The Best Exercise Games for the Xbox Kinect

Just Dance 2015 for Xbox One

Pretty much the same as Just Dance 2014, with improved online play and a brand new track list with 45 new songs

Rating by steve: 4 stars

just-dance-2015Remember a few years ago, everyone seemed to be arguing about whether Dance Central was a better game than Just Dance? We even published our famous Dance Game Dance Off to try to make sense of the gazillion options there were out there that game publishers were spewing out to try to cash in on the “fitness gaming” craze.

Well, what a difference three years makes. The Wii took the gaming world by storm when it introduced motion gaming, to the point where Sony and Microsoft scrambled to match with the Move and Kinect respectively. But when it came time to plan for the next generation of gaming consoles, everyone seemed to be caught off guard. Nintendo saw the writing on the wall that mobile gaming was going to eat into its market, but their response, the creation of the Wii U, turned out to be a poor one–not only did they abandon the motion gaming that made the Wii so successful, their “second screen” solution just didn’t have what it took to make up for casual gamers who used their disposable minutes on iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. Microsoft also made a strategic miscalculation in forcing users of Xbox One to have Kinect built in–to the point where they recently separated the two. Seems that only Sony made the right move by all but abandoning the PS3 Move.

The one franchise that seems to have escaped unscathed is Just Dance. Once again, they’re releasing Just Dance 2015 to every major console out there–the PS3, the PS4, the Wii, the Wii U. We’ll focus our review on Just Dance 2015 for Xbox One and Just Dance 2015 – Xbox 360, but the game is essentially identical across all platforms.

I’ll start off by saying that other than 45 new songs and improvements in online play, there’s not a whole lot new here. But here’s what I like about the game:

1) The Song List – Once again, the song list is great and has something for just about all members of the family. It has plenty of selections from the current Billboard Top 20, including “Bang Bang” by Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj; “Black Window” by Iggy Azalea; “Maps” by Maroon 5; and “Break Free” by Ariana Grande. There are recent hits like Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”, Rihanna’s “Diamonds’, and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”. And there are oldies like Run DMC and Aerosmith in “Walk This Way”, Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” (complete with authentic moves) and Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. For the kids there’s the song none of us can get out of our head: Disney’s “Let It Go” from Frozen. In a strange move, they even have the original theme song for the video game “Tetris”. Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” (which isn’t listed in the official track list) IS included.

If you’re a parent or grandparent of a young child, as with previous versions of Just Dance you’re probably going to want to take a good look at the song list and make a decision of whether it’s appropriate for your household. While there are plenty of kid-friendly songs like “Let It Go” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, there are also suggestive songs such as “Birthday”, “Bang Bang” and “4×4” that some parents will likely find too suggestive. Ubisoft did attempt to censor the most glaring words but in my opinion, not only is that likely to NOT going to be enough for most parents’ comfort, it also detracts from players who aren’t parents who want to listen to the uncensored lyrics. The lack of parental controls and the “E for Everyone 10+” rating have been controversial in the past, and unfortunately it doesn’t look like Ubisoft has quite come up with a great solution for this yet with this version.

2) Choreography – The choreography, once again, is fantastic. As they usually do, the dance moves did a great job of capturing the spirit of the songs, and in some cases use dance moves from the original artists’ videos. While 1-4 players can dance to any song, certain songs are specially choreographed for 2, 3 and 4 players and the moves can get pretty intricate and interactive (making it as much fun for people watching as it is for the people dancing).

Overall, the steps are simple enough that novices can play along, but complex enough that they’ll look impressive on a real dance floor if you master them. As a bonus, as you play you’ll be able to unlock alternate choreography for many of the songs. For example, “Happy” has a “Sing Along” mode and “Diamonds” has a “Seated Dance” mode.

3) Motion Controls – Perhaps because they wanted to keep the gameplay consistent across platforms, the motion controls are essentially focused on one hand, and doesn’t seem to use full body motion as in Dance Central series. That said, the accuracy is spot-on, and if you dance the moves properly you’ll be rewarded with good scores.

4) Artwork – Keeping true to its roots, Ubisoft stuck to the formula of using simple cartoon drawings and backgrounds. On the one hand this seems like a waste of the Xbox’s capabilities (particularly the Xbox One), but on the other hand it makes the responsiveness all the more crisp.

5) Workout – Contrary to what others have reported, Just Dance 2015 didn’t remove “Just Sweat Mode” except in name only. You can still turn on “calorie tracking”, and it’ll track for any song as you play the game (not just by going into a given mode). The system will keep track of the total calories you’ve burned over the life of the game. Also, similar to “Just Sweat Mode” in past games, there’s a Playlist mode that lets you select songs to dance to for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 40 minutes, or non-stop for the purpose of working out (Unfortunately, you still don’t have the capability to save playlists).

6) Community Remix – Here’s a neat little feature that allows you to use the Kinect camera to record your dances and get them rated by the community. A team in Ubisoft will take the best videos and create a video mix of different people around the world performing the moves. While some of the videos are a lot of fun to watch, and Ubisoft does a fairly good job of filtering out blatantly inappropriate videos, there are some videos that I’m not sure if I were a parent I would like to see my kids uploading.

