Game: Just Dance 2018
Age Rating: 10+ (US) | 3+ (Europe) [Note: Lyrics may contain suggestive content]
Price: £49.99 | €59.99 | $59.99 [Note: This is the price for the base game. Excludes subscription.]
Release Date: 24 October 2017
(Also available on PS3, PS4, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Overall feeling: I like it a lot!
The Just Dance series is great entertainment for home parties. It’s also a fun way to get moving if you’re a couch potato. I picked up Just Dance 2018 to see how it fares as an exercise method. More on that below!
If you’re still deciding which entry to buy, I recommend you consider Just Dance 2018 — even though Just Dance 2019 is releasing soon (on October 23, 2018). And I recommend the Switch version above all platforms.
If you’re new to the dance…
Just Dance is a rhythm game. You dance to famous pop songs, attempting to mirror the dancer onscreen. The controller in your hand has a motion sensor that detects if you’re copying the dancer correctly and on-time. Here are example videos:
Sure, you can score full points by merely lounging on the couch, but where’s the fun in that? The fun is in moving your whole body, even if you’re awful at it. Triple the fun when you’re doing it with friends!
The Switch version allows you to use smartphones as controllers. This is great for a party when you have 6 players and only 2 Joy-Cons. However, the catch is that you can’t mix Joy-Cons and smartphones in one session. So if you have 4 players, you either use 4 Joy-Cons or 4 smartphones.
Subscribe to access more songs
The most important thing to know is that newer Just Dance games are subscription-based. But the subscription plans are affordable and worth the price.
If you’re willing to pay, subscribing to Just Dance Unlimited unlocks a larger database of songs (there are over 300 currently). This database includes selected songs from all previous Just Dance games and some exclusive songs.
When I bought Just Dance 2018 for the Switch, it came with 3 months’ free access to Just Dance Unlimited’s database. If you’re buying for a non-Switch platform, this free trial may be shorter (e.g. 1 month). Likewise, subscription prices vary by platform. Currently, the Switch version offers the cheapest 1-year subscription to Unlimited at $25. You can also subscribe for a shorter period: $4 for a day, or $10 for three months.
When you play songs from Just Dance Unlimited, they are streamed over the Internet. I’ve occasionally experienced a song freezing or disconnecting on days with heavy online traffic, which is incredibly annoying. So you’ll want a decent Internet connection for this.
What’s in the 2018 edition?
Just Dance 2018 comes with 40+ songs and new features: Kids Mode, Double Rumble, and Gift Machine. The game also retains features from Just Dance 2017: Sweat Mode and World Dance Floor. More on each feature below.
In 2018, you get recent hits like Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic”, Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You”, Clean Bandit’s “Rockabye”, and Shakira’s “Waka Waka”. There are also non-pop songs like Moana‘s “How Far I’ll Go” and Georges Bizet’s “Carmen (Ouverture)”.
You also get a few classics like “Footloose”, “Blue (Da Ba Dee)”, “Daddy Cool”, and “Yellow Polkadot Bikini”.
I like the wide variety of dance styles and choreographies, which vary in difficulty. Not all choreographies are hip-hop cool or Latin sexy; I would call some comical, like “Beep Beep I’m a Sheep” and “Just Mario”. (The latter song is exclusive to Switch subscribers of Just Dance Unlimited.)
If you’re subscribed to Just Dance Unlimited, you have access to another 300+ songs. The songs organized in A-Z indexes, as well as by genre/theme. For instance, you could search for songs in “Latin Corner”, “Gimme ABBA”, “Easy Peasy”, or “Fitness”.
When playing with friends, you should try songs in the “Duet”, “Trio”, or “Quartet” categories. In these, each onscreen dancer has a slightly different choreography. I recommend Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” and Taio Cruz’ “Dynamite”, which require players to actually dance with each other at times.
Different ways to play Just Dance
Kids Mode gives you songs with child-friendly lyrics and easy choreographies. It’s a useful option if you’ve got kids begging to play and don’t want them dancing suggestively to suggestive lyrics. The onscreen dancers are either kids or modestly dressed adults. Diehard fans of Frozen can now sing and dance to “Let It Go” (if they subscribe to Just Dance Unlimited)!
