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Game Review

Whether you want to chalk it up to the myriad dancing shows on TV, the party game rage or just the fact that as the '80s band Men Without Hats used to proclaim, "You can dance if you wanna," dancing video games are pretty hot right now. Gamemaker Ubisoft claims that with the release of its latest Just Dance game there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 million homegrown hoofers out there gettin' their groove on.

Nailing the New Moves
Like other titles in this flashy rhythm/music series, Just Dance 3 is all about two things: letting go of your dance phobias and laughing with your friends and family members as they do the same. So for all those who've cut this rug before, the newest Dance will feel swing, sway and sashay familiar.

The few differences?

Well, for one, this time around you can also buy the game for your Xbox 360 Kinect system or your PlayStation 3 with a wireless Move controller. The Move application is pretty similar to the Wii; just grab a controller in one hand and let the game approximate the rest as you swing your arms. The Kinect lets you boogie controller-free—all an eager coryphée needs to do is step in front of the motion-sensing device and before you can say "Video Killed the Radio Star" they're on the dance stage.

The other new tweak in the mix (besides a batch of 40 new tracks, which we'll get to in a minute) is the inclusion of several tunes with four-person choreographed routines. Instead of sitting back on the couch and politely waiting your turn to shake, rattle and roll one at a time, your dance posse can jump up and "do their thang" en masse.

Kiss' "I Was Made for Lovin' You," for instance, features four onscreen '80s rockers who dance out a bouncy air-guitar rendition of the song—complete with guitar and drum solos and a "smash your ax" finale. Other multi-dancers include the novelty song "This Is Halloween," which proffers onscreen dancers dressed as a colorful werewolf, a pumpkin head, a vampire and a witch.

Follow the Bouncing Dancer
What's your responsibility in all this? It's actually quite easy. You simply watch the onscreen neon-colored dancers—dressed humorously in everything from song-based outfits of afro wigs to '80s legwarmers to mummy bandages to tribal body paint—and try to closely copy their moves as the chosen song plays out.

Just Dance 3's makers suggest that they're offering gamers a variety of modes to play, but the truth is, in spite of the way the game can group its songs into genre playlists—Oldies but Goldies, R&B Vibes, Just '80s, Pop Pop!—there are really only three modes to be concerned with: Just Sweat is a solo exercise for those who want to use the game as a workout tape. A choose-your-song-and-go segment lets you pick exactly which tunes suit your fancy. And a Party mode just keeps the tunes rolling so that whomever's feeling the temptation to tango can quickly jump in.

The choreographed routines are infectiously energetic and occasionally pretty chuckle-worthy all on their own. And if your ball change, demi-plié and jazz hand pizzazz is feeling a little pooped, don't worry, Just Dance 3 is very easy to please. I tired out at one point and just sat in a chair waving my controller, and the game graciously gave me a few points for at least showing up.

Breaking Down the Tunes
The songs themselves are, once again, a mixed bag. The creative visuals always keep things playful, but parents will still find a few to frown over. Katy Perry's " California Gurls," for instance, features some "slinky/cute" choreography from a short shorts-wearing dancer and lyrics such as "sippin' on gin and juice" and the too-descriptive lyric, "Sun-kissed skin so hot/Will melt your popsicle." Note that the Snoop Dog-voiced, sexualized lyric-laced solo section in this tune is heavily edited, as are the explicit profanities in all the other songs on the track list. Cee Lo Green's " F**k You" becomes "Forget You," for instance. (Not that that makes everything A-OK, of course.)

Nelly Furtado's "Promiscuous" is about a club-hopping couple "playing their cards right" for the end of the night: "Promiscuous girl, wherever you are/I'm all alone, and it's you that I want/Promiscuous boy, you already know/That I'm all yours, what you waiting for?" And gamers are also subjected to LMFAO's " Party Rock Anthem," Taio Cruz's "Dynamite," The Black Eyed Peas' "Pump It" and The Chemical Brothers' "Hey Boy Hey Girl." There are even tunes that feel very familiar, such as The Pointer Sisters' "I'm so Excited," but might well surprise you with lines like, "We're goin' for those pleasures in the night/I want to love you, feel you, wrap myself around you/I want to squeeze you, please you, I just can't get enough/And if you move real slow, I'll let it go."

Other tunes sport some comical but still skimpy outfits, such as the clamshell-topped dancing mermaid of "Something Stupid" or the corset-wearing saloon hall gal in the country boot stomper "Giddy on Up, Giddy on Out."

The rest of the songs range from Bananarama's "Venus" and Janelle Monae's "Tightrope" to the Power Rangers-inspired "Spectronizer." On the list are The London Theatre Orchestra & Cast's "Think," Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and even a Bollywood bebopper called "Kurio ko uddah le jana."

Someone once said, "There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them." And though I'm sure that astute philosopher was probably thinking of people who could approach the activity with better rhythm than your average bull elephant, I've learned in my two-left-feet experience with the Just Dance games that the sentiment is actually pretty universal. A whole lot of fun can be had here. All it takes is a little "let's do this" determination and a bit of "let's skip this song" discernment.

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Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3




October 7, 2011

On Video

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Bob Hoose

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