If you want to juice up a party then you can’t do much better than getting everyone on the dance floor, and the Just Dance series has been responsible for untold cut rugs for years now. But sometimes, when the age-appropriate drink for party-goers is juice, the grown-up songs and elaborate choreography of the mainline games can’t always cut it. That’s where Just Dance Kids 2014 comes in, with its 30 tracks and dance routines that appeal to a much younger audience, while allowing kids to feel more successful and confident in their dance prowess at a developmentally appropriate stage.
On offer are 30 tracks intended to appeal to different age ranges, running the gamut from nursery rhymes and The Wiggles for really young kids; Selena Gomez, One Direction and Demi Lovato for the tween crowd; and offers a way for parents to introduce classics like “Magic Carpet Ride” and “Walking on Sunshine” to their kids. About two thirds of the tracks are Kidz Bop-esque covers sung by youngsters, with the remaining third made up of master recordings by the original artist — a first for this branch of the franchise, apparently.
The lack of original recordings doesn’t actually do much of a disservice to the soundtrack, as kids won’t likely know the difference between an authentic Harry Belafonte and a younger interpretation — nor will they likely care, and you can dance along just as well to each. The on-screen dancers reflect their target audience and are for the most part all children. The exaggerated, neon, rotoscoped visual style that the franchise is known for sits this one out in favour of costumes, although the settings are just as fantastical as always — if not toned down some to suit a Nick Jr. style.
The choreography of Just Dance games has gotten more complicated as the series goes on, to the point where a younger child who really wants to dance along and feel as though they are doing well may be discouraged by the elaborate demands of movement. There is no Charleston in Just Dance Kids 2014, nor even a Carlton — routines use simple, repetitive moves that reflect the intended age group of the song. Choreography for a tyke song like Yo Gabba Gabba!'s "The Freeze Game" is less elaborate than the theme song to Footloose, for example. This means that, in general, a track that appeals to a certain somebody will likely have the choreography to suit their development, and parents who want to join in the active fun with their child likely won't have to worry about not keeping up.
Just Dance Kids 2014 doesn’t have all of the whiz-bang new features like online play and video sharing as does this year’s grown-up game, nor is it particularly fleshed out in the way of alternative modes. The brunt of dancing is done in the signature Just Dance style where up to four players wielding Wii Remotes at once mimic the on-screen dancer (or chosen dancer_s_, if it's a duet) to earn points and stars. The most interesting divergence occurs when a fifth player picks up the GamePad and joins in as Dance Director at any time — much like Party Master in Just Dance 2014.
The Dance Director has some agency over what the dancers will do next. However, instead of picking a set of choreography, the Dance Director can pick one of four silly styles that the other players are supposed to follow for a brief interpretive dance session, such as dancing like a conductor or a shark. Ordinary scoring ceases during these periods and gives this power to the Dance Director, who doles out points however they see fit based on how the dancers have interpreted the style. The results can be hilariously rad when a bunch of wound-up kids are told to dance like wizards, and as scoring is left up to a quick, anonymous tap on the GamePad, everyone is able to be rewarded for acting silly; this ensures the fun is kept light and non-competitive, and dancers are none the wiser (sparing hurt feelings) over who scored what. Parents will surely appreciate not having to break up fights because little Timmy learned the hard way that he has no rhythm (even if he doesn't).
In fact, Just Dance Kids 2014 has a whole section for parents to tailor the game to their liking and monitor their child's activity. Appropriately titled Parents, this area allows whoever is legally responsible for the household to crank up the competitive nature of the game by displaying scores or to keep it all very light and fluffy by omitting them from display altogether. Another menu offers some oversight into how much the game has been played, what songs are most popular, and even sneaks in an exercise component by estimating how many calories have been burned. As you never enter a player's age or weight the calorie counter isn't likely to be totally on the money, but for parents hoping to sneak more physical activity into screen time the counter serves as a gentle fitness yardstick.
Kids who want to cut loose, or parents of kids who wish that of their offspring, would do well to check out Just Dance Kids 2014. The game provides a uniquely tailored opportunity for young'uns to boogie down to age-appropriate tracks in a party-proven way with 30 tracks spanning everything from Yo Gabba Gabba! to "The Hustle." While it may be light on features and with no way to expand the catalogue with extra songs, Just Dance Kids 2014 offers a unique way to keep kids entertained — and a little extra active — for a good while.