Pros: Colorful graphics, dancing is inherently fun.
Cons: Bland choreography, homogeneous songs.
The Just Dance series combines gaming, dancing and listening to music into a package that has proven surprisingly popular. The series has succeeded because it’s fun to dance with your friends in the living room, and there is an appeal to high energy musical exercise colorfully delivered. The high point of the series, Just Dance 2, was imperfect but still tremendous entertaining. I was hoping for something similar with Just Dance 3, but ultimately it is a package of gaming, dancing and music in which none of these are particularly well done.
Developed by: Ubisoft Paris
Published by: Ubisoft
For ages: 10 and up
Release Date: Oct. 7, 2011
The Gameplay: Copy the Dancer, Hope for the Best
Just Dance 3 follows the same formula as previous games in the series. An animated dancer performs a routine to a pop song, and your goal is to be a mirror image of that dancer. Your position is gauged by the Wii remote in your hand, meaning the game believes you are dancing even if you move nothing but that one hand. Diagrams float along the screen bottom to show you what arm movement you are about to do. The game scores you according to how close your movements match those of the virtual dancer.
The gameplay is quite similar to that of the previous games. Once again an indicator will say OK, GOOD or PERFECT depending on how well you did the move. Occasionally it will also say YEAH!
The game also gives player feedback through the remote, using its speaker to indicate when you’ve done particularly well or gained one of the performance stars that, when you’ve earned enough, will unlock news songs or modes like Simon Says, in which you might be asked to shake the remote or stand still or turn around.
While Just Dance 2 introduced duets, Just Dance 3 ups the ante with a handful of quartets, allowing four people to crowd in front of the TV and dance together.
As with all the Just Dance games, scoring is often inaccurate. At times I thought I’d hit a move exactly, yet the game said I was only OK. Other times I got a GOOD even though I was fumbling incompetently. This makes all the Just Dance games frustrating as games, because you can’t compete with any assurance of the best performer winning. This is why the music and choreography are so important; they are there to make up for the poor gameplay elements.
The Music: Same-y Sameness
In general, dance games tend to contain a lot of very mainstream pop dance songs. Just Dance 2 bucked that trend by offering songs in a wide variety of genres from pop to disco to Bollywood to rock to 20s-style music. Just Dance 3, on the other hand, hews closely to the pop dance formula, with tons of songs from the likes of Katy Perry, The Black Eyed Peas and Gwen Stefani, There is also a little disco and a little pop-rock. Even songs that have a Bollywood or reggae influence still sound like inauthentic pop-factory takes on world music.
I found most of the game’s songs to be downright painful, though some were tolerable. There were only a handful of songs I genuinely enjoyed and actually wanted to dance to.
The Dancing: Wake Me When It's Over
I love dancing. I’m in a swing dance troupe. I regularly watch Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. And I loved the choreography in Just Dance 2, which was witty and clever and so much fun to emulate.
But as with the music, Just Dance 3 has gone wrong in the choreography. It’s simply not very much fun. There is little sense of different dance styles; the choreography for a poppy South African song doesn’t feel much different than the choreography for a Katy Perry song.
While there is the occasional number that is kind of enjoyable, like “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” much of the choreography is downright cheesy. When “Take on Me” forced me to put my hand to my head in a sorrowful motion or hug myself, I felt like I was doing the sort of pretentious, amateurish dancing that get mocked by reality dance show judges.
Graphically the game looks good, with a colorful cartoon style using motion-captured dancers, but the dances often have really dumb premises, like a cowboy dancing with an Indian girl, or a scuba diver dancing with a mermaid, or a dancing television.
After the thrilling choreography of the previous game, the dancing turned out to be the weakest part of this latest installment.
The Verdict: A Step Back
While the scoring issues kept Just Dance 2 from being a great game, it was still a marvelously entertaining experience, a fun party game with good songs and fun choreography that you wanted to play with your friends. But Just Dance 3 fails in every way it needs to succeed, and beyond gameplay, music and dancing, it failed in a much bigger way: it is simply not very much fun.