Impressions: Just Dance 2

I can see exactly why the Just Dance series has become the phenomenon it is, but you’d think people would see through its clever ruse. It’s asking you to follow choreographed on-screen moves while simply holding a single Wii remote as it tracks your steps and grades you accordingly. You could just as easily recreate the experience by surfing over to YouTube and partaking in one of the many dance tutorials sprinkles throughout the website, sans a scoring method. Still, many of us have been helpless under its groovy charms, and that attraction isn’t likely to stop as Ubisoft has just released its first true sequel, Just Dance 2. We can’t help ourselves! It gives us a license to look silly! And believe it or not, it’s fun!

Just Dance 2 asks much the same of you as its predecessor. Choose a song, take the Wii remote in hand, and just dance. Well, that’s a nice thought, but you can’t simply ‘just dance’. You’ll need to follow the on-screen movements and mirror the dancers, who will perform impeccably and are dressed even more ludicrously this time around. Rudimentary images of the steps to come will be displayed beneath the dancer’s silhouette in time to give you an idea of what’s next, but since most of the dances follow a distinct pattern, you need only look at the dancer every cycle or so to pick up on what you need to go.

It’s not always simple. The songs range from entry-level grooving to devastatingly difficult for newbie dancers who aren’t so comfortable with busting-a-groove, so there’s something for dancers of all skill levels. You’ll score big by matching the movements, and instead of the relatively inaccurate tracking of the first game, this sequel has eliminated the option of simply flailing your arms around like a madman. You’ll need to make an attempt at matching the on-screen examples this time around. Yes, this can be scary…or absolutely hilarious. That’s part of why this casual rhythm game works so well, beyond the fact that no matter how terrible you are, you can’t fail out. So give it all you’ve got!

It shouldn’t be a problem to want to play accurately, though. Extremely tight, varied, and funky choreography is actually worth learning. It isn’t the same as learning some new, more functional dance moves, but you’re sure going to look awesome in time to the included songs.

The availability of genuine tracks was one of the original’s best features, and here Ubisoft stuffs the sequel with more than 40 chart-topping hits from yesterday and today. Classics like “I Want You Back” from the Jackson 5, “Hey Ya!” from Outkast, and even “Walk Like An Egyptian” from The Bangles join less familiar tracks like Boney M’s “Rasputin” and “Dagomba” from Sorcerer. Maybe you’ve heard most or even all of them before, but if there’s one thing you can’t fault the series for, it’s bringing the hits with it. Unfortunately, a few covers do manage to sneak their way in here (Britney Spears’ “Toxic” being the most recognizable), but for the most part it’s all AAA-grade dance monkey magic.

The game’s distinctive visuals have been pepped up appropriately. Where flat 2-D silhouettes took precedence previously, vivid frenetic imagery accompanies dancers this time, so watching the digital dancers get on down is a real treat and almost hypnotic.

Unfortunately, Just Dance 2 remains a very one-dimensional experience. There are scores, but no real progression to speak of, outside of learning a few hot stops for your next club visit. New modes like Duet and Dance Battle (up to 8 players) are a blast with friends, and Richard Simmons fans are probably going to appreciate Just Sweat mode more than most. There’s new songs to purchase and download this time around (thank goodness), but let’s hope Ubisoft includes basic milestones or unlockable features in future sequels. A mini-crossover with their own Michael Jackson Experience game would be pretty smooth, if you catch my meaning.

Just Dance 2 is a more refined outing than the first game in many ways, and offers a lot more value that the relative bare-bones original that helped just-start the whole casual dance craze. It’s won’t reinvent the pelvis thrust, but it’ll probably make yours better and maybe (continuing the pun) the butt of jokes from jealous onlookers. There’s plenty of hit music to help you get down and funky to, and even downloadable tracks once you’ve mastered everything on the disc. It’s a shame there aren’t more features and ways to measure your own progression, as they would have helped give the game a lot more depth and replay value. But it’s still one of the best party mixes out there, and if you enjoyed the first game, you’re going to want to give this a try as well.

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