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Just Dance 2 - Wii Review

Game Info
Just Dance 2

Wii | Ubisoft | 1-8 Players (local multiplayer/co-operative play) | Out Now
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote
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11th February 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

Due to a lack of interest, I never played Ubisoft's very first entry into the market of dance-focused rhythm titles. It wasn't so much the gameplay or even the genre, but the way everything was presented looked static and stiff. This is coming from someone who typically tries to reserve judgment on games until I've actually spent time with them. With this in mind, I don't blame people for writing Just Dance's sequel off before it had even come in full view. With some looking at the series as merely keeping the trend of dance games alive with no lasting value for anyone beyond the casual crowd (or even rhythm-based gaming at large), Ubisoft had their work cut out for them. Despite how some saw the original title, they felt they had a winner on their hands, and it's become abundantly clear that they were right. Beyond just achieving record sales numbers, the effort put forth into this game has managed to breathe new life into rhythm games and give Wii owners a perfectly valid reason to have a blast.

    Much to the skepticism of some onlookers, the magic of Just Dance 2 lies in its simplistic and highly accessible controls. The game only requires players to use one Wii Remote, making this a four-player endeavour that can be easily organized with no stress to be had over additional peripherals. During gameplay, players imitate a usually stylish dancing coach wearing a coloured glove in their right hand. Players are required to do the same and hold the Wii Remote in their right hand as they follow a series of dance movements, with informative pictograms along the bottom of the screen giving you time to anticipate changes in the routine.

Points are awarded based on how in tune you are with the character's moves (and, to a lesser extent, the background music) and how much effort you put into pulling off each step. If you earn a series of Perfect scores in a row, your scoring container will have a coloured flame emanating from it, indicating that you can earn more than the usual amount of points if you keep pace with everything and continue earning positive evaluations. Each routine has at least one special Gold Move that differs from the standard choreography in what you're required to. This may involve a swift arm movement, doing something quirky, or posing for extra points. Some of these are a bit lame to be quite honest, but there are enough good ones to overshadow the weak. At the very end of a routine, scores are tabulated and converted into stars, with five being the most you can earn (translates to 10,000 Points).

    Especially if you're one of those people who never believed in this concept from the start, you may find yourself surprised by the tight controls. While you can get away with a couple things here and there, on the whole the control scheme feels quite refined despite only requiring players to use a single Wii Remote. During the countless times I've played this game, I have observed how the amount of energy you have while you play actually does make a big difference. So while you could try and sit on the couch and just flail around, you won't ever get anywhere with it which was extremely pleasing to see. Additionally, as you learn the intricacies of the routines, how you hold the Wii Remote also plays a big role in the allotment of points. All of this reflects that using the word "shallow" would be completely unwarranted when discussing Just Dance 2's gameplay.

There are over 40 different tracks appearing on the game's track list, ranging from pop, rock, and alternative, to international, 80's, hip hop, and electronic. Included amongst them are "That's Not My Name" by The Ting Tings, "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham!, "Girlfriend" by Avril Lavigne, and Jamiroquai's "Cosmic Girl". While the majority are master tracks, there are a couple cover renditions for songs Ubisoft couldn't get full rights to. Some of these sound weak, while others like "Jump" sound really good. All in all, the songs they've chosen make the game super well-rounded, touching nearly every possible taste whilst also giving opportunities for players to open up to new possibilities. 

    Songs are also quite varied in the routines they acquire, some being very technical-focused or labor intensive, while others are a whole lot easier to get into with less complicated moves. In both cases, whether playing a routine that's exhausting or light, you'll often find they still manage to be quite enjoyable despite being on either extreme of the spectrum. For instance, not a whole lot of effort is required for a song like "Monster Mash", yet I was shocked that in certain situations I actually had fun with it. Now, I do have to say that I originally thought the routine was stupid, but it's amazing how playing this with family and friends suddenly makes you forget about all the seeming stupidity and just enjoy yourself -- even if much of that stems from laughter and failures. Worth noting, too, is the fact that some routines actually have two coaches for players to follow, dubbed as a 'Duet'. The coordination that exists in routines like "Sway" is just part of the reason why Just Dance 2 resonates so well in group settings.

    Naturally, you have some routines that don't turn out to be anything more than what they are, and when you first play them you feel like more could have been done to take the routine further. Just as a few examples, I was hoping for a little more from the hopscotch-and-pose dances in the routine for "D.A.N.C.E", and I thought the routine for "When I Grow Up" was thoroughly lame. But given the amount of positively fun routines, it's something you gradually warm up to with the more times you play. "Idealistic" by Digitalism is just one of the many examples I can point to of a routine that plays great with lots of fun to be had. The same goes for "Move Your Feet" which features one of the most energetic routines in the whole game. There is a lot of discovery that takes place when you first get the game that leaves you feeling totally hooked (and sore!), wanting more from your next session. Thankfully, this feeling of addiction isn't something that quickly erodes as you continue playing the game months later, but instead drives players to experience a lasting amount of fun whether on your own or with friends.

