This is the first Just Dance appearance to the Xbox and I honestly have to say, it really doesn’t disappoint as long as you understand why. But first as always, a short synopsis of the game as there are some that know nothing about it.

The first Just Dance game to hit Xbox 360 is also the first to offer four-person play on Xbox Kinect! Just Dance 3 gets more people on the dance floor than ever, as the franchise adds quartet play on top of its solo and duet options. The 49-song setlist serves up a mix of new and classic favorites. Dance to chart-topping tracks from Taio Cruz, Cee Lo Green, and Katy Perry with Snoop Dogg. Dial up throwback classics from Wilson Pickett, Donna Summer, and the Sugarhill Gang. An Xbox-exclusive Just Create Mode lets you map out your own routines with motion, save them, and share them with friends.

Now that’s out the way, let’s get onto the review.

What this game is NOT

If you are looking for another dancing game that is like Dance Central, this isn’t it. The only game that will be like Dance Central is Dance Central 2 until we are proven otherwise. Dance Central takes a realistic approach to dancing, technically teaching you how to dance with set choreography that’s not really repetitive on the harder levels and more of a routine with practice. Dance Central also gives you the “coolness” feeling when you nail some more difficult moves. You won’t get that feeling with Just Dance 3 for Kinect. If you want to learn new dance moves, this also isn’t the game you want. If you are looking for extravagant graphics, again you will have to look elsewhere.

What this game IS

Honestly, this game is just fun. Remember back in the day when you were younger, unable to drink at weddings, and you just had crazy fun dancing with your cousins not really caring what you looked like? That’s what this game is. It’s able to recreate that feeling of pure fun. Ubisoft intentionally made it fun, it’s not meant to be taken seriously, it was created for one reason, to entertain yourself or have some laughs with some friends, I assume alcohol would enhance this laughter which I haven’t tested yet 🙂 The video below was one of the funny ones, it may not be funny watching it, but when you do the moves I was laughing like crazy and had trouble trying it seriously. The guy on the right in blue is the best, a mullet dancer that gets to play air guitar – AWESOME!

The Menu

This is the one thing that Ubisoft replicated from Dance Central. The menu navigation is almost identical, except Dance Central is smoother and seems better. Menu choices are broken up into a few categories which I will go into detail on, these are Dance, Just Create, Extras and Shop.

The Graphics

Everyone is going to knock this game because of the graphics. Yes the graphics aren’t amazing, but if you think about the JD series, it has been around for a while. Just because this is the first release going to good consoles (sorry, Wiimote dancing is not dancing), doesn’t mean Ubisoft can change their image. These JD characters are known because of the way they look, heck I even referenced Zumba dancers to them, they are that iconic image and that is why they weren’t changed.

However, to spruce it up somewhat, Ubisoft did something interesting and as you get more and more perfect moves, the background/environment becomes more alive. Things start lighting up, stuff starts moving around, feathers fly all over the screen, all kinds of neat things, so in my opinion, it makes up for the dancers. Also you don’t dance in a venue, think of it like a music video, it’s actually pretty cool as its themed to that song’s era and some of the songs have a story video that go to the song, like Teenage Dream (nerd to prom queen, typical high school story). The dancers and their moves are also themed to the songs era or type and man, some of them are hilarious. Ever do the actual alligator move? I was laughing really hard at some of them and usually these intentionally funny games only get a smile out of me, but I was seriously laughing at a lot of them.

Katy Perry's Teenage Dream - This is when she goes from nerd to prom queen

The dance moves are pretty basic, some you will recognize from Dance Central, others I recognized from fitness games, so it’s a mixture of everything. They are repetitive if you have seen any videos, why is this if you are wondering? Because going to back to the theme of this game, it’s a party game. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, doing the same move 8 times in a row eventually you’ll get it right one time. When you do something right, it usually means you are going to keep trying and this game will keep you and your friends dancing. Amazingly, it doesn’t seem to get boring and I played for 3 hours straight.

Katy Perry's E.T. - One of the really repetitive ones...

The Score System

The score system has 4 types, an X, an OK, a GOOD and a PERFECT. What’s nice about this game is you don’t have to be perfect. It gives you points for trying, at least you tried! For example, if you are doing something with your right arm and its supposed to be your left arm, it still gives you points, you just don’t get a perfect.

There are some other things you can do get to get points as well, such as getting several good or perfect moves in a row, you catch “On Fire” – literally. Once you are on fire, every move earns you bonus points. Your score is revealed at the end. During the song, there’s only a star system, 5 stars being the maximum and your “mood”. I don’t think the mood plays any factor in the game or your score. If you are trying to go for perfect throughout, I’d have to say good luck with it. Kinect detects you fairly well, however doing the moves you can be pretty sloppy with and when you miss a move, there’s no indication of what you messed up. Learning from mistakes in this one isn’t really one of the positive points.

