It’s that time of year again. The time of drunken discos, flailing limbs, broken furniture and that inevitable trip down to A&E. No, I’m not talking about the traditional Christmas knees up we all once knew and loved, but rather the annual release one of the most successful video game franchises ever made: Just Boogie in a Bubble 2020 – or at least, that’s what it should be called given the current circumstances.
With spin-offs included, Ubisoft has churned out a whopping 23 Just Dance titles since the initial game was released way back in 2009. While the formula itself has changed very little outside of maybe the type of right-handed peripheral used to swing those arms around with, that still doesn’t stop the series from selling consistently well year after year. However, this one is slightly different, for it’s the very first time the series has ever launched without a Wii port to boot.
While the series is finally beginning to move on with the times, It still surprises me that the Just Dance franchise hasn’t gone down the subscription-only route, especially when taking into account that Ubisoft’s Just Dance Unlimited subscription service already has over 500 tracks ready to jive to. The real sticking point, of course, comes by the way of track exclusivity locked within each annual release, providing the only real deciding factor on whether or not this year’s offering is worth the investment.
You can find the line-up of all 42 songs here, so if you have the need to get-on-down to the likes of Blinding Lights by The Weeknd or Paradisio’s Bailando you’re probably in good hands here. There is a fairly decent variety on offer including floor filler Don’t Start Now by Dua Lipa and even Randy Newman’s You’ve Got a Friend in Me from the Pixar classic Toy Story.
The user interface is pretty much identical to the last few iterations and there really isn’t anything new in regards to fresh gimmicks or modes. There is the usual kids’ section and calorie counter that has been a recurring feature, with the latter being a rather vague and unreliable guesstimate to track weight loss at best. Yet, despite all this, Just Dance 2021 still tends to draw a smile on casual faces with the game’s trademark colourful art direction and undeniable knack to get a party started between friends and families. Just frantically shaking my hands completely out of sync to the Dibby Dibby song with my family must have looked as ridiculous as it sounds, as was watching my other half and my daughter melt over the adorable cheap-shot injection of real dancing cats spliced with the merengue flair of Toño Rosario’s Kulikitaka.
However, the real cheap shot goes by how the game always tries to force its subscription service down our throats at every given opportunity like advertisement pop-ups on a clickbait site. It makes scrolling through the song list almost feel like the Amazon Prime video service in how it tries to tease and entwine Just Dance Unlimited premium content within the stock tracklist. The game does come with a free 30-day trial, but we all know that once that finally comes to an end, the whole interface is going to feel rather barren without it.
You could always subscribe annually for £20 for the year using a previous version of the game, or go the full price route by nabbing this year’s copy for around £30, then simply adding the Just Dance Unlimited subscription with the choice of several different timed options to suit your needs. When putting it that way, it actually sounds like very good value for money when considering the amount of potential content available. But to play devil’s advocate, it could also seem like you’re buying yet another physical streaming device for your preferred service knowing that the latest episodes of your favourite show are exclusively tied in.
With obvious criticisms aside, a game such as Just Dance 2021 could very well be the medicine we need to help provide some form of normality to this year’s holiday season. Having the under-appreciated privilege of joyfully dancing and laughing next to a Christmas tree within the isolated bubble of our loved ones not only boosts morale, but it also opens up to the realisation of how incredibly fortunate some of us are to have others to share that little bubble with.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Ubisoft