Just Dance is a series that likely needs no introduction; for the last nine years Ubisoft has regularly released a new version of its smash-hit franchise every October, helping the franchise’s sales to reach staggeringly high figures. This year is (predictably) no different as Just Dance 2018 takes over as the newest entry, hoping to continue the series’ incredible success. Does the game do enough to make upgrading from previous versions worth it, though? Let’s find out.
At the heart of things, Just Dance 2018 is very much the same game it has always been. The gameplay itself is identical to past versions – your task is to mimic dance routines being displayed on screen, accumulating points as you try to achieve a five-star rating. Interestingly, though, this time around Ubisoft seems to have ditched all the madness that was introduced in last year’s instalment (weird, alien things, we’re looking at you!) and has instead created a much more standard, but pleasingly slick, experience.
The game’s main mode starts with a small selection of songs available – dance through just two of these and you’ll unlock several more with a further two dances after that being the key to unlocking the majority of the game. When that fourth dance has been completed, seeing the amount of content that unlocks initially seems really impressive – unfortunately, though, it isn’t all here to stay (more on this later). With everything now unlocked, you are free to scroll up and down through numerous categories of songs, picking and choosing at whichever ones take your fancy.
Completing a song earns you ‘mojo’ – an in-game currency of sorts that can be used to unlock even more things. After collecting 100 mojo, you will be given the chance to spend it in a machine – doing so will give you a random item such as a sticker that will go towards unlocking more new songs, new choreographies for existing songs, or even more mojo in return. There are well over 200 things to collect through this method, so getting your hands on everything will take you a good while. Stopping after every few songs to spin the machine is a good way to have regular short breaks but also provides an extra incentive to complete dances in the first place.
The slightly bizarre ‘Just Dance Machine’ mode from last year seems to have been completely reimagined into a new (much more sensible) guise called ‘Dance Lab’. Here, you can play through episodes which are unlocked via the mojo machine and each one has you dancing through various styles. Sometimes these are real dance genres but they can also be comically ridiculous ones such as ‘motorbike riding’ or ‘being a ninja’. On top of this, Fitness Mode returns this year – adding live updates to show you how many calories you’re burning as well as giving you the option to create workout setlists. World Dance Floor is back too, offering a decent online mode where you compete with other players in real time.
The Switch version of the game features some nice little bonuses that help to make it stand out from other console options. Firstly, a song called ‘Just Mario’ is available to play via a subscription service (again, more on this soon) and, secondly, the HD Rumble feature in the Joy-Con controllers has been utilised to good effect. When playing through any of the 40 songs included in the base game, the beat of the song will pulse through the Joy-Con in your hand, helping you to feel the rhythm. Naturally, if you choose to play with a smartphone as your controller (which is an option that has been included for the past few instalments), you will be losing out on this small benefit. On top of this, a new mode called Double Rumble has you playing though songs with a Joy-Con in either hand, introducing two-handed routines with vibrations going through each controller.
All of these modes and upgrades are nice touches and a new section called ‘Kids’ - which houses a number of child friendly routines - shows that quite a lot of thought has gone into making this version of the game something more than its most recent predecessor. Despite this, though, it still doesn’t feel like enough of a reason to upgrade. The main bulk of the game’s content comes from Just Dance Unlimited (an online subscription service which provides you with an ever-growing list over 300 songs). Buying a copy of Just Dance 2018 on Switch gives you access to a three-month trial of this service and, as we mentioned earlier on, seeing all of the goodies it presents makes the game feel more than worth it. The moment those songs get taken away, though, you’ll realise that unless you cough up the extra cash you’ll be left with a rather bare-bones game.
The tracks included as standard are mostly made up of chart favourites including Ed Sheeran, Katy Perry, Beyoncé, and Bruno Mars with a few rather different options such as Queen, Hatsune Miku, and a version of ‘Carmen (Overture)’. As you may expect, by adding the subscription to your game, the variations in content available grows quite dramatically and you’ll be able to play through favourites from earlier Just Dance releases. If you’re happy to keep up to date with this subscription, Just Dance 2018 on Switch offers one of the best, easiest to navigate, and in some ways most ‘mature’ experiences that the franchise has ever seen. Without the subscription, though, the differences between this version and older ones (which you’ll likely be able to find at a cheaper price) isn’t enough to feel worth it.
In a strange twist for a series that you would expect to be built around drawing in new consumers, Just Dance 2018 feels like a perfect match for those who already love the games and are really serious about their dancing, yet does nothing to draw in newcomers. In some ways, this year’s edition feels like it is almost a ‘greatest hits’ for its hardcore fans – the one entry that you’ll always fall back to just to play through the best stuff. Yet with such a hefty cost needed to access all of the game’s content, only the most serious will get true enjoyment here.