my score. I know, I could have made the conscious decision to kick my legs a little more often, but I didn’t need to do that in order to remain competitive with other dancers online. It bums me out that there are so few new games coming out for Kinect and PS Camera because these peripherals open the way to a ton of great motion gaming.
Just Dance 2016, like its predecessors, also comes equipped with a shuffle function (called Sweat & Playlists) that you can set to nonstop or to time increments of 10 minutes, 20 minutes, or 40 minutes. You can turn on an optional Kcal counter (Kcals are the same as calories), though I have no idea if it’s accurate. Unfortunately, you cannot skip a track if you don’t like the random song it gives you. If you’re interested in using a dancing game for a workout, I recommend watching this video we made last year with fitness expert Marilyn McKenna.
Just Dance 2016 is rated E10+ for Mild Lyrics and Mild Suggestive Themes. While you can play online, there is virtually no chance of encountering inappropriate content this way.
If you already own a Just Dance game, Just Dance 2016 is going to be extremely familiar. It has new songs and a few new features (if you have a modern console, at least), but otherwise it’s the same old colorful fiesta of shameless glory.