Just Dance 2
Just Dance 2 understands the platform and the audience as it looks to extend the success of the first game. Original interpretations of each song match strong presentation to create a technically compelling game for casual and hardcore gamers alike.
Getting a game like Just Dance 2 right is no easy matter. Although many would have us believe that casual games are easy to churn out - pile them high sell them cheap - the big sellers in this space are actually those games that have invested in both technical delivery and understanding of the market.
Last year, Just Dance took many of us by surprise because it sold so well. Revisiting the game, back for its second iteration, reminded me how many different aspects of intelligent design came together to create a perfect dance game.
The visuals set the tone for the game. They are clear and crisp, but interestingly shun the idea of including images of the original artists in favour of stock dancers. There is a double advantage here, not only do the developers save money on image rights, but they also have the ability to choose the exact look they want.
With this in mind, it's interesting that they went for more realistic body shapes, compared to the model-like original singers. This, combined with the flash stylised visuals, creates a look that is strong for both old and young audiences. Parents in particular would be more likely to let their children dance the Just Dance 2 version of Toxic than watch the original video.
The dance mechanic itself, which returns in Just Dance 2 pretty much unchanged, is simplicity itself. Players dance along in real time aiming to mirror the actions of the on-screen performer. One hand is coloured differently to signify how to hold the Wii-mote.
Compared to more unforgiving and exacting dance games, Just Dance 2 lets players improvise around the required moves while scoring them accurately for each move they make at the right time. Watch anyone play Just Dance 2 and you can see this is working - they could just move their hands to score points, but almost everyone quickly gets into full body dancing.
On top of this there is a strong selection of music from different genres. Because each title has a bespoke dancer and backdrop it really feels like the developer has invested time and money in understanding and presenting the song. This ranges from the robotic Ke$ha "TiK ToK" track to the Treme saturated Mardi Gras "Iko Iko". It feels more like a cultural experience than passing fad - which isn't something you can say very often about a video game.
Around all this Just Dance 2 extends its play modes to include a new Duo feature where players have different choreography to follow and an eight player team dance off. Other modes continue from the original. One I particular like is Simon Says where dancers are interrupted from their separate performances with particular commands - stop, spin, clap and the like. It not only makes it a much more challenging experience, but adds a little variety into dances that can become over-familiar.
Just Dance is certainly not a cheap cash in on the Wii's casual dance market. Although now they have had that success there are obviously a few pound signs in their eyes. Players can pay to purchase additional tracks via a download store. There is also a special version of Just Dance based around The Michael Jackson Experience.
While it's nice to have these ways to extend the game, I'd have preferred the Jackson library to be a download option rather than a separate game, and for these download tracks to be a little cheaper - at 300 points each that's around 3GBP a song.
Just Dance 2 extends the original's well pitched functionality and style to create another compelling dance experience. Provided they use the store to offer affordable songs and don't ring fence the best material to further disc releases, Just Dance 2 could well be one of the best selling games of the year. And for good reason.
Paul Govan also reviews family games.