Saturday, November 06, 2010

Video game number three hundred and seventeen: Just Dance 2

Video game review number three hundred and seventeen in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Just Dance 2".

I forgot to review this one the other day and there's a good reason. I played it after playing some Dance Central. No one should EVER do this. It completely ruined this game for me. It's like eating at a fine steak restaurant, and then comparing it immediately afterward to a T-Bone at your local Denny's. This game is simply not in the same league as Dance Central, and once you've played just can't go back to this.

If you like DDR, or if you have a Wii, and you enjoyed the first Just Dance title the way I did, you owe it to yourself to try some Dance Central on Kinect for the 360. You'll be an instant convert. Meanwhile, if you've played Kinect...and you haven't tried Just Dance yet, I implore you...skip it. You will realize what a horribly flawed, silly game this actually is....and you'll never want to play it again.

Allow me to explain why:

In my Dance Central Review, I promised I'd finish the story of what happened when I played demos of both Dance Central and Just Dance 2 back to back at PAX in September. It was actually pretty amazing.

When I saw Dance Central for the first time, it was at a small Harmonix booth, sharing some floor space with Rock Band 3 (which I originally went there to see). There was a nice Rock Band area, and then behind it, there was one machine set up with Dance Central on it, and a small line (maybe 12 people) waiting to play. I jumped into the line to wait my turn with several of my friends.

While the booth attendee was allowing multiple people to play together, I noticed that only one seemed to be being tracked by the Kinect camera. I asked the demo person if it was a multiplayer game, and they explained how you could play it with multiple people, that only one was tracked. That seemed sort of lame to me, but the people playing along in the background looked like they were having fun anyway. When my turn came, I got up and danced by myself, with my friends watching instead of participating. The first thing I noticed was the awesome menu system. After I picked my song, I started dancing and noticed how well it was tracking me based on how well I was (not) doing. It was watching where my legs, both of my arms and my body were located at all times. It felt like "real" dancing. When I got done, they gave me a Dance Central branded wash cloth to wipe the sweat off with. I got to keep that. Yay.

After playing Dance Central, I was pretty excited. I remember talking to my friends about how this game felt like something completely new and different from anything I'd played before. We all walked our way over to the Ubisoft booth, (which was much bigger than the floor space that Dance Central had). There was a giant stage, with lots of lights and speakers, and a fairly large line of people waiting to get up there and try Just Dance 2. We got into the line.

Instead of having people who actually worked on the game demonstrating it at the booth like Harmonix did, the Ubisoft booth was being staffed by the "Frag Dolls". If you haven't heard of them, the "Frag Dolls" are a group of gamers that "just happen" to be reasonably attractive girls. I read on their website that they pride themselves in being advocates for "female gaming" (which I'm all for), but every time I've seen them at conventions lately, they're always dressed up in tight outfits, showing off games for Ubisoft. Instead of showing off their gaming skills, they're usually snapping pictures with their arm around some random guy at a convention. I don't want to turn this into a big rant about them, but I've never seen an overweight "Frag Doll", and sometimes it seems like what they really represent these days is a group of booth babes who also have impressive gaming skills. Frankly, the female gamers who really impress me are the ones waiting in long lines to play games at booths like the ones the Frag Dolls work at these days.

Anyway, after we'd watched a song or two on stage, a Frag Doll came up to us and told us that we'd be next. My friends and I got on stage, and they handed each of us a Wiimote. The song started, and we all started dancing. I was eager to see what kind of new experiences the sequel might offer, but it felt exactly the same. Right off the bat, I felt like it wasn't scoring me correctly...and now instead of being confused, I was frustrated. I had just come off of Dance Central (a game that felt super accurate as far as the scoring went), and now I was playing this game which felt completely random. It was just like the first one, and now more than ever....I thought that sucked. Instead of putting up with it, I did what any curious gamer might do, and I started messing with the scoring system, right there on stage, in front of the huge crowd.

I decided to experiment with it and see what the limits were. Instead of "just dancing", I just stood there, and moved my right arm with the Wiimote in it around (as directed on screen). My score continued to rise. After that, I tried just shaking and twisting the Wiimote along to the beat, and that worked too. I wasn't in first place, but I noticed that I was beating one of the other guys...who was actually dancing. My friend John saw what I was doing, and started doing the same thing. Our scores stayed in 2nd and 3rd.

One of the Frag Dolls shouted out to us "Come on guys, dance!". We paid her no mind. A few bars later, she said "Come on guys, use your legs!". I danced a little, but then went back to shaking the Wiimote like I had been. I was determined to try and win the game without dancing at all. The Frag Doll seemed a bit frustrated and said "Come on guys, don't be!". She didn't seem to realize that I wasn't embarrassed at all, I was just playing with the scoring system and trying to win in a different way. When the game was over, we got some free pink sunglasses that said Just Dance on them. We could have gotten T-shirts if we would have pre-ordered the game right there at the booth, but I knew I didn't want to own this game. It was already in my Gamefly Queue and I figured a rental would be enough.

Fast forward to today, when I finally played it as a rental.

I won't deny that Just Dance 2 is a really fun game, until you realize that your actions have almost no impact on what's happening on the screen. The scoring in Just Dance (and Just Dance 2) is completely broken. You can follow the onscreen dancer, I did at PAX, you can just shake the Wiimote around randomly. Whichever method you choose will net you some small amount of points.

I hate to be the one to encourage people to peek behind the curtain of the great and powerful Oz, but here it is in a nutshell: You're holding a motion controller in one hand. There's no camera...and so if you do the simple math, you really shouldn't expect the Wii to have any idea at all what you're doing with your other three limbs. Once you've played Dance Central, you'll realize how a dancing game should work, and just how silly Just Dance 2 actually is.

I could sit here and bash Just Dance 2 for days, but really, my main beef centers around the scoring system. If you are able to ignore that, it's actually a fairly fun game. The soundtrack is really good. You will instantly recognize tracks from your favorite artists (along with a few covers) and I had no problem finding songs I liked to dance with. There are some great songs on here from the 80's to today, and you can dance with up to four people at a time. That's a huge bonus. My wife and I can play together and that's one of the things I really liked about the first one. It's a fun "experience", even if it's not exactly a great "game".

Overall Score? 5/10: I realize that this is a 180 degree turn from my review of the original Just Dance. Chalk that one up to experience. I'm not going to go back and change my score on the original Just Dance, because honestly....when I played that, I really did enjoy it. However, I've now played a game that does exactly what Just Dance should have done and that made playing the sequel a whole different experience for me. I suppose I could have pretended like I have never played that "other" game, but that sort of dishonesty is impossible for me. Both games are good because they make you feel like you're actually dancing, but only Dance Central actually scores you based on how well you dance.

Just Dance 2 is not really a good "game"...but it's an excuse to dance and have fun with your friends. For that reason, I'm still giving it a five...but trust me when I say, there's something better out there now...and you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

No comments: