First-person shooter fans have “Call of Duty” and “Halo,” sports fans have yearly releases for every major sports league they can dream of, and for people who like to sweat in the comfort of their own living room have “Just Dance” — the rhythm based dance series from video game giant Ubisoft.
The series is an institution at this point. With more than 20 releases and a movie deal in the works, it’s no wonder that fans regularly shell $39.99 a year to dance to whichever Ariana Grande or Katy Perry song has charted for the past 30 weeks.
However, how does Ubisoft’s newest mainline release “Just Dance 2020” stack up?
For those unaware, Just Dance’s formula is simple: during each song, depending on their console, players hold a controller or smartphone and mirror the game’s choreographers in order to achieve a high rank. Completing a song grants you Mojo, which you can use to buy collectibles. The game features 43 new songs in three distinct modes: Just Dance, All Stars Mode and Kids.
As the game’s title would lead you to suspect, the bulk of the content is in the Just Dance mode, where you can dance along to the game’s varied repertoire. Highlights include “7 Rings” and “God Is A Woman” by Ariana Grande, “Old Town Road (Remix)” by Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus, “bad guy” by Billie Eilish and “High Hopes” by Panic! at the Disco.
Other selections include songs by Offenbach, Monty Python and several non-English numbers. The choreography, which is basically the entirety of the game play, is fun and rewarding. The difficulty ranges from Easy to Hard, and some songs have un-lockable “Extreme” versions with their own unique sweat-breaking design.
However, the game’s motion detection and scoring leaves a bit to be desired — no matter how well or poorly I popped, locked and dropped it, I usually finished with about four stars. To borrow a line from Drew Carey: “Everything's made up and the points don't matter.”
On the visual side, this game is a treat. The series’ signature character and background design returns, and each song feels like a unique experience — yes, even “Baby Shark.” In the new All Stars Mode, the series revisits its past decade of yearly releases by letting you play through one song from each mainline game.
While cute, the mode is really no different from loading these songs up on a playlist and playing through them sequentially, and is best enjoyed as a side-dish rather than as the main entree. The Kids Mode adds several nursery rhymes and, with Just Dance Unlimited, Silento’s “Watch Me (Whip /Nae Nae),” bringing fun to the whole family. This brings us to the Ubisoft-branded elephant in the room: Just Dance Unlimited.
If you want any content past the base game, you’ll have to fork over $24.99 to get access to the series’s 500+ songs. Casual fans will likely be content without it, but when the sole defining difference between “Just Dance 2019” and “Just Dance 2020” is the song catalog, more seasoned fans may find it necessary to pay into this subscription.
Overall, “Just Dance 2020” is a welcome entry to the series. New and old fans alike will find things to enjoy in this release, and although the game remains formulaic, it’s still the best dance game out there.
Review code provided by Ubisoft.