    A little more on the routines themselves, so many of the 40+ songs packed into the game are really involved, to the point that you hardly ever feel like you're just flicking your wrists in a given direction or pointing to invisible targets. Admittedly, some of this does exist in songs like "Firework" (free to download from the Store option) and "S.O.S", but for the most part, you really do feel like you're dancing and getting a great workout in the process. The game does a fantastic job of masking the physical benefits with truly fun and accessible gameplay.

Aiding the game in this regard is the fact that the entire setup is really engaging. The backgrounds are usually full of life with snazzy little animations to hold your interest, and the overall atmosphere is incredibly welcoming, even for people who may have little-to-no experience with actual dance. I thoroughly loved the way they approached every single routine as a self-contained bubble, yet everything still manages to feel unified enough that very little routines feel like afterthoughts. Rather, the thoughtful approach towards the backgrounds help make the idea of dancing less intimidating. Even the characters they have you dancing along with have a cartoony exterior and a somewhat lifelike resemblance to them. Both of these visual components give Just Dance 2 a personal touch, enabling players to quickly feel comfortable with the idea of developing a sort of relationship with the game.

    There are several moments throughout that demonstrate a measure of creativity as well. Oftentimes, it wasn't just a random get-on-the-dance-floor situation. Instead, some routines were presented in such a way that they resembled real-life experiences, adding a layer that other dancing games lack. For instance, the most notable highlight of the routine for the song "Satisfaction" is a fun sequence that makes you feel like you're skating past rows of lights. Also, one of the DLC tracks is actually set in a soccer stadium where, at one point, you actually have to block incoming soccer balls. It's moments like these that show that there was actually some creative juice put into the game by Ubisoft's Just Dance team, and though it's only a little touch in some cases, this usually goes a long way in adding to that overall feeling of accessibility and encouraging players to have a natural enthusiasm for the game.

In the way of bonus content, Just Dance 2 includes a series of multiplayer features for competitive play, including an eight-player team competition, a quick-changing Medley setting, Simon Says Mode and the rather thin Race Mode. You also have the Just Sweat mode with a weekly progress tracker if you're looking to use the game for fitness purposes. Finally, the Store option is home to over 15 downloadable songs priced at 300 Wii Points a pop. While not all songs are worth buying (like the kid-friendly routine in "Nine in the Afternoon"), there are some worthwhile additions. In fact, one of my favourite routines in the entire game comes from a downloadable song ("Maniac").

    All things considered, there are plenty of positive traits that make the game fully deserving of praise. That's not to say the game is completely free of flaws, of course, but even despite the fact that some routines just don't cut it, nothing ever interferes with the fun factor on a lasting level that you'll suddenly feel less inclined to pick the game up again. Pointing to the fact that Just Dance 2 is a good rhythm game is the fact that you can play routines like ten or twenty times and even have a five-star rating for one of your performances, yet you can still have fun as you go back and play these songs by yourself, with friends who regularly challenge your high score, or amongst first-time players. The fact is that Just Dance 2 is ridiculously fun seven times out of ten -- an accomplishment all on its own -- and it most certainly has enough kick in it that players will be pulling this out not only at social events, but even for their own personal enjoyment.

I know many in the gaming community criticized Ubisoft for even developing a continuation to a game that met with such mixed reception, with one of the popular claims being that there was very little effort put forth. However, anyone who made such a statement couldn't be more wrong. Just Dance 2 is a ton of fun and there is absolutely no reason why anyone should feel embarrassed about having this game in their library of Wii titles. With a strong sense of diversity and an emphasis on making dancing easy to learn but difficult to master, Ubisoft has put out a quality product that holds up very well. If you haven't "joined the movement", I urge you to give this game a rental at the very least. Harnessing the addiction factor and the social drive seen in other rhythm games from this era, Just Dance 2 has certainly proved naysayers wrong, serving as a solid buy for any Wii owner.

26/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Accessible controls that pick up movements surprisingly well, some really good routines, creative in places, fun Duets, a few weak areas
Presentation 9/10 - Welcoming atmosphere makes it easy to come back to, fun visual approaches with cool animations, diverse song selection
Enjoyment 5/5 - So much fun to play in groups, a lot of motivation can be found in aiming for five stars on every song, really addicting at times
Extra Content 4/5 - Multiplayer modes to spice things up, Just Sweat mode, downloadable songs for $3 each with some actually being worthwhile

Equivalent to a score of 87% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Just Dance 2
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