I like to revisit games like these from time to time as, much like Guitar Hero in its heydey, dance games tend to be the party games that we all own but only a handful of us actually play past the review stage.
If you're a consumer as opposed to a reviewer, games like Just Dance or Dance Central incite an initial bout of enthusiasm before gathering dust on the pile a few months in.
If you're wondering whether or not you should make this purchase, are looking for a reason to use your Kinect, buy a Kinect, or perhaps hoping that dance games such as these will jump start your fitness regime for 2013, then I'm here to help.
If you follow my blog you'll know that I did a Just Dance 4 Fitness Challenge towards the end of last year. Whilst I was fairly diligent in that I did it daily, I'll admit that I certainly didn't do it every day, and after a while when you're doing the same songs over and over again (you kind of work your way through most of them quite quickly), you do put in less enthusiasm than when you first start.
In the usual fashion, as we haul ourselves out of the inevitably gluttonous festive season and make resolutions to be more active, I decided to give this whole dance game another shot, and this time alternate between Dance Central 3 and Just Dance 4.
I must point out that Dance Central 3 overall received a higher Metacritic score than Just Dance 4. There are however some fundamental differences that I feel compelled to point out.
If you want to exercise and actually work up a decent sweat, play Dance Central 3.
If you want to have fun at a party with friends, play Just Dance 4.
Let me explain.
Visually Dance Central 3's environment and graphics are somewhat gaudy, and the cartoonish style not only doesn't appeal to me, but it looks like a thousand other equally forgettable visuals. Worse still, it has a story. A really lame one. Why did Harmonix think it was a good idea to put this silly narrative in place when it would have been equally effective to navigate through playlists by unlocking songs in order?
But lets do a quick run through - you play as a new recruit of DCI, Dance Central Intelligence, and must save the world from the bad guy (I can't be bothered to remember his name even though I've played this game through more than once), who wants to take over the world through dance... Yes. Really.
The storyline is that lame.
The workout however is not. With a calorie counter that tracks how many calories you burn in fitness mode, and some serious dance moves, you'll literally be working up a sweat in no time.
The other thing about this game is that the learning curve is perhaps not very steep, but it requires some concentration to get the moves right. And the difference between Easy and Medium difficulty is huge. I haven't even attempted this game on hard, because while I may be fairly co-ordinated, I don't think I'm quick enough off the mark to continue getting 80's and 90's in Hard mode.
The animation of the characters is also somewhat stiff, and doesn't have the natural flow to it that Just Dance has. And yes we all know it's mocap, but seeing a woman's moves transposed on to a guy who now starts wiggling his hips in a decidedly feminine way, whilst hysterical to watch, is something that should have been thought through a little more before this game was released.
Just Dance 4 by comparison is not as much of a workout, and I don't know if its the fact that the motion tracker isn't as accurate, but it seems to be a great deal easier to get high scores on JD4 than it is on DC3.
Just Dance 4 however is just more fun, especially in a multiplayer party situation. The songs selection is perhaps a bit more limited, but the mashups add great value, and the mutliplayer songs work incredibly well in a social environment.
The feature I think I enjoy the most from JD4 however is the Auto Dance feature. While DC3 has something similar, the Auto Dance is definitely more well thought out and refined, and to be honest, downright hysterical.
Quick sum up.
For party situations you most definitely want Just Dance 4 in your Xbox - it's fun, energetic without being exhausting, and visually it's very appealing (albeit with a somewhat irritating and finicky control system.)
If you're looking to work off that post holiday food binge however, then Dance Central 3 is the better choice. It keeps you on your toes, better as a single player game, and the control system is easier to manage.