Review: Just Dance 3 (Wii)

It's evolution, baby

The world is not lacking in Just Dance games. Since that original perfect storm of pop style, goofy fun and lack of inhibition crashed the Wii party near the tail end of 2009, Ubisoft's dance factory has put out an additional eight releases of varying quality in a short two years. It would thus be easy to dismiss Just Dance 3 based on franchise fatigue alone, although doing so would rob you of the ridiculously good time of what just may be Wii's best party game yet.

That may sound like faint praise on a platform drowning in the darn things — like calling it the least bruised dead horse in the cemetery — but the third main entry expands upon the commercially smashing formula in energetic new ways while tightening up the somewhat modular get-up of previous titles. It's a game less concerned with reinventing the dancing game wheel than it is with making the most perfectly rounded wheel on the platform.

There is, of course, plenty of "more" here for the game to earn its digit uptick. Sporting a larger and sufficiently diverse track list ranging from Daft Punk to The Nightmare Before Christmas means that virtually anyone will be able to find at least a few pleasures, guilty or otherwise, and if Just Dance 2 is any indication then Ubisoft will keep the online store stocked with a steady trickle of new tracks — with individual tracks costing 50 Wii Points less than before, although Just Dance 2 downloads are unfortunately not playable on the new dance floor. Handy new playlists by genre and style cut out the simple slog of song selection for times when you don't really care about which 80's jam you jiggle to; and Medleys are one-upped by Dance Mash-Ups that provide smoother transitions between different styles, which makes medleys feel downright disjointed by comparison.

These additions are all well and good, but where Just Dance 3 shines is in how well everything ties together. Artificial walls between modes have been knocked over to give unity to the package or to simply make things easier to do. Last time around, exercise mode Just Sweat was relegated to playing in that particular mode and wound up as a novel but inelegant way of tracking Sweat Point goals and progress. It was a downright silly restriction that kept the mode on its own island, now bridged by allowing you to accrue Sweat Points at any time so long as your profile is loaded.

Regardless of profile, though, earning stars by dancing unlocks "gifts" of additional songs, modes, medleys and mash-ups. You can't choose what you would like to unlock and when, but the increasing amount of stars required to unlock the 20+ gifts implies that these are just extras to be enjoyed every so often and encourage play over a longer period of time. Same goes for the achievement-like medals and the titles awarded after each song: anyone can earn them and they're designed for the long-term, keeping things a bit more interesting for frequent players and give more goals to solo players.

Speaking of which, Just Dance's goal has never been to teach you how to dance like Harmonix's Dance Central on Kinect — nor is it concerned with pinpoint motion accuracy, as evidenced by the good-enough detection — but instead to napalm inhibitions to clear the way for good times with friends. Few games feel as kinetic as Just Dance's unbridled joyful energy, and the series' signature neon flare and carefree style is out in full force. Routines strike that same balance between exuberance and challenge, incorporating more interaction between the on-screen dancers and their crazy environment. And for maximum goof, the duet concept has been expanded to encompass a number of numbers with four choreographies to give everyone in your kick line their own unique role, lending a sense of cooperation among players that isn't present when everyone does the same routine.

Conclusion

There may be no lack of dance games on shelves but there has yet to be one as polished, approachable and with such joie de vivre as Just Dance 3. Those who have previously checked their inhibitions with the coats to be sucked in by the franchise's plucky, happy-go-lucky attitude will find a delightful reason to return to the floor, and for non-believers Just Dance 3 just may be the perfect place to start.