i picked up just dance 2 awhile back for several reasons. one was to see how well it would go over as a holiday game with my family and the other was just general curiosity about a game that has sold millions. the first game got mediocre reviews, with common complaints being the movement recognition, but the second game seemed better received, and watching the videos on youtube of people of all kinds playing its predecessor intrigued me in a similar way as when i first saw videos of people playing wii sports. this game in turn has had more than its fair share of youtube videos, including everyone from twin toddlers, dad, grandma, and everyone in between.
on the family front the game succeeded pretty well in keeping us all entertained, although my personal experience with the game was slightly more varied. although you have to learn the choreography as you go along, the stick-figure prompts certainly help and the moves repeat enough so that even on your first playthrough of a song you can still score fairly high. the game’s scoring was initially a bit frustrating until i realized that moving your hand to mimic the on-screen dancer will only cost you points. once i got past that the recognition actually did feel quite accurate and i was scoring within the 4-star range (out of 5). getting 5 stars feels attainable (i.e. it doesn’t require absurd levels of perfection), although by the time i had 4-star ranked the majority of the songs i wasn’t too eager to continue.
the game’s aesthetics have personality, although it feels limited. part of the problem is that restricted to a neon palette, everything looks a little bit too much the same, and it’s sometimes hard to see what the movement is supposed to be since so much of the on-screen dancers’ bodies are white. i would’ve hoped that they had done something different with the presentation for the series’ third outing, but it doesn’t seem that they have.
the variety in the songs is admirable and includes latin dances, a charleston, a bollywood track, duets, and in an especially amusing surprise an african dance track. as with altered beast, i love the idea of people all over the world unwittingly being exposed to something completely foreign through a “mere” video game. this compilation video of random people stumbling their way through that song is highly entertaining. and even though the game’s choreography is by necessity focused on arm movements, there’s not too much repetition between songs (although there’s a fair amount of “miming”-type movements) and the foot movements, which aren’t specifically tracked by the game, help keep replays from getting boring.
overall this was a surprisingly fun foray into the world of massively popular video games. ubisoft (specifically ubisoft paris) deserves credit for redefining the dance video game, and although i’m still somewhat annoyed that my free download that comes with the game didn’t work after numerous attempts, i enjoyed the game enough to plan to seek out its expansion pack and sequel (and possibly prequel) at some unspecified point in the future. i don’t doubt that some people have used this game to shed a few pounds, and it’s nice to see that wii’s initial promise (and premise) of getting people off of their couches has been fulfilled in such a notable way.