“Just Dance 4” (Xbox 360, $39.99, Rated E10) never really surprises, but it does just enough to separate it from previous games to make it worth a purchase for fans of the series.
For an older player like myself, looking for something new to do, it’s a good sign to see increased effort put into different modes of play. The “Just Sweat” mode is particularly useful in its (overdue) incorporation of an actual calorie counter to go along with the various workouts. A 45-minute workout will absolutely get the heart pumping and is a good way to play the game and get a workout without having to navigate through the menus.
Otherwise, the “Battle” mode feels a little extraneous, and while the “Dance Mashup” mode keeps the game’s moves from getting stale, the fact that it doesn’t add any extra music to the game makes it little more than window dressing.
What does manage to be fun in a frustrating sort of way, however, is the collection of “dance quests” associated with each song. By giving the player a few specific things to do beyond “get more stars,” the game motivates the player to play even some of the less enjoyable songs for the sake of completing the various quests.
The game’s menus, it should also be said, are not all that easy to navigate “Minority Report”-style, as is the norm for Xbox 360 Kinect games. The frustration of picking the wrong songs or modes may well drive you to using a controller for menu navigation.
That said, very few of these complaints matter one bit to the game’s target audience.
Turn “Just Dance 4” on in a room full of preteens and it fulfills the promise of its title. This has everything to do with the list of songs it features, songs that appeal to teens and preteens alike, with a few bones tossed to the parents of those teens and preteens for good measure.
“Moves Like Jagger” is here, “Super Bass” is here, and “Call Me Maybe” is here, because of course they are. “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life” is here – presumably because the grownup-friendly song will be familiar enough to kids thanks to Black Eyed Peas’ ridiculous version of it – and “Rock Lobster” is here. Heck, “They Might Be Giants” is even here, with “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” which ought to at least provide a laugh from outside the target audience.
Perhaps most importantly, you can download “Gangnam Style” for three bucks. If ever a track was made for a dancing video game, it’s that one.
You can lament that the motion tracking seems off more often than it should, you can lament that its song selection is so skewed toward the younger audience of top-40 radio, or you can even lament that its pure “gaming” aspects aren’t nearly as polished as Harmonix’s latest “Dance Central” game.
What you can’t complain about, however, is the ability of “Just Dance 4” to get people dancing. It is sublime in its ability to pull people in, no matter how guilty the pleasure might be.
New This Week: “Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch” is a role-playing game with an incredible pedigree, developed by Level-5 (current stewards of the “Dragon Quest” and “Professor Layton” series) with animation from the great Studio Ghibli. Just as exciting: Ron Gilbert (“The Secret of Monkey Island”, “Day of the Tentacle”) and Tim Schafer (also “Monkey Island”, “Psychonauts”) working together again on an adventure game called “The Cave” (Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, Wii U, PC).