While Just Dance felt like a half-finished game, its sequel, Just Dance 2, feels much more complete. It takes the core dancing experience that made the original such fun and adds a ton of new features, including new modes, much improved visuals, and a download store. Though the lack of career progression and unlockables makes it a rather empty experience, one simple fact remains: it's hilariously entertaining to play with friends. The excellent music, eye-catching visual design, and ludicrous choreography encourage you to get on your feet and lay down some funky moves, no matter what your skill level. It might be shallow, but grab a group of friends to play with, and you're guaranteed to have a lot of fun.
Part of the fun of Just Dance 2 lies in the simplicity of its controls, which have been markedly tightened up this time around, meaning you can't rack up points with random arm flailing. You pick a song to dance to, hold the Wii Remote in your right hand, and mimic the actions of a virtual dancer onscreen. You're awarded points based on movements tracked by the Wii Remote, with each successful move being scored as bad, OK, good, or perfect. Points you rack up during a song are totaled at the end, showing you how well you performed against your friends. However, no matter how few points you get, it's impossible to fail out of a song. While this makes the game much more accessible for casual players, it removes any semblance of challenge, which makes playing on your own a dull experience.
Bring a group of friends around to play, though, and the experience changes dramatically. Up to four players can get together for a dance in Quickplay mode, while the new Dance Battle mode allows up to eight players to compete in a series of dance minigames. Quickplay mode lets you jump straight into a song; you can choose from a selection of 44 tracks, spread across a variety of genres. The tracklist is superb, a diverse assortment of songs that appeals to a wide range of tastes. If you like house music, there's Fatboy Slim and Justice on offer, or you might prefer the pop stylings of Wham!, Kesha, and Katy Perry. Indie fans are catered to with artists such as Franz Ferdinand, Supergrass, and Vampire Weekend, and if none of that takes your fancy, there are even novelty records such as Monster Mash and Rasputin to dance to.
The choreography for each of the songs is excellent. Sure, the dances might not win any awards for subtlety, but the silly moves and over-the-top gestures make performing each track immensely entertaining, and often hilarious. The style of the moves for each dance matches that of the song, whether it's the exaggerated '80s thigh slapping of Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, the comical zombie walking in Monster Mash, or the disco pointing of Hot Stuff. New to Just Dance 2 are duets, which feature two onscreen dancers to follow. Duets are the funniest dances in the game, with comical spins, jumps, and crossovers all part of the routine. The best of these is Vampire Weekend's A-Punk, which features some amazing ballerina-style pirouetting mixed with ska-style skanking that moves you from one side of the room to the other. Even if you're not participating, it's hilarious to watch your friends take part, and each song displays lyrics so you can sing along from the sidelines.
Backing up the excellent choreography are the visuals, which have been markedly improved from Just Dance. The dull backgrounds and pixelated score bars have been replaced with fully animated backgrounds and higher-resolution artwork that match the theme of the song. Highlights include the graffiti-inspired skulls and cassettes in Justice's D.A.N.C.E., the maze of coiled phone lines in Blondie's Call Me, and the cute 8-bit characters in Junior Senior's Move Your Feet. The dancers themselves are made from video footage of real-life performances with a heavily stylised neon makeover. The bright colours and stark white outlines not only look good, but also make the dancers easy to follow.
In addition to the standard Quickplay mode, there is a new mode called Dance Battle. Up to eight players split off into two teams of four and then compete in a series of dance minigames. The aim is to rack up as high an overall score as possible over five rounds to defeat the opposition. You choose one of five minigames for each round: Classic, Duet, Simon Says, Medley, and Race. The first two are just the same dances available in Quickplay mode. Simon Says requires you to perform one of three actions at random during a song: clap, stop, and spin. While the clap and spinning actions work well, the stop action is let down by the motion controls, which are a little hit and miss. Sometimes they don't register, which is made all the more frustrating because you lose points for each second you are not standing still. Medley mashes up sections from songs into one giant dance, while in Race you have to earn a set number of points as quickly as possible. While the minigames don't differ greatly from the standard gameplay, they are fun, and with a competitive group of friends, battles can get very heated.
Though there is no online multiplayer, Just Dance 2 does at least have a download store, a feature that was sorely missing from the last game. Buying tracks is a simple enough process, though it does require you to use Wii points, which you have to buy separately in the Wii shopping channel. Songs cost 300 points, with tracks from the likes of Rihanna and Katy Perry available for download. Sadly, there isn't much of a selection in the store, with a mere five tracks available to download. New songs are being added every week, though, so you'll have much more to choose from once you've exhausted the built-in tracks.
Considering the lack of a career mode, rewards, or a modicum of challenge in single-player, it would be easy to dismiss Just Dance 2 as a shallow cash-in sequel that has learnt little from the mistakes of its predecessor. However, that would be entirely missing the point. Get a group of friends together and it dishes out heaps of fun, with an excellent soundtrack and hilarious choreography that anyone can dance to and ultimately make a fool out of himself to. Though the motion controls can still be a little hit or miss in certain modes, the numerous improvements from the first game make Just Dance 2 a much more complete product, and the improved visuals, download store, and minigames add a lot more value. Drop your inhibitions and any preconceptions you might have about casual games, because Just Dance 2 is a load of silly fun that you definitely shouldn't miss out on.