Just Dance 2016 arrives basked in its familiar neon spectrum, players once again invited to clear space in their living room to body pop to new collection of chart-topping beats. The seventh mainline entry in as many years, Ubisoft’s mega-hit series continues to dominate the genre that it had once been responsible for reigniting. Emerging competition has repeatedly been left by the wayside, with Ubisoft Paris continuing to demonstrate that imitation only pales in comparison to their firmly established dance sensation.
Success only spurred the yearly iterations that we have jived our way through over the past several years. And, while our dancing was never as accurate as the on-screen performers, the experience has allowed for countless hours in which we’ve been able to laugh at our own lack of coordination.
That said, Just Dance 2016 encounters the repeated challenge that Ubisoft face in differentiating what’s housed on the disc each year. Guitar Hero and Rock Band’s decline was a clear indication that a new track list wouldn’t maintain consumer interest alone, and the Just Dance series is showing similar signs of waning under such strain.
That search for innovation resulted in last year’s Just Dance Now, which shifted the game away from the console and into the realms of smart devices – now letting you swing your expensive mobile around instead of the Wii Remote. It is Just Dance Unlimited that is introduced this year, a subscription-based service that grants access to a library of songs that were either in previous games or entirely exclusive to the service. With one month (£5.49), three months (£11.99) and yearly (£29.99) subscriptions available, this digital approach is surely where Ubisoft see the series drifting in the near future.
After creating your Dancer Card, the first aspect that Just Dance 2016 shouts about is that you no longer need to use the Wii Remote to browse the menu. Not the modes nor Just Dance Unlimited, which I immediately interpreted as an indication that there’s increasingly limited scope to stray from the popular formula that Ubisoft had once concocted.
We, therefore, have another iteration rather than a dance revolution on our hands, players still closely following on-screen choreography as your performance is scored in terms of rhythm and quality of execution. You’re left to aim for Perfect ratings and pulling off Gold Moves to boost your points, which in turn earn you a Star rating for your overall performance in whichever song you choose.
Modes come in Dance Party, Dance Quest, Sweat & Playlist and Showtime, whereas the experience is carried online in Community Remix, World Video Challenge and Just Dance TV. These are all standard fodder in relation to what has come before, with the Just Dance series remaining among a handful of titles that use the Wii U GamePad camera – letting you share videos with the community.
Those that rely on Just Dance 2016‘s soundtrack alone will discover the disc is populated with chart-dominating vocal performances from Meghan Trainor, Lady Gaga, The Black Eyes Peas, Ellie Goulding, One Direction and Katy Perry among others. Whereas Ubisoft tries to diversify their music selection, including musical songs, plucked from The Little Mermaid and Grease as well as Rossini’s instantly recognisable William Tell Overture.
It is in production values that Just Dance 2016 excels, being cleaner, wilder and more grandiose in its desire to impress. The choreography performed by the professional dancers continues to be entirely accessible to both young and old alike, and you’ll feel a sense of renewed vigour after even shorter sessions.
Just Dance 2016 may retread familiar ground, but it remains uncontested in the genre. More reinvention in approach is needed, the gameplay still only challenging in the same way that has done for the past six years.