Given how awful we were at dance lessons at school, we're not really sure how we became Everybody Plays' resident Just Dance expert - but some ten reviews later, here we are. Over the years, we've train-surfed to Ricky Martin, wrestled to The Final Countdown and boogied on down with everything from pandas to ice cream cones - all in the name of research, you understand - with one song turning into a dozen or more, until hours of dancing had flown by. If anything, a large part of Just Dance's enduring appeal is that, no matter how much of a reluctant dancer you are, once you pluck up the courage to get started, it's scarily addictive.
As you probably all know by now, Just Dance is a pick up and play dancing game, designed to be easy to get into. All you have to do is pick a song, pick up your motion controller of choice, and "just dance" along with the songs, copying the handy stick figure prompts on screen. The better you match the moves, the more points you'll earn, as you work your way towards a new high score. Heavy on the cheesy choreographies, and with a varied tracklist that covers most bases, the Just Dances have always made for great party games, as you and your friends dance up a storm together. And while the basic formula may not have changed much since the series' debut on the humble Nintendo Wii almost a decade ago, with nine games now under its ever increasing belt, Just Dance 2018 is certainly a more swish experience than ever before.
With tracks which range from Ed Sheeran's Shape of You and How Far I'll Go from Disney's Moana, to the likes of Beyonce, Queen and Lady Gaga, there's plenty to sink your teeth into, once you've completed a cursory four songs or so in order to unlock almost everything on offer. However, while it may just be us, we just can't shake the feeling that the 40-song-strong track list is a little underwhelming compared to some of the previous iterations. Heavy with dubstep-y dance tunes, and with less well known classics than other years, it's a game that feels a bit more tailored to today's yoof, rather than providing a track list with plenty for everyone, as previous years have managed.
That said, when you first boot up Just Dance 2018, you'd be forgiven for thinking this is the fattest Just Dance yet, with so many songs to browse - and indeed it is, at least for your first few months of playing, thanks to the free 90 day subscription to 'Just Dance Unlimited' included with every copy of the game. You see, Just Dance Unlimited is Ubisoft's sneaky subscription service where, for £3.99 a month (or £24.99 a year), you'll get access to an ever growing library of extra songs - some 300 odd at the moment - many of which come straight from the older Just Dance games. Going back to your old favourites from games gone by is certainly a blast (and with our near flawless California Girls performance, a great way to get trophies), and with a three month pass included with the game as standard, it's a certainly nice enough. However, once your free subscription runs out, your stable of playable songs shrinks considerably - from 350 ish to a mere 40 - and you're left with what feels like a bit of a bare-bones experience (unless you pay), which leaves a bit of a bad taste in your mouth. Add in that one of the three 'Daily Challenges' the game sets you always includes playing a certain number of Just Dance Unlimited songs, and it does feel a bit like a money grab.
That's not to say there's anything wrong with the core Just Dance 2018 experience though - there's at least a few songs you'll fancy playing in the included 40, and the simple, not-too-serious dancing gameplay is as fun as ever. To give you a bit of a reason to keep coming back, for every dance you complete, you'll also earn 'Mojo', the Just Dance currency of choice, which can be exchanged for goes on a capsule machine that contains an impressive 250 little unlockable trinkets, from new pictures for your profile to alternate choreographies and hidden songs. Completing the aforementioned Daily Challenges will also reward you with additional Mojo by tackling specific missions, such as playing songs with Sweat mode turned on (which tracks calories burnt etc), jigging through a couple of trio songs (which have three different dancers on screen) or trying your hand at a bit of Beyonce, for example.
There are some all-new additions here too, in the form of a separate Just Dance Kids area, which boasts a handful of cherry-picked child-appropriate tracks featuring pirates, fairies and a Halloween-themed witch and her cat. 'World Dance Floor' makes its return too, letting you dance off against other Just Dance players all over the world, in real time - great for times when you can't persuade your family and friends to join you. 'Dance Lab' episodes meanwhile are a sort of medley of about half a dozen short, choreographed mini-games/themed dances, which see you dancing as a flamingo one minute, before making a few tennis serves to the beat then switching to practising your ninja moves. It's a bit silly, and a nice distraction from the regular game, but it's unlikely to pull you away from the classic Just Dance experience for too long.
In all, then, Just Dance 2018 is certainly polished, but how much you get out of Just Dance 2018 depends a lot on what you think of the built-in songs, and whether you're willing to part with half the cost of the game again for a subscription service, which, for the most part, is full of songs you've already played before. Seasoned Just Dancers, and those who take no umbrage at paying the extra will likely find a lot to like with Just Dance 2018, which offers more of the same silly, simplistic dancing fun of the past entries, but with a much larger stable of songs to work your way through. For everyone else, the fact it feels like Ubisoft give you 300+ songs for free, then take them away a couple of months later unless you pay, is likely to sting.