7) Singalong – As usual, as songs play the lyrics will also appear for those who’d like to sing along. Something else you can do now is sing and your Kinect will pick up your voice. Like a karaoke machine, your voice will come through the TV for everyone to enjoy. It’s a great way to get more people involved in a party setting.

If that were it, I’d probably still give this game just 3 stars–it’s a solid game, but up to this point there wasn’t much new. But what upped my rating to “I like it” were the vast improvements in online play.

You might recall that Ubisoft tried their hand at online play with Just Dance 2014 and did a pretty bad job of it. Just to participate in online play, you had to sign in with your Nintendo ID, then sign in again (or create) something else called a “Uplay ID”, agreeing to a bunch of disclaimers on the way. And even after going through all that, chances are their server would kick you out or crash on you.

It’s a world of difference with Just Dance 2015. First of all, there’s no setup nor “Uplay account” necessary. You can just jump right into online play in two ways:

1) World Dance Floor – On the lower right-hand corner of the main Just Dance 2015 screen, you’ll see the words “World Dance Floor”, along with the number of dancers around the world currently dancing and the song everyone is dancing to. Click on it and within seconds you’ll see a single button that says “DANCE NOW”, along with the avatars of everyone who’s online at the moment and what country they’re from.

Once you click on it, you’ll be placed into a “Party” of about eight dancers. You can compete against each individually, and also choose a “side” (Dog vs. Cat, Sun vs. Moon, etc.).

As you dance to the song, you’ll see how well you’re doing vs. the others in your party. As you successfully hit moves and improve our score, you’ll see your avatar’s position rise against other players in real-time. I have to admit, it’s addictive trying to beat your fellow dancers and get that #1 spot. And even if you can’t keep up with the top players, the better you do the more you’ll be helping your “side”.

Once you finish dancing, you’ll see whether your “side” won. You’ll also be able to compare your score not just to members of your own group but to everyone around the world dancing at that moment. In some cases you’ll be able to vote on the next song to dance to, and you can keep dancing indefinitely. Whenever you decide to stop, you’ll see your current “online level”, how many minutes you danced, and how many different dancers you were dancing with from how many different countries in the time you were playing. I appreciate how they simplified not just the process of joining in the World Dance Floor but the gameplay as well.

2) Dance Challenger Mode – With typical Just Dance songs you can dance with up to four players. For the first time, you’ll also be able to activate “Dance Challenger Mode” which will fill up any empty slots with online players OR against your best performance from the past. Unlike with World Dance Floor, you’re not competing against live players, but you are competing against real people’s performances.

Yes, this game really isn’t breaking huge new ground in terms of innnovation, but it still manages to be one of the most entertaining video games you can play at family gatherings or parties, as well as still one of the best ways you can get exercise while playing a video game. The publisher did a great job of carrying over the best things about previous versions of Just Dance, but it’s the updated song list and the improvements in online features that make Just Dance 2015 worth buying.

Here’s the complete track list, along with the number of dancers each song is choreographed for:

Problem – Ariana Grande Ft. Iggy Azalea and Big Sean (solo)
Happy – Pharrell Williams (solo)
The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?) – Ylvis (3)
Love Me Again – John Newman (1)
Dark Horse – Katy Perry (3)
Love Is All – The Sunlight Shakers (2)
Me And My Broken Heart – Rixton (2)
I Love It – Icona Pop Ft. Charli XCX (1)
Tetris – Dancing Bros. (4)
Walk This Way – Run-DMC & Aerosmith (4)
Let It Go – Disney’s Frozen (2)
Built For This – Becky G (1)
Bailando – Enrique Iglesias Ft. Descemer Bueno & Gente de Zona (2)
Summer – Calvin Harris (1)
Don’t Worry Be Happy – The Bench Men (3)
Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix) – The Girly Team (4)
Black Widow – Iggy Azalea Ft. Rita Ora (1)
SING ALONG – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (2)
Get Low – Dillon Francis & DJ Snake (2)
Bang Bang – Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj (4)
Fatima – Cheb Salama (1)
Holding Out For A Hero – Bonnie Tyler (1)
Birthday – Katy Perry (1)
Only You (And You Alone) – Love Letter (2)
Diamonds – Rihanna (1)
She Looks So Perfect” – 5 Seconds of Summer (4)
XMas Tree – Bollywood Santa (2)
Best Song Ever – One Direction (4)
Bad Romance – Lady Gaga (3)
Never Can Say Goodbye – Gloria Gaynor (1)
You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) – Dead Or Alive (1)
4×4 – Miley Cyrus (4)
Epic Sirtaki – The Bouzouki’s (3)
It’s My Birthday – Ft. Cody Wise (3)
Burn – Ellie Goulding (1)
Mahna Mahna – Frankie Bostello (3)
Speedy Gonzalez – Los Pimientos Locos (2)
Maps – Maroon 5 (1)
You’re On My Mind – Imposs Ft. J. Perry (4)
Addicted To You – Avicii (1)
Till I Find You – Austin Mahone (1)
Video Remix