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Just Dance is good and you should play it for fun and health

Illustration for article titled iJust Dance/i is good and you should play it for fun and health

Kotaku has only mentioned the Just Dance series a few times. The last time there was anything of substance about the game series was 2012, and it was honestly pretty dismissive. That’s a shame, because Just Dance, at least the modern version, is really, really fun.

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I never had a Wii, or an Xbox 360, or any of the other consoles of that generation. That all happened during the mostly-non-gaming part of my life. So I missed out on this whole thing, and never really thought much about it.

One of my favorite songs from Just Dance 2019 - listening to Lizzo while dancing like a tennis-playing moose really is a joyful experience.
One of my favorite songs from Just Dance 2019 - listening to Lizzo while dancing like a tennis-playing moose really is a joyful experience.
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I saw Just Dance 2019 on sale on the eShop for $15 a day or two after I got my Switch last summer. I thought “eh, don’t really know what this is, but I bet my kids will like it.”

Within a few days, it became one of my favorite games ever.

I have always loved musical party games. I liked Guitar Hero, loved Rock Band, even played the heck out of Karaoke Revolution on the PS2 in college. DDR always looked appealing, but my feet don’t obey my brain so I never got good. All of those games made a mistake, though - they required too much talent. Even on easy mode, somebody with bad rhythm or no sense of pitch would actively lose - get booed off the stage, mocked, have to stop playing.

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Britney Spears makes great Just Dance fodder, and this is my favorite for its challenge/accessibility balance. I get sweaty, and my five-year-old daughter still gets four stars.
Britney Spears makes great Just Dance fodder, and this is my favorite for its challenge/accessibility balance. I get sweaty, and my five-year-old daughter still gets four stars.

Just Dance doesn’t make that mistake. Sure, you can get fewer stars than another player, but you can’t die. The game never mocks you, or boos you, or tells you to stop. The game just says “You know what’s fun? Dancing. Let’s just dance!” and then gets out of your way.

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The basic game-play is simple. Up to six people strap joy-cons to their wrist. One person chooses a song or a playlist from one of several different categories - current hits, popular older songs or a rendition of the can-can performed by people in chicken costumes. After choosing, if it’s a group number, everybody picks a dancer to follow, then you dance. The joy-con attempts to measure how well you perform each move and you earn points and stars.

Illustration for article titled iJust Dance/i is good and you should play it for fun and health
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As you play songs, you earn “Mojo” which can be spent to earn randomized prizes like new avatars, stickers, and even special versions of certain songs. The animation to spend the Mojo is a silly little gumball-machine thing, but it’s remarkably satisfying to play, even if the rewards themselves are kind of silly. You can earn more Mojo by leveling up or beating daily challenges.

You don’t have to dance super well to score well, because the input device is limited. The joy-con can pick up basic directional motion and rhythm, but mostly only of your right arm. I get five stars a lot because I am pretty good with my arms, despite having two left feet. But my wife, who gets more of the foot motion right, still usually wins. It’s more sophisticated than it looks, and fairer than it seems, and even though I love to blame my joy-con when I score badly (“something must be wrong with the connection...”) I know that it’s usually not true.

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My wife and daughter, busting moves in my living room.
My wife and daughter, busting moves in my living room.

I have played Just Dance alone. I have played it with my wife. I have played it with my kids. I have played it, multiple times, at my school (I’m a teacher). I have played it with friends from my building. Every time, I’ve had fun. Every time, they have had fun too.

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And every time, I burn at least 150 calories. You can’t say that for most games.

Any other Just Dance fans out there?

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