When we dance like nobody is watching, we probably offer the living room telly our best (and worst) moves with Just Dance 2017. There’s no reason we can’t strut our stuff like Beyoncé, wiggle our hips like Shakira and bounce back like we’re Britney. We might feel a little foolish and slightly off the beat, but it’s just as fun in single player mode as it is with friends.
It’s hard to believe Ubisoft’s Just Dance series has kept us grooving for almost a decade. Since its original release in 2009 for the Wii, Just Dance has evolved from the game that everyone cracked out at parties to a niche series in its own right. Online leaderboards crawl with dedicated players and maxed out mojo ratings inside the top 50. And should you manage to grace this top percentage, consider yourself in the cool crowd, they don’t accept new applications without some serious moves like Jagger.
For those who aren’t as slick, and bring out the “dad” dance moves from time to time – particularly at weddings – there’s still some hope for you yet. Just Dance was never about being the best, or the most competitive, it was all about fun. And it hasn’t changed with Just Dance 2017. Featuring five different modes and 40 exclusive new songs, there is plenty on offer for both single and co-operative play.
Although it’s a launch title for the Nintendo Switch, Just Dance 2017 was previously released on the Nintendo Wii and Wii U consoles in 2016. Yet in comparison to any of the other consoles, the Switch’s unique portability makes it the best console for group play. From living room parties to kitchen gatherings, there’s ample opportunity for the Switch to take precedence wherever you go. In fact, using the undocked Switch for co-operative gameplay makes for a smoother dance-off, with no framerate dips and mid-song loading crashes, unlike its docked televised gameplay.
Players can control the game with just one Joy-Con too, though it must be kept in your right hand at all times for accurate movement tracking. With the Joy-Cons ability to acutely track movement, it feels like there’s much more accuracy in comparison to the Wii remote and Wii remote plus. While it is still forgiving, don’t expect to wildly flail and hit perfects each time with the Switch version. It’s more fine-tuned here, so there’s a much bigger pay-off when dancing rhythmically and in time to the beat.
Using the Joy-Cons are easily the best way to enjoy the game in single or co-operative mode. For groups, though, players can choose to use their mobile device. A simple download from Google Play or the App Store will allow any individual to log into Just Dance 2017 and play. It means you can play as a group much more easily with no additional controller cost to the main Switch user. And while it does play relatively well using a mobile device, scrolling through the menus can become a real pain as there’s no intuitive way to get around other than swiping through songs. Couple that with large, heavy phones and you have a real disaster on your hands. Images of phones being thrown in mid-swing is a health and safety issue waiting to unfold, let alone the aching arms at the end of five songs. Sorry, Ubisoft, smartphones were made to be held one of two ways; near your ear or nestled between two hands with fingers and thumbs at the ready. To add fuel to the fire, you can’t even combine both joy-cons and mobile devices – a big sidestep from the French publishing giant.
With five different game modes, Just Dance 2017 serves up an interesting set of gameplay. From the oddball, throwaway mode in Just Dance Machine to the much more polished single-player Dance Quests, there’s enough variation to keep it entertaining. Sweat mode makes a return, alongside the World Dance Floor where you’ll dance to pre-selected songs and defeat bosses with zany clothing. Each mode, whether old or new, brings something unique to the dance floor.
Players will also have the opportunity to access the regular rival and co-op modes in the 2017 version, with hit songs such as Maroon 5’s Don’t Wanna Know and The Weeknd’s Can’t Feel My Face to Hatsune Miku’s PoPiPo and Wanko Ni Mero Mero’s Oishii Oishii. And should you get bored with what’s on offer, players can subscribe to Just Dance Unlimited – a service which gives you access to the back catalogue of Just Dance music and exclusive tracks, including Sia’s The Greatest and DJ Snake and Justin Bieber’s Let Me Love You.
Though the Just Dance series was never heavy on graphics, the colours and the glitz and glamour of the dancers look much sharper on the Nintendo Switch in comparison to the Wii U. And aside from the online lag, framerate drops and lengthy loading screens, there’s a good deal of enjoyment to be found in the game’s online mode, World Dance Floor. Of course, unlockable avatars make a return, though when there is upwards of 200 available it begins to feel counterproductive and pointless. Mojo and levelling up is also still key to unlocking extreme versions of songs; mainly for the Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan’s on show. Sadly there’s no lip sync battle in sight.
There’s no doubt that Ubisoft hit gold with the series, but is there enough variation to keep re-inventing the wheel time after time? Apparently so. If you didn’t pick it up for any other console, the Nintendo Switch version is by far the most unique with its great portability and Joy-Con accuracy. But like a child with too much sugar, it’s only fun in small doses.