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Just Dance 2 Wii Review

02/02/2011 Thinking Microcosm Gamer Review
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Just Dance 2 Nintendo Wii

Just Dance 2

Nintendo Wii



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Just Dance 2 is full of personality and encourages everyone to get involved and shake their funky thing. A distinctive style and varied track list make this well worth it for anyone who wants to dance.

In general, I don't find motion control particularly accessible or immersive. It's gimmicky, and leads to more frustration than fun. Still, I make an exception for fitness and dance games, where motion actually makes sense and doesn't feel tacked on.

That said, while dance and fitness are logical uses for motion control, I still haven't been too convinced by most of them so far. The Just Dance series completely passed me by before now, as I assumed it just wasn't for me. I'm happy to be proven wrong.

Involving full-body movement provides the opposite of what I usually look for. Rather than recreating reality in miniature, games like Just Dance 2 push outwards to influence the real world directly. They are an influence rather than a microcosm. All the important actions and goals take place using my own body in my own space. And the on-screen dancers are more like instructors than avatars -- they are coming into my world rather than the other way around.

That's a pretty big shift in how I approach games, and when I consider where this style of play might lead in the future it's both exciting and faintly unsettling. I don't want to start too serious a discussion here about how games can (or should) influence reality though. The stylised neon dancing figures just wouldn't stand for it. One of the biggest strengths of Just Dance 2 is not taking itself too seriously.

This is more like a night out on the town with friends than a technical dance class or contest.

The dancers you follow on screen are skilled, but manage to convey the fun of dancing more than its technical aspects -- thanks in part to the bright, simplified graphics. It's like being given full permission to let your hair down and risk looking a little silly for the sake of the groove. This is more like a night out on the town with friends than a technical dance class or contest.

The whole package is very welcoming, and also rather shameless. Moves can be a little goofy or dated, but are presented with such infectious, cartoony enthusiasm it's hard not to get into the spirit. As someone who lives with over-developed anxiety Just Dance 2's ability to melt away inhibitions feels a little bit like magic.

Dancing is presented here as something for everyone. The track list includes a range of eras and cultural influences. There is even some diversity of body types, particularly thanks to the inclusion of Mika's "Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)", which was great to see. Next to the likes of Wii-fit's constant obsession with weight it's nice to see some faint glimmer of the message that you can be active and sexy at any size or shape.

The diverse approach has created a fun, slightly chaotic track list. I would have liked a system of unlocking tracks gradually rather than all being available from the start, but I realise it's more broadly accessible this way.

My relationship with my own physicality is too complicated to really go into here, but I'll just say it's been refreshing not to worry about it for a change.

A lot of thought has been put into conveying the character of each song, with relevant backgrounds, outfits, and attitude -- from the 1920s outfits during the Charleston to the robotic movements and Tron-like style for Digitalism. That's a wide range of influences stepping into my lounge-room and making themselves felt.

I wasn't expecting great movement tracking from Just Dance 2, since all it has to go on is my right hand holding the Wii-remote. But honestly, lack of precision might actually be to its advantage. For one thing, it's harder to get discouraged for jumping in and giving it a go. Flailing about is bound to score at least some points.

There is a temptation sometimes to avoid any fancy footwork and just approximate the arm movements, but full body movements still come out scoring better somehow. The pick-up isn't perfect, and there are certain moves I have trouble getting to register but overall it's better than I expected. If you're strongly score-focused it might get a little frustrating, but for me it certainly isn't a deal breaker.

The biggest flaw in Just Dance 2 for me is actually the lack of a low-battery warning. And if the Wii-remote goes flat mid-song it just continues playing without registering any moves, rather than automatically pausing. Perhaps they don't want to interrupt the flow for those playing with a group of friends, but I found it a surprising oversight.

It broke through the part of me that cares too much and tells me I'm not good enough to be in charge of a body.

In my small apartment even two dancing at a time can be enough to run into space issues, but my partner and I haven't let that stop us. Duets are a great inclusion, with some very playful moves utilising simple interactions between two dancers.

My relationship with my own physicality is too complicated to really go into here, but I'll just say it's been refreshing not to worry about it for a change. Just Dance 2 achieved what all my Wii-fit sessions and attempt to walk 100 kilometres in a day (long story) didn't. It broke through the part of me that cares too much and tells me I'm not good enough to be in charge of a body. I can't really give more relevant praise than that.

Written by Amber Gilmore

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Amber Gilmore writes the Microcosm Gamer column.

"Games provide me with a diverse range of miniature worlds to explore. I'm fascinated by the myriad of ways these microcosms recreate elements of reality. Even the most fantastical or abstract games stem from real world concepts when studied under the scope. Far from being mindless escapism, playing games prompts me to reflect on the concepts presented and how they inform my outlook."

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