Despite its name suggesting otherwise, Just Dance 2015 is in fact only the sixth entry in the main series of Just Dance games, and the aim is as simple as it gets; you have to replicate the dance moves that the on-screen dancers perform in time with the music and as accurately as you can. The ethos is simple, but can it provide enough lasting entertainment with such a basic premise?
When you first load up any game, the first thing you’ll notice is the menus, and Just Dance 2015 does a good job in making them as appealing as they can be. Unfortunately, as pretty as they are, the organisation isn’t terribly intuitive, and the Wii Remote navigation isn’t as functional as it could be. Traditionally you would be able to use the plus and minus buttons to scroll horizontally through panels on most Wii games, but not here. Instead you have to click the left or right button with the pointer, which would be little more than a minor niggle, except that it also only displays three songs per panel, so finding the song you want can sometimes take a bit too long. This results in a menu that is pretty, but its most basic form of navigation is unnecessarily tedious.
The selection of songs is quite varied and you’ll be hard pushed to find a song you're not even a little bit fond of. With variation, however, comes a problem. Because the developer has tried to cover as much ground as possible – even going so far as to include ‘Let it Go’ from Disney’s Frozen – unless your music taste is exceptionally broad you’ll only really be interested in a handful of the songs on offer. The game also makes subtle claims to having over 70 songs available, which is a bit cheeky considering only just over half of those are their own songs, the others being repeats with different dances or DLC. Speaking of DLC, there’s a lot of it. Considering at the time of writing the game has been out for less than a week this amount of additional content this early feels a bit like some of the tracks were initially planned to be available on the disc but were held back in order to make more money. Unfortunately these are just the times we live in, but there’s enough diversity on the disc alone to keep you entertained, so the experience isn't marred by this possibly sly move.
Once you’ve chosen your song you’ll be able to select which role in the dance-a-thon you want to take on. Some of the songs only have one dancer, but many have multiple, each with their own moves and stylings. Then you’re into the part you bought the game for, the dancing. Clutching your Wii Remote in your hand you’ll be presented with your dancer and any others there may be in the song, and you’ll need to follow the one you chose as though they were a mirror image of yourself. Due to the nature of the Wii Remote as an input method, it’s not as accurate at picking up your movements as would be ideal. Four times out of five if you perform a dance move correctly the game will recognise it and, providing you performed it with the same gusto as the dancer on the screen, you’ll get a green flash beneath your score that says ‘perfect’. Unfortunately though, sometimes the game just doesn’t recognise that you’ve done a move with any real clarity and will give you an ‘OK’ to signify this. Initially one could be forgiven for thinking that the timing was out or there wasn’t enough enthusiasm, but after careful investigation it turns out this appears even if the Wii Remote is just waggled without any rhythm, so this is the game recognising that you’ve moved, but can’t recognise if it was the right movement.
You can also play with so-called ‘challengers’. These are real people’s scores – unless you don’t have an internet connection, in which case they’re just in-built scores from members of the game’s creation team – and you can choose to face off against them to see who’s cock of the walk. Unfortunately all this really does is highlight just how inept you are at dancing compared to the rest of the world. Of course sometimes you’ll win, but there’s not much to be gained compared to simply playing the game solo. You could use the online capabilities to dance against other users in real time with traditional matchmaking voting on which song will be next, but this suffers from the same problem, all you can see of your opponents is their score and their avatar, which isn’t enough to make you feel like you’re making a fool of yourself and loving it with a audience. Simply put these features don’t do enough to enhance gameplay, and you’re probably going to have exactly the same experience dancing by yourself.
The real fun in this game comes from playing it with friends; having four people struggling to keep up with the professionals on screen is not only immensely enjoyable to be a part of, but also incredibly entertaining to watch. You can also get a fifth person into the mix if they fancy singing along to the song you’ve chosen, or you could put the GamePad near your speakers, which the game seems fine to accept as pitch perfect vocals. Many people will be fairly sheepish to begin with, but after a while everyone will have realised that they look no stupider than anyone else and really get into the groove. Sweaty brows, giggling, and accidental or friendly slaps on the bum all boil down to good, clean fun that many individuals won’t have experienced since they were a child.
An evening in with a few friends all prancing around to the sounds of ‘Walk This Way’ by Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C. is difficult to top, but if things become too samey, you can take advantage of the Dance Mashup mode, which was absent in the previous two titles in the series. In this mode a fifth player can join in and using the GamePad they can choose a song and then pick individual chunks of routines to keep those dancing on their toes. Every so often you’ll also be given the option to switch to a different song entirely, although these transitions aren’t particularly smooth. As interesting as this mode is you’ll probably spend most of your time playing the standard songs.
There are a number of other small features in the game, but none of them are really anything special. There’s a selection of over 200 avatars to unlock for your profile, but if you're like us once you’ve unlocked the Lady Gaga icon there’s no reason to have anything else. Another feature that is mentioned numerous times is Autodance, which takes advantage of the GamePad’s camera — as it did in Just Dance 2014 — in order to film any poor souls who happen to be dancing so you can share the video online with friends. It also informs you that you can take a short part of one of these videos and use it as an animated icon that’ll appear when you play with others online; you activate the feature by tapping the GamePad's screen whilst in the middle of a song and selecting the Autodance function. Unfortunately, there is no instruction in the game telling you to do this, so many users may find themselves at a loss if they plan to make their proudest moments public. Given that this game is marketed towards an audience that includes individuals that are perhaps less savvy in regards to video games, it seems like a poor decision to make the feature so confusing and elusive.
You can also choose to dance to songs by watching the instruction of real people as opposed to motion-captured sprites in the new Community Remix mode. It’s a nice addition to see real people involved, but at the end of the day you’re still doing the same dance moves to the same song you were in the standard mode, so there’s not an awful lot to gain in this mode.
Overall, Just Dance 2015 is much like its predecessors, but in the struggle to do something ‘new’ with the game, Ubisoft has added a lot of features that are not really worth your bother. Luckily these don’t interfere with your enjoyment from the very entertaining main game, and as long as you’ve got some good friends and enough self-confidence, Just Dance 2015 could well give you the licence to be the dancing buffoon you always wanted to be.