Do you love pop music? Does the beat of popular music fuel your iTunes, Spotify, or SoundCloud playlists? Do acts like One Direction, Nicki Minaj, or Lady Gaga feature in your YouTube or VEVO history? They do in mine. Seriously, here's the current mish-mash of music I listen to on a daily basis. I fully admit it's all over the place, but I love music that sounds good to me and I don't discriminate against genres. Some of it is created by artists toiling in buses and basements and some of it is created in a studio specifically to ping some part of your lizard brain. I don't really care. It just has to awaken something within me. I love pop music. I love music period.
If pop isn't your thing, Just Dance 2014 isn't for you.
Just Dance 2014 is the perfect pop game. It's bright, it's loud, and it's fun. It's meant to the be shared with friends and family. If you love pop music, you'll want to get up off the couch and join the dancers onscreen. You'll want to shake your moneymaker if you have one; I don't, but something was definitely shaking while I played. Just Dance 2014 is not necessarily meant to be played alone. You can, but Ubisoft has crafted a party game here.
Just Dance 2014 is a different beast from the other Kinect-powered dance series, Dance Central. The choreography in Dance Central is built on a large number of small dance moves stacked together in a sequence that makes sense. It's like musical Legos. Simple moves are used in easy songs with some repetition, while Hard modes include more complex maneuvers with little repetition. Spending a lot of time with a Dance Central game means learning a musical language: once you've learned most of the moves that pop up frequently, you can anticipate them. The game actually prepares you for harder difficulties since these difficulties still use some of the moves you've come to expect.
The Dance Central games also have a more exact implementation of Microsoft's Kinect sensor. You have to do the moves right. Progressing farther in any Dance Central makes me feel like I can actually dance. Sure, I'm never actually going to be on the dance floor thinking, "It's time to follow that 'To The Disco' move with 'Thumpy'," but in the deepest recesses of my imagination, I totally could.
In contrast, Just Dance 2014 - which is my first Just Dance game - takes a different route. Each of the 48 songs has specific choreographed routines. Some songs only have a regular routine, but many of them feature Extreme or Sweat versions. These are full, completely different routines. If you're playing Nicki Minaj's 'Pound The Alarm', you're learning the choreographed dance for that song. It will always be the same unless there's a different routine for you to unlock. Instead of mastering the moves like Dance Central, Just Dance 2014 has you mastering the song routine as a whole.
Just Dance is also not as exact as Dance Central. The routines are pretty complex, but the game frequently lets you slide on moves. Once, my cat ran across the screen and the game still counted my flailing movements of chasing the cat as me attempting to dance. You'll miss moves and the game will still give you the benefit of the doubt. But that's part of the fun factor. The game can certainly tell when you're getting perfects, but it lets you slide on the low-end because that's fun. Your parents or kids can play Just Dance 2014. Your friends with absolutely no coordination will still like the game. It's simply meant to be enjoyed.
The best way to explain it is this: If Dance Central is Rocksmith, Just Dance is Rock Band. I had fun, but I didn't feel I was learning anything from it. And sometimes that's great. It's good to just jam out with friends and Just Dance 2014 provides that outlet.
Ubisoft made sure to check off all the boxes and Just Dance 2014 is full of additional modes and content. 48 different songs from Lady Gaga, PSY, Katy Perry, George Michael, Rihanna, and more, many with multiple routines. Extreme routines are crazy hard; Dance Mash-Up modes pull moves from different routines (feels like Dance Central!); On-Stage modes make your friends your background dancers; Sweat modes get your heart rate up and include a robust calorie counter. If previous Just Dance games are any indication, you can also expect 15 to 20 downloadable songs for purchase over the next year. If you want to get social, the Kinect can record clips of your dancing to upload to Twitter, Facebook, or the AutoDance network, and World Dance Floor lets you compete in an online leaderboard against other players.
But all that is just extra features. Is Just Dance 2014 fun? Hell yes. It's not as technical as Dance Central, but Harmonix has seemingly left behind that series for Fantasia: Music Evolved. Just Dance 2014 is the only dance floor in town, meaning Ubisoft could've slacked off. They didn't. Just Dance 2014 is the simple essence of pop music forged into an excellent game.
- Visuals: Neon colors pop off the screen from the very beginning. Your dance coaches are clad in bright costumes and dance on backgrounds that change and shift around them. There's always something to look at in the Just Dance 2014.
- Music: Some hits from today's hottest pop acts headline the game, but there's some classic songs and electronic dance numbers in there for variety.
- Interface: The 'next move' feature isn't very detailed and only gives you a vague idea what you're going to be next. Navigating around the menus with the Kinect is twitchy at times.
- Lasting Appeal: It'll take a while for you to master all of the Just Dance 2014 songs and their routines, and by then there will probably be DLC songs for you to buy.
If the idea of pop music was a game, it'd be Just Dance 2014. Ubisoft has made sure that the game is bright, shiny, and fun. Shake your way through today's hits and a couple of classics, but the experience will be so much better with friends and family.
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