Double Rumble got me excited at first, as it promised the use of both hands — two controllers for a single player. But Double Rumble turned out to disappoint, as did another feature called Dance Lab. Instead of pop songs, Double Rumble and Dance Lab use choreographies based on jobs (e.g. cook, handyman, witch, rock guitarist) or animals (e.g. fly). I guess the music wasn’t catchy enough to make me feel like dancing.
Gift Machine isn’t a dance mode but a reward system. You get coin-like Mojo points for completing dance challenges, which you can spend in Gift Machine. It’s a slot machine that grants random rewards: new songs; new profile avatars; and collectible stickers to unlock one special song.
Unfortunately, I’ve found the feature more annoying than useful. Gift Machine cutscenes have me waiting impatiently to play the next song, and I’ve never used its rewards. The new songs it unlocks are mostly alternate, more difficult choreographies to existing songs — which might only interest hard-core players.
World Dance Floor assigns you a song to play simultaneously with other players online. At the end of each song, you see how your score ranks against the world’s players.
Sweat Mode: Is Just Dance good exercise?
Just Dance is a good way to start exercising if you’re a total couch potato. But many songs only result in light to moderate cardio. So the game shouldn’t be used to substitute other forms of exercise.
Still, here’s how you can make the most of Just Dance:
- Don’t just exercise your controller arm. Move all four limbs. Shoulders, hips, and butt too!
- If the choreography is hard to follow, focus on arms-only or feet-only first.
- Save songs you like into the Favorites list. Practice those songs rather than constantly trying new songs. The better you get at copying the dance moves, the more you’ll move all four limbs, and the more exercise you’ll get. Otherwise, with unfamiliar songs you’ll only focus on one arm.
- Assess if songs are low-, moderate-, or high-intensity. If you’re looking to sweat, don’t just dance to low-intensity songs.
- Be gentle with neck movements to avoid injury.
- Be careful not to strain your arm from repetitive motion (as I have). Take a break if you feel pain.
Activating Sweat Mode turns on a calorie counter, but I don’t know how accurate it is. Each song only burns 5 to 10 calories on average. I suspect it measures how much you move the controller. So if hand motions are minimal, I don’t think it records a high calorie count even if you’re moving your feet like a maniac.
I appreciate that Sweat Mode keeps track of how many songs you’ve played in one session. Sadly, it doesn’t store that information — you lose any progress upon exiting the game.
The “Fitness” song category might be too challenging for beginners. It’s okay to experiment with easier songs.
Personally, for light exercise I enjoy 2018 routines like Jordan Fisher’s “All About Us”, Shakira’s “Chantaje”, and Jamiroquai’s “Automaton”. To sweat, I dig into Just Dance Unlimited for Katy Perry’s “E.T.”, Capital Cities’ “Safe and Sound”, and Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance (alternate version)”.
Which version to buy?
I recommend Just Dance 2018 over previous editions because subscribing to Just Dance Unlimited gives you access to a large selection of previous songs.
But you may wish to decide based on whether you’re interested in Just Dance 2019‘s song list. At present, we don’t know how different 2019 will be — except that it will reintroduce the difficulty feature, which displays each song’s difficulty level.
A reason I bought 2018 instead of waiting for 2019 was price. Since 2018 is an old game, I was able to find it cheaper on Amazon ($39 for a brand-new, factory-sealed copy).
As for platform, I’ve already mentioned the price benefits of the Switch version. Another reason to choose the Switch is that Joy-Cons are excellent controllers for Just Dance. With the exception of Wii controllers, they are hands-down better than other standard controllers (PS4, Xbox, and smartphone) which are too bulky to wield.
Just Dance 2018 sports a decent variety of songs and difficulties. After more than 15 play sessions (spread over 2 months), I can see it’s helped me get off the couch and start being more regular with exercise. It’s not a comprehensive substitute for cardio and other forms of exercise, though.
Still, I can see myself subscribing to Just Dance Unlimited‘s large database after my free trial is over. If I ever get bored of Just Dance, I can always stop subscribing and simply pay a one-off fee of $4 to have a dance night with friends.