Also available on: Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3
Developer: Ubisoft Paris
Genre: Rhythm action
Just Dance 3 is the first game in the series to go multiplatform and is exactly the sort of title Microsoft and Sony were dreaming about when they jumped on board the motion control movement. The franchise has sold millions on the Wii, spending week upon week at the top of Nintendo's chart during the first half of 2011. Having already seen what Dance Central 2 can do with the Kinect sensor, it's now time to see whether Just Dance 3 can match the Harmonix hit move for move.
It's pretty clear as soon as the dancing begins that Just Dance 3 is less bothered about providing an actual dancing simulation than it is with offering a full-blown party experience. This is the John Sergeant of the virtual dancing genre (or Chaz Bono for US fans). Its timing is way off, the moves are all wrong, but it's fabulously funny, enormously entertaining and hugely popular.
For starters, the scoring system is incredibly generous. The game rewards players for attempts and near-misses and rarely punishes mistakes. Take the standard sideways hand-clap, for example. In Dance Central 2 this can actually be a tricky move to pull off. It's not difficult to see what to do, but ensuring that all required body parts are in sync and that the timing is right does require practice. Just Dance 3, on the other hand, awards points on the basis that players are moving in any particular direction and clapping at roughly the correct time.
If this was an instrument-based rhythm action game like Guitar Hero, the lack of timing would be a massive issue, as mistimed strums or beats would sound terrible. In a dancing game such as this, however, we much prefer the approximation. Instead of stiffly copying dance moves and routines, players are encouraged to loosen up and have fun, which is fine by us.
Of course, harder difficulties naturally provide a much greater challenge, requiring players to more accurately mimic what is happening on screen. Players are awarded a grade for each move, ranging from bad to perfect, all the while earning stars to unlock new dances and playlists. It's not the deepest single-player offering, but the plentiful supply of unlockable content does provide an incentive to keep playing.
The presentation, meanwhile, is lively, loud and attractive, featuring the same neon-based on-screen avatars as past games, who, oddly enough, appear to have more personality than any of the irritating characters from Dance Central 2. Each song features a different character, from the TV-headed dancer in 'Video Killed The Radio Star' to the sweat band-sporting '80s girl featured in The Pointer Sisters' hit 'I'm So Excited'.
And speaking of songs, the soundtrack is choc-full full of sing-along tracks from every genre imaginable. Rock, pop, R&B, dance, trance, hip-hop and rave are all there, not to mention a little reggae and funk for the smoother movers among you. We had a blast doing the robot to Daft Punk's classic 'Da Funk' before moving on to the '80s aerobic routine in Banarama's 'Venus'.
Songs such as Kiss hit 'I Was Made For Loving You' also feature multiplayer dance routines, enabling up to four players (depending on the song) to play as one of the on-screen avatars. Choose the singer, for example, and you'll be on your knees clenching fists, while the guitarist is hopping across the screen, playing air guitar like AC/DC's Angus Young. It's a genuinely funny and at times deeply embarrassing multiplayer experience, and we loved every minute of it.
Xbox 360 owners can also use the Kinect camera to record their very own David Brent-inspired routines. The footage taken from recordings looks fantastic, but can be tricky to replicate during playback, and even harder to conquer when dancing to guest's routines. It's a novel way to use the camera, however, and will hopefully be fleshed out in future instalments.
Just Dance 3 isn't as polished as Dance Central 2 and it doesn't have the heritage and history that comes with Michael Jackson: The Experience, but that doesn't mean it's not just as much fun. It may not be brimming with game modes and it probably won't improve your dancing skills, but Just Dance 3 does guarantee a good time, especially with friends and family.
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