If Dance Central is the slick, trendy, and expertly choreographed hipster of the dance game world, then Just Dance is its annoying, Glee-watching sibling. It embraces cheery bubblegum pop and coats it in a thick layer of bright lights, neon colors, and a whole host of insane dance routines. Subtle it is not, but that's all part of Just Dance 4's charm. This is a game that begs to be played with others, its eclectic pop soundtrack blasted out at the highest volumes and its hilarious, thoroughly enjoyable routines performed without a modicum of self-consciousness--and if you can sneak in a cheeky beverage or two along the way, all the better.
Getting the party started is easy. There are just two modes to choose from: Just Dance and Sweat. The former is where the bulk of the action is, letting you and up to three other friends get together for a dance-off. Simply stand in front of the Kinect, choose a song, and mimic the actions of a virtual dancer onscreen. Like in previous games in the series, the scoring system is very forgiving (there's no way to fail out of a song), and before long you find yourself racking up points for your moves like a pro--you certainly don't have to perform each song perfectly. Just Dance 4 rewards enthusiasm more than it does accuracy, and while that might seemingly lack challenge, it fits within the context of the game's party-hearty vibe.
Concessions have been made for the score junkies out there, though. You're awarded stars during each routine, which are totaled up and added to your mojo, which is Just Dance 4's form of experience. That goes towards unlocking new playlists, electro mash-ups, and alternate dances, but thankfully not the core songs themselves, all of which are unlocked from the get-go. There are also dance quests to complete for each song that unlock bonus content, such as earning five stars, getting all "good" moves, or landing the perfect pose when the chorus section of a song is sung.
That might not be an epic, progression-led career mode, but let's face it: if you're playing Just Dance, you're not in it for the challenge. Where the game excels, and where most of its talents lie, is in its absurd routines. And in Just Dance 4, the routines are more absurd than ever. Fancy trying to replicate the moves of a dancing crustacean to the wacked-out grooves of The B-52s' "Rock Lobster"? Or pretending to be a superhero to Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" while a toy Godzilla wanders past? Or even dropping wrestling moves as a luchador to Europe's "The Final Countdown"? Nothing's too crazy for Just Dance 4.
Even better are the four-player routines, which have you linking arms, leaping through the air, and spanking each other on the butt to tunes like Will Smith's "Wild Wild West" or One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful." Even if you don't feel like participating, it's hilarious to watch your friends perform, while onscreen lyrics let you sing along too. The excellent 44-song tracklist caters to most tastes from pop, to rock, to funk, and an online store lets you download more. And with Psy's "Gangnam Style" being one of the first to hit the store, you'll no doubt be hitting that buy button sooner rather than later.
Complementing the routines are some great visuals that often follow the theme of a song, such as the app icons and ringing phones of Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" and the robotic characters of Skrillex's wub-laden "Rock n' Roll." Other times they're completely and wonderfully random, throwing all kinds of eye-blinding neon colors and flashing lights onto the screen to back up your dancing. If you want to do more than dance, then Sweat mode takes you through different playlists that mash up your favorite tracks. There's also a seven-day challenge, which does a great job of keeping track of your performances and how many calories you're burning over the course of the week.
In an added and hilarious bonus for Kinect users, there's the option of sharing your performances over Facebook, Twitter, and Ubisoft's Uplay service. Rather than simply post a full performance, the game loops certain sections, resulting in animated-GIF-like videos that are totally ludicrous but oh so fun to watch. A central hub lets you view the current top-ranked videos and the newest ones, and you can view your own performances too.
If there's anything bad to be said about Just Dance 4, it's that there's not much new here. It's largely a song pack, albeit a very entertaining one. This is as fun a game as any in the series, with routines that are even wilder than before, and a keen self-awareness that eagerly embraces its over-the-top kitsch qualities. Sure, Just Dance 4 doesn't bring much in the way of new features to the party, but if all you want is to have one hell of a fun, energetic, and hilarious time, there really is no party quite like a Just Dance 4 party.'