There are also gold moves, which are kind of like unique poses in the song. You will have to be pretty spot on with these I noticed, if you are a smidge off or not the right angle or whatever, you blow it, getting a gold move gets you more points as well. I believe this is the same scoring system from past JD’s, but it is a good system, you’ll probably never have the same score twice, this was an issue I had with Dance Central, I was able to replicate scores.

At the end of a song, you are also rated on your style. Styles consist of Twin, Triplets, Quadruplets, Energetic, In Rhythm, Lazy, Smooth, Creative and Wild. If playing with friends, if someone is lazy, the game will determine that and then you can harass the heck out of them. That is great fun right there!

Another unique feature which I found neat is the “Shout Out”. What this is, in my opinion, is a great idea. Most of your friends don’t know songs word for word. Ever been to a club/bar/wedding and you are dancing with your friends, and the only part of the song all of you know and can sing together is the one word that is repeated over and over or a chorus line? That’s exactly what this is. It’s a great idea, when the icon appears, and you shout out whatever, like in Boogie Wonderland, you sing Boogie Wonderland for some more bonus points, since I don’t think most people don’t know full songs unless you are karaoke superstar. It’s all in good fun.

The Dance Menu

In the Dance menu, you have the option of choosing individual songs, following along a playlist (you can’t create your own unfortunately), Specials (I go into its details below), and Just Sweat mode.

Choosing individual songs is pretty straight forward. You get a mini-preview by hovering over a song name. Some songs are masters, some are covers, Ubisoft isn’t hiding anything here. Before beginning the song, you can choose your difficulty as well. There is only Easy and Normal. Easy is just a Wii emulation (ie. moving your arms around). Normal includes your feet and rest of the body, I call this the Kinect mode. There’s no difference in scoring between the 2 modes and no additional dance moves like Dance Central. Where Ubisoft gets you, is the more people you have, the higher you can get your score. It’s really meant for a group of people if you want to compete with other people score wise. I was only able to 5 star two songs out of all of them playing one time through.

There is no campaign/story to this game, however there are things to do. Like Dance Central, how completing songs filled up your rank, Just Dance went along the lines of filling up “Mojo” – yes, the Austin Powers Mojo…that should be another indication this game is not serious, but it sort of can be if you want it to. There’s a challenge factor to it, but it’s not 100% accurate.

As you fill up Mojo, you start unlocking modes, songs, choreographies, medleys, mini-games, all types of things, there are 23 specials total. New for this release is quartets, new to all of us Kinect owners is duets as well. If you are playing by yourself, when playing a duet or quartet song, you can choose what dancer you want to follow. What I found really challenging about duets/quartets is that it’s quite hard to imagine someone is there and trying to do dance moves with imaginary people!

I know everyone will want to know if 4 player works good, but unfortunately I don’t have 4 dancers in the house. You can play with 4 dancers with any song, even if it’s a solo dance. I’m going to guess it at least works since the demo videos flying around seem to detect all 4 players and scores all 4 of them. If someone wants to confirm 4 player works good, please by all means post a comment about it.

The playlists are categorized by different genres and functions, quick examples are Non-Stop Shuffle which plays every single song without stopping (good luck on that one!), I think one was Awesome 80’s or something, which is a handful of the 80’s tracks, things like that. Nice idea, it’d be cool if we could just create our own like Dance Paradise did, except without the pauses, but that could explain why the playlists were created for us as there is no pausing in between songs.

This is "So Excited" - totally 80's!

The specials are pretty neat as well. I think this is partly why the same songs don’t get boring. I haven’t unlocked all of them, but I did a few. One I played was a dance mash-up. What it is, is a mash-up of all kinds of different dance moves from different songs, re-choreographed to the song you are playing. I happened to do LMFAO’s song and the mash-up was actually more fun than the original choreography. It is a neat feature. There’s also a Simon Says mode that makes you do things like Simon says Stop, during a song and you are supposed to stop and resume with the beat when its safe to do so.

The sweat mode is just a dance workout version of JD. It records sweat points which I think are calories, but not certain about it. You can also play 1-4 players in this mode. The manual does say it doesn’t save your sweat points though, which kind of sucks but I guess we can’t have it all. I actually didn’t try this mode out.

