The Best Exercise Games for the Xbox Kinect

Review of Just Dance 2016 for Xbox One

Posted by steve on November - 15 - 2015 with 0 Comment

Another year, another version of Just Dance from Ubisoft. At this point Just Dance is clearly a cash cow–each year Ubisoft will put out a new version with a whole set of new licensed tracks and a few technical improvements to all platforms from the Wii to the PS4 and Xbox One.

This year’s offering, Just Dance 2016, is pretty much the same as last year’s, with a few minor improvements. Here are the different options you can select in the game from the main menu:

Dance Party is the “classic” Just Dance where you can just jump into dancing. You can choose whether you want to compete against other humans or the computer (Rival Mode) or dance together to try to pool the most points as a team (Coop Mode).

You then choose a song. Each song is choreographed for a certain number of dancers, which you can tell by the number of figures you see when you scroll through each song (I’ve also listed the number in parentheses). When you play in groups, it’s always a load of fun to have each person in the group take a different dancer (or, everyone can just choose the same dancer). The Kinect does a pretty good job of remembering who you are even when you’re shuffling around.

  • All About That Bass – Meghan Trainor (1)
  • Animals – Martin Garrix (2)
  • Balkan Blast Remix – Angry Birds (4)
  • Blame – Calvin Harris Ft. John Newman (1)
  • Born This Way – Lady Gaga (3)
  • Boys (Summertime Love) – The Lemon Cubes (3)
  • Chiwawa – Wanko Ni Mero Mero (1)
  • Circus – Britney Spears (4)
  • Cool For The Summer – Demi Lovato (1)
  • Copacabana – Frankie Bostello (4)
  • Drop the Mambo – Diva Carmina (1)
  • Fancy – Iggy Azalea Ft. Charli XCX (3)
  • Fun – Pitbull Ft. Chris Brown (1)
  • Gibberish – MAX (2)
  • Hangover (BaBaBa) – Buraka Som Sistema (2)
  • Heartbeat Song – Kelly Clarkson (1)
  • Hey Mama – Daid Guetta Ft. Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha & Afrojack (3)
  • Hit The Road Jack – Charles Percy (2)
  • I Gotta Feeling – The Black Eyed Peas (1)
  • I’m An Albatroz – AronChupa (1)
  • Ievan Polkka – Hatsune Miku (1)
  • Irish Meadow Dance – O’Callaghan’s Orchestra (4)
  • Junto a Ti – Disney’s “Violetta” (3)
  • Kaboom Pow – Nikki Yanofsky (1)
  • Kool Kontact – Glorious Black Belts (2)
  • Let’s Groove – Equinox Stars (3)
  • Lights – Ellie Goulding (1)
  • No Control – One Direction (4)
  • Rabiosa – Shakira Fr. El Cata (1)
  • Same Old Love – Selena Gomez (3)
  • Stadium Flow – Imposs (1)
  • Stuck on a Feeling – Prince Royce (1)
  • Teacher – Nick Jonas (1)
  • The Choice is Yours – Darius Dante Van Dijk (1)
  • These Boots Are Made for Walking – The Girly Team (1)
  • This is How We Do – Katy Perry (4)
  • Under The Sea – Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” (1)
  • Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson Ft. Bruno Mars (1)
  • Want To Want Me – Jason Derulo (1)
  • When The Rain Begins To Fall – Sky Trucking (2)
  • William Tell Overture – Rossini (2)
  • You’re the One That I Want – From The Movie Grease (2)
  • You Never Can Tell – A. Caveman & The Backseats (2)

Up to six different dancers can dance at one time, although of course the more people you have the further you need to play your Kinect from the dancers.

As has been the case with Just Dance from the beginning, the way to play is to follow the moves of the silhouetted figure on screen as if you’re looking in a mirror. The more precisely you match the hands (and to a lesser extent, the feet), the more points you’ll get. Hit a move perfectly and you’ll get a green “Perfect”. Lesser moves will get a blue “Good” or a purple “OK”. The higher your score the more stars you collect.

Here’s me dancing to Disney’s “Under the Sea”. This is a case where the choreography requires you to lie sideways on a large seat.

Dance Quest is when you can jump in and compete against 8 other dancers around the world. As players hit and miss moves you’ll see them move up and down the leader board. Here’s me pulling out a #1 finish for the Cake Quest, granted against pretty light competition (audio muted by YouTube copyright police).

World Video Challenge is an online game where you can dance against a player from around the world, from Brazil to France to the United States.  You’re actually not dancing against a live player as you are in the Dance Quest, but a recorded player–and of course most players who opt in to uploading their videos for the Video Challenge upload only their very best performances (unless, like me, they hide their faces using an improvised ninja mask).

Here’s me dancing (using the term loosely) against a hotshot kid from Brazil.

Sweat and Playlists is the “exercise” portion of the game. Songs are specially choregraphed with “aerobics versions” where the movements are more repetitive and focused on working out as opposed to being artistic.

Here’s me working out to Katy Perry’s “This is How We Do”.

Just Dance TV is an option where you can just sit back and enjoy “autodance” clips (heavily stylized short clips that other Just Dance players around the world have uploaded) or “showtime” clips (full songs with lyrics with Just Dance players in the background). It’s an interesting diversion, but the clips are so stylized that you don’t really see the personality of the dancers, just the gimmicks of the Just Dance software.

The one big change is that you have two options for motion control detection with the Xbox One–you can use your Kinect 2.0 or you can download the Just Dance app to your iPhone or Android smartphone and use your phone as a controller. Using a phone frees you up from having to stay confined to the area that the Kinect camera can see, but I found the motion detection to be a little too lenient, so someone dancing with their smartphone is probably going to score higher than someone using the Kinect.

Another annoyance is the same annoyance of every year since the first Just Dance–not matter how many previous versions of Just Dance you own, you can’t play songs from previous versions. While there was a time that Ubisoft could claim that this was technically impossible, that’s no longer true since now previous versions’ songs are available via a paid service called Just Dance Unlimited. Making matters worse, as many reviewers have noted the user interface is deliberately misleading, making it seem that you can play multiple songs until you click on them and it tells you to subscribe to Just Dance Unlimited.

But perhaps the worst sin of this game is the sin of omission. I understand the desire to keep the game as consistent as possible across all platforms, but that means that they’re leaving a lot of the Xbox One’s capabilities on the table. I would have liked to have seen Ubisoft introduce some improvements or even borrowing features from other Xbox Fitness games like the ability to track the heart rate or have at least the option to turn on ultra-precise motion tracking.

Ultimately, I’d give it 4 stars. It’s Just Dance, so it’s a solid game, but if they want to keep the franchise going, I’d hope they’d start to use some of the Xbox One’s more advanced features rather than dumbing it down to an experience you can get on a Wii.

At its original list price of $39.99 it was hard to justify buying it, but in perhaps a sign of Just Dance’s flagging popularity, for most platforms the price has dropped to around $15-20, which makes it a pretty good deal. Check on Amazon to see what the price is today.