Review: Just Dance 3

Dance games have become a dime a dozen these days. And for good reason. They’re great diversions for parties or get-togethers, and it’s simple to jump in and get your groove on. With the rise of motion control, however, games such as Just Dance have risen astronomically in popularity – despite the precision and training available in the impeccably great Dance Central, the “budget” pricing and feel of Ubisoft’s franchise has simply seen more success. Now the sensation has made a home on the Xbox 360 with Kinect (and to a lesser extent, the PS3 with Move support) with Just Dance 3, bringing what felt like little more than a dance simulator (loose movement judging, lazy “gameplay”, etc) into the future with more rigid scoring and a broader range of top 40 hits.

Just Dance 3 is less of that hip, urban dance instructor you go to for fine-tuning your moves and more like your best friend busting out their best on the dance floor. While the Wii iteration previously relied on little more than waggling the Wii remote (good for parties and tag-team dancing but admittedly weak gameplay) the Kinect update offers slick, colorful menus, streamlined navigation, and an enthusiastic cast of dancing silhouettes that make you feel more than an everyman getting down in your room or your apartment and more like a professional choreographer, where the Wii version, clearly the cheaper choice in all respects, still relies on wild waggling and arbitrary scoring (though just as hip as its more expensive cousin).

Playing sans Wii remote feels natural and fluid, and all you really need to do is match the onscreen dancers who will outdance you at first no matter your skill level. Kinect tracking feels spot-on and natural, and unlike Dance Central or many of the musical offerings that support the peripheral, you’re not constantly subjected to cringe-worthy photos or stills of you getting down in the process. And while the game is technically meant to score your entire body when it comes to each performance, it really only seemed to care if I used my arms in the correct manner for each specific song. It never feels like it’s scoring you quite as genuinely as Dance Central, but for its purpose still works quite well. You’ll just need to want to dance like a maniac. You don’t actually have to know how to.

And dance you will, across 40 infectious pop tracks, from LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” to “Baby One More Time” from pop princess Britney Spears. The addition of four-player choreography is an intense one, and incorporates funky dance moves unique to each participant, which the Kinect tracks beautifully. Multiplayer is truly where Just Dance 3 shines, especially when you’re just hanging out with good friends and looking to feel a lot cooler than you actually look when trying to mimic the impeccable on-screen dancers. I found this feature that relies heavily on Kinect tracking one of the game’s most impressive and beneficial features, especially given its target audience.

Just Create modes give you the freedom to create your very own iPod-esque dance routines, which doesn’t exactly work as well as you’d like without the on-screen cues, but you can send them to friends to show off your best moves and see if they can keep up. That’s the beauty of the entirely more fleshed-out Just Dance 3. Whether you’re playing alone or with a few of your closest friends, there’s a mode that’s gonna get you as pumped up as the dancers who are so infectious you just can’t help but want to jump off the couch and get as excited as they are. Just Dance 3 certainly isn’t the dance instructor you’ll find in Dance Central or the para-para dancing Casanova that is DanceMasters, but it has come into its own as a respectable choice when it comes to dancing games for Kinect, the family, or just you and your buddies. And considering its start as a lazy cash-in, that’s pretty impressive.

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