The Best Exercise Games for the Xbox Kinect

Review of Just Dance 2014 for Xbox One

Posted by steve on March - 16 - 2014 with 0 Comment

Just Dance 2014 for Xbox One

Does a good job of replicating everything that made Just Dance successful on the Wii, the Wii U, the Playstation 3, and the Xbox 360. Hopefully one day we’ll see a version that truly takes full advantage of all the Xbox One and Kinect 2.0 have to offer. But this isn’t it.

Rating by steve: 4 stars

Admittedly, it’s a bit tricky to write a review for the Xbox One version of Just Dance 2014, given that it’s almost identical to the Xbox 360 version, which I reviewed last October.

As with the Xbox 360 version, the main menu consists of five options:

Just Sweat – This mode turns Just Dance 2014 into an “exercise program”, allowing you to play several songs in a row for 10, 20, or 40 minutes, tracking your calories in real-time.

Shop – This lets you use in-game currency or real currency to purchase alternate choreography and modes. You’ll need real currency to buy new songs.

World Dance Floor – This was a feature that was a lot of fun–when I could get it to work. Unfortunately, 95% of the time I try it, I get a message that ‘The Ubisoft server is unavailable at this time. Please try again later”.  The only system I was able to use to get on the service somewhat consistently was the PS3; with the Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One, I was routinely shut out.

JDTV – This is a feature where you can view the short “Autodance” video snippets that are automatically recorded during each dance. Autodance is a fun feature when you’re playing with friends, but when you’re exercising alone (in various stages of workout clothing), I’d very strongly suggesting turning “Autodance” and “Share” Off so there’s no chance of accidentally uploading it (you can get to the “Extras” menu by pressing the small button with the three parallel lines on your Xbox One controller).

The fifth option is to start dancing to a recommended song. You can also scroll to the right to view all the songs available to you, which is identical to the list of songs for Xbox 360.

The graphics and choreography are pretty much identical too. As with the Xbox 360 version (and versions on all platforms), your mission is to try to mirror the dancer on the screen as closely as possible, matching its arm and leg motions.

Here’s what Lady Gaga’s “Applause” looks like on the Xbox One:

And here it is on the Xbox 360:

As you can see, I scored a lot more points on the Xbox One version than I did on the Xbox 360 version. I got the sense both that the Xbox 360 version was a little more strict, and that the Xbox One version was a lot more precise. That said, the biggest gripe out I’ve heard out there about Just Dance 2014 for Xbox One is that motion control is not as precise as you think it would be with the Kinect 2.0. For example, while a game like Dance Central on the Xbox 360 would attempt to pinpoint things you’re doing wrong down to the limb level, Just Dance 2014 seems to give you credit as long as you’re “close”. And there is definitely not much, if any, tracking of the legs and feet.

I tend to think this isn’t necessarily a negative as much as it was probably a conscious decision on the part of the developers. Part of the reason the Just Dance franchise took off on the Wii was because they figured out early on that making the game “fun” led to a lot more success than making it a more technical dance game like Dance Central tried to be. Of course, there’s also the possibility that Ubisoft just had to rush this one out, and so they didn’t bother to add much to the game that wasn’t already in the Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, PS3, and PS4 versions.

And even so, the way the motion tracking works, from playing the game myself and from seeing others play it, if you only focus on arm movements you’ll probably score around a 4 out of 5 stars, while to get a 5 out of 5 you really need to work on matching the actual whole body dance moves.

To me, the bigger disappointment with the Xbox One version of the game (similar to what I mentioned with Fighter Within last week), is that it doesn’t feel like the Kinect 2.0 is really being used to its fullest. There are little improvements here and there. For example, with the Xbox One version of Kinect, you theoretically can support six dancers, although as you can imagine you need a LOT of space for this, and for the Kinect camera to be very far away. Also, there are some cute achievements you get when you do subtle things like high-fiving after a dance routine or smiling after watching a JDTV video, which of course wasn’t possible before. Also, the “karaoke” feature, where you get bonus points for singing along with the music, is better on the Xbox One than on any other system before it. 

Also, I was pretty impressed that in Just Sweat mode, instead of a very rough calculation of calories burned, the Kinect 2.0 actually measured all of my arm and leg motion–not just that I did the move but how much energy I exerted doing it. Just from this, I feel I can trust that the calories it reported I burned are much more accurate.

But I’d love to see what more they can do in the future with the new technology outside of these baby steps. Taking your actual video image, placing it next to the coach, and using that to judge your moves, for example (for those who do want to use it as a dance tutorial). Or giving you a critique of your dancing and focusing on areas you need to practice. Or, doing some of the cool things they’re doing with Xbox Fitness such as taking your pulse from your video image. Or, how interesting would it be to have video “dance offs” between people around the world? The Kinect 2.0 brings with it a lot of potential. With the next generation of Just Dance we’ll see if Ubisoft decides to continue to develop for the “lowest common denominator” (the Wii), or if it’ll start thinking out of the box with some of the new capabilities of the Xbox One and the PS4.

Giving this a 4 out of 5 stars because it’s still the best dance game available on any system. But the Xbox One version could, should, and hopefully will be so much more in years to come.