Just Dance 2015 is the follow up to Just Dance 2014. There’s no story of sorts to push the player through the routines, it merely throws the player into the game with a large majority of the songs unlocked.
The improvements introduced in 2015 do their best to streamline the experience previously presented in 2014, as well as improve the sense of community and social interaction between players. In that regards, it’s widely successful.
In short, Just Dance 2015 is the perfect embodiment of the mantra “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. It’s improvements are iterative but it doesn’t break any of the components put in place in previous games.
As with last year’s game, Just Dance 2015 employs a very simplistic user interface that makes it pretty easy to find what you want relatively fast. It’s a kind of retro glam look that really fits in with this kind of game. During the actual dance sequences, the now ubiquitous Just Dance style is ever prevalent. A silhouette of the dancer moves in a similar way to how the player should imitate during gameplay. These moments have only gotten better as each game is released, being professionally animated and/or captured.
Similarly, to keep things interesting, most of them are stylised in a way that suits the song that’s being played or references some other aspect of the song (such as its lyrics or even its music video in some circumstances). A new addition with Just Dance 2015 is that many of the videos aren’t afraid to create a little bit more visual spectacle by zooming in during certain moments or even panning the camera. They’re small touches but they help keep an otherwise stale formula remain fresh visually.
With the Just Dance series becoming more of an annualised occurrence, it’s easy to sit back and assume everything is the same as last year, just with a different set list of songs, but thankfully it isn’t. Ubisoft have done a pretty good job at providing a fresh experience with a new set of routines but also with new and cool features.
Are they groundbreaking? Not particularly, but they certainly help the experience stop from stagnating despite the annualisation of the franchise although a lot of them require you to be willing to put videos of yourself dancing up on the internet which is definitely not something for everyone.
Those who have never played a Just Dance game shouldn’t have too much trouble adapting to the formula. You create a profile, pick a song, and mimic the character movements as they appear on screen to the best of your ability. The better you mimic these moves, the more you’ll score and subsequently unlock. Some songs are more difficult than others, so you’ll get a pretty good idea as you play which songs you’ll prefer.
And there’s a wide variety of songs too, with some old school groups like Gloria Gaynor and Aerosmith all the way up to Icona Pop, Calvin Harris, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus. There’s even a few tracks from some foreign artists, like angry French rap or a Bollywood rendition of your classic Christmas songs. Just Dance 2015 takes on a pretty diverse set list and it’s something to be said where almost anyone of any age could easily join in and not feel left out. I don’t know how, but Ubisoft really have crafted one of their most diverse setlists yet and despite going on for so many years it’s baffling how they manage to keep finding the “greats” of each genre and include them while still feeling fresh.
The crux of the new content is relegated to multiplayer modes, which seems appropriate given how social this kind of game is. Community Remix is an interesting one – it allows players around the world to dance to a routine of Ubisoft’s choosing, and for Ubisoft to collate these videos together to make a choreographed routine as danced by the community. Ubisoft allegedly screens these before they’re put together, which is a job I don’t envy. But it’s a great way to add “multiplayer” and make players feel like a part of the community without incorporating proper, live multiplayer.
Other new modes include Challenger Mode, which acts to capitalise on similar asymmetric multiplayer experiences such as Words With Friends and SongPop. Every song can be performed as a “challenge” against another player. Once the first player completes their dance, their score and choreo is saved in the system until the challenger dances back. This is another great inclusion because it allows you to complete and compete against other players at your own leisure, and the community is already active enough that I’ll have three to four challenges ready for me each time I booted up the game. It’s not live multiplayer, but it’s so well done it’s hard to fault it.
World Dance Floor returns from the last Just Dance game too, where players can join up into crews (think clans, but dancing instead of shooting) and compete to climb a global leaderboard. This mode is pretty fun but it’s restricted by how many people are performing at that given time so it wasn’t always available for me to play during my sessions. But it’s still nice to see how you stack up against other people throughout the world and even within your own country.
One thing that’s immediately more obvious with 2015 is the way that the menus have been fine-tuned to be a lot more responsive. The user interface, in general, has been tweaked ever so slightly to reduce the time it takes to jump and select from song to song. It’s a very minor improvement but one that really streamlines the entire experience and one I really commend Ubisoft for, they’ve really built a solid case on how to use Kinect to completely control and navigate a user interface with little to no effort.
This streamlining also carries over into the playlists mode, which can also function as the Fitness mode. In playlists mode, as you’d expect, you can pick a certain time interval to play in or just pick a non-stop shuffle mode. Calorie counters are also included, and when activated, act as a replacement to the Sweat mode found in previous games. I appreciate the addition of non-stop playlists as they’re perfect for a pick up and play setting at a party or if you’re not sure how long you want to spend dancing in each session, but it is a bit disappointing to see you can’t skip a song if you’re not a fan of it.
On a technical level, Just Dance 2015 isn’t really one of the best demonstrations of Kinect as a motion tracking device. It’s particularly forgiving when it comes to scoring and there were many times when me or my group would score a “Perfect” just when waving our arms rather than doing the proper movements as shown on the screen. This feels like a bit of a moot point since it completely defeats the purpose of playing a game like this, but it’s worth mentioning especially when other games like Dance Central actively provide feedback on which parts of your body are out of touch. Just Dance does nothing of the sort, but you could argue it’s more about having fun in Just Dance than technical proficiency.
The game also supports downloadable content but I’m of two minds about how it’s been implemented in Just Dance 2015. There’s a few new routines available as of now, one of which is free, but there’s also several of the Just Dance 2014 routines available to download. I already own these routines in Just Dance 2014, so having to pay extra money just for the convenience of having them playable from the Just Dance 2015 disc seems a bit rough, especially considering that the game’s contemporaries have managed to migrate downloadable content from three previous games and even across generations.