The Wii's massive success in roping in the so-called "casual gamer" that would have never picked up a controller before waggle descended from the heavens has left the entire industry in an interesting predicament. Suddenly, an entirely new demographic has been introduced to our little medium and there's been a struggle to properly recognize and capitalize on the unfettered interest they have in just doing something new.
Publishers and developers, in particular, have had varying levels of success trying to strike a balance between making something simple, so that it's accessible and becomes a breakout hit among Wii gamers, while still trying to satisfy the hardcore crowd that is hungry for new experiences every month. To be perfectly frank, some of us on the editorial side have struggled from time to time too. We're not always the target audience for these kinds of experiences, and qualifying the experience as something that's "good" on our old graphics/gameplay/sound/controls criteria doesn't always apply to a loose collection of mini-games, for instance.
Saddled with more than a few games for pre-teen girls or edutainment-light efforts for toddlers, I'm well aware of the fact that not every game is going to be as complex or riddled with nuance as I would hope for when plopping down my hard-earned cash. I do, however, firmly believe that a basic concept can be introduced and then built upon without dumbing anything down or holding a newcomer's hand – Nintendo is the benchmark in this industry for doing just that as their core franchises have a kind of universal appeal that matches the Wii's true potential.
There can be no mistaking what Just Dance is, however. This isn't a case of a publisher or developer failing to understand how to build a multi-layered game or a critic falling well outside the intended audience. No, this is a way to bilk unsuspecting customers out of their money, plain and simple; an experience so devoid of depth or even basic game concepts that it would be considered a rip-off even if it was one of those Chinese knock-off systems masquerading as an existing console.
Just Dance has cobbled together 32 music tracks ranging from "U Can't Touch This" to "Hot 'N Cold" to "Pump up the Jam" to, painfully, "Who Let the Dogs Out?" (yet completely missed the obvious Lady Gaga title track?) where you grab a Wiimote and attempt to mimic the on-screen silhouette as it switches from one pre-set dance move to the next. That's it. No, really, that's all you do. There are no buttons to be pressed, no unlockables, no tiers of songs, no progression of any kind. You fire up the game, spaz out, and your motions are "graded" and you're given points. If not for the fact that there's a Last One Standing points elimination and red light/green light-style Strike a Pose derivation, there would be nothing to do but memorize the handful of moves and flail around.
Again, I'm fully aware of the fact that we as reviewers can be unfairly harsh on a game because it doesn't have the kind of depth or challenge that we expect from the high-budget efforts out there, but this simply isn't a game, not any more than finding the original music video on YouTube and dancing along to it while awarding yourself imaginary sprinkles and gumdrops for your performance. And Ubisoft has the unmitigated gall to charge poor, unsuspecting, uneducated consumers forty dollars for this? Amazing.
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