Just Create

This mode is amazing to me. Others might think its stupid, but I think Ubisoft is brilliant for implementing this. What it is is exactly that, create choreography to any song that’s in the game. There’s no rules and no limits except song choice. What Harmonix did with opening up instrument playing to the music lovers in the world and actually learning drums, keys, guitars, harmonies, etc., Ubisoft has just opened up the doors for some great choreographers to emerge. We may get to see some amazing choreography that we would have never known about if it wasn’t for this mode.

I was going to try to be cool and do the real LMFAO shuffle and create a video, but I am not a choreographer. I’m only good at copying moves (so I think!), and for the most part of the song when it’s the regular verses…there’s no dancing, so I couldn’t come up with anything, sorry! I’m sure someone will post it up soon enough though.

That’s a quick summary of it, there’s actually more options in the Just Create mode. You have Coach Me, which is basically a fun mode. You can either try to follow along with the dancer or just do your own thing. It’s probably good for learning, but its nothing in-depth like Dance Central’s break it down mode.

Dance off allows you to follow, create, and then play all within a song. You start off following a dancer, then randomly, you have to get creative and record your own moves, at the end it plays it back. This is pretty much the normal freestyle mode from Dance Central.

Freestyle is the straight up create your own choreography from scratch mode. It is very cool. You are transformed into a JD dancer, so you can wear different colored clothes to give you different colored clothes on-screen. I had a white t-shirt that was green on my JD character. I will mention it is not 1:1, there’s a slight delay, however the game like fixes it or something, so as long as you pay attention to the music and not your on-screen character it works out really well.

After recording, there’s a preview mode to test it out and then you can save it or just cancel out. You can also give your song a title if you want to be unique. You can also create a cover picture like an album cover. This can be yourself or whatever you stick in front of the Kinect camera. It’s actually really detailed and I was very impressed with it, Ubisoft did a really good job with it.

Lastly, there’s a gallery option. In the gallery, you can download new choreographies that other JDers create. Ubisoft Montreal already created one and I tested it out. It works great and any created choreographies help you build up your mojo so all scoring and all rules apply. The only thing about it is there are no pictograms (like cue cards) of upcoming moves so you have to play through a few times to get the moves down. You can download any of these for free, I see our hard drives filling up fast though…also www.justdanceplanet.com is going to be an online community for all of this so we can probably preview them on the website. The site goes live on Oct. 11th with the UK release. Below is the video for the Just Create mode of Just Dance 3, for your convenience.

The Extras

The extras are basically all the options. You have credits that you can view, unlock code – which is where you enter your code if you bought one of the exclusive versions from Target or Best Buy which the code is just on an insert in the case (I see these going for sale on Ebay shortly) – and settings. Settings allow you to turn certain options on and off, such as Pictograms, Lyrics and How To Play. There’s also 2 “Short” options. Yes, I will bold this, Just Dance 3 is the FIRST dance title to feature full length tracks (check the links on the right top for the tracklist). The short option tones tracks down to about 1 1/2 minutes on average. You can turn short tracks on for both regular gameplay and the Just Create mode, so if you can’t come up with full choreography, you can try a shorter version. It’s these little bells and whistles that impress me.

The Shop

I was surprised when I checked this out. This will be Ubisoft’s DLC shop and they have already posted 3 tracks! Fame, U Can’t Touch This (Rick James version) and Heart of Glass (Blondie). Yes these are from Just Dance 1, however they are new to us Kinect owners. If they stick to this plan, they will probably be releasing all previous JD tracks, which means shortly JD would have around 150+ tracks, and we can create our own choreography? It doesn’t sound too bad to me, but what do I know. 🙂

Also like most Ubisoft titles, UPlay is included. I call UPlay items Easter Eggs since they are unknown until you play the game and no one ever recognizes them. There’s a medley in there, a new choreography for a song and a couple other things which I don’t recall at the moment, so yes there’s more to unlock. For those that don’t know, you only get UPlay points by getting certain achievements or certain requirements.

Conclusion

I apologize in advance for this really long review but being that I gave it an 8, hopefully you will understand why and hopefully I justified it in your eyes. There is a lot to do in this game and realistically, its limitless as long as DLC is provided. Hopefully Ubisoft keeps up with it and we get a regular schedule of DLC to keep it going. I would have to say, I didn’t see it coming, but this may actually be a contender to Dance Central, only because I have a feeling casual party dancers are going to sweep this up before they get Dance Central, but time will tell. If you want to really learn how to dance, stick with Dance Central. If you just want to goof around or be creative and try your own choreography, Just Dance 3 is the way to go for right now.


This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Just Dance 3
Scoring policy: What do these game review scores actually mean?