The Just Dance juggernaut that famously knocked Call of Duty of the top of the charts has been going from strength to strength as of late - and it's showing no signs of stopping. With four numbered games tucked under its burgeoning belt, in an attempt to give as wide an audience as possible the dancing bug, the series has attempted to diversify itself a little bit in recent years, with several games designed to rope in different audiences from the musicals-themed Dance On Broadway, and the child-friendly Just Dance Kids, to games based on the music of Michael Jackson and Abba. Last year, the folks at Ubisoft released The Smurfs: Dance Party to tie in with the miniature blue Belgians first film - but this time round, they've upped the stakes even further, having forged a deal with the House of Mouse to make worlds collide with Just Dance: Disney Party.
If you've ever played a Just Dance game before, though, you'll be on familiar ground here. Holding the Wii Remote in your right hand (or if you're playing on Kinect on the 360, without any controller at all), all you have to do is pick a song, and copy the on-screen dancers, taking your cues from the stick-men prompts, as you move your arms and legs in time with the music. The more accurately you copy each move, the more points you'll score and the better you'll do overall. As a game aimed at a younger audience, things are as forgiving as you'd imagine - there's no way to fail and get a game over, the scoring is fairly lenient, and, taking into account younger children's less than perfect motor skills, the dance moves tend to be on the simpler side too - meaning kids who struggle with the other games may find the likes of 'It's A Small World' and 'Follow The Leader' from Peter Pan within their reach.
Of course, any music game is only as good as its soundtrack, and here - well, it'll depend on which side of the fence you're sitting on. Almost split down the middle, around half the tracks in the games are taken from Disney films, while others have been lifted from the cheap-as-can-be TV now shown on the Disney Channel (you can find the full Just Dance Disney Party song list here). With the likes of 'The Bear Necessities', 'Under The Sea' and a couple of songs from Tangled making the grade, there's a decent mix of songs from films both old and new - but it still feels like too much room's been taken up by tracks from the Hannah Montana-type shows - especially when there's only 25 songs on the disc to begin with. And that's including the theme from 'The Muppet Show', which lasts all of a few seconds. When Just Dance 4 can fit in 44 songs on the disc, with all sorts of alternate choreographies and extra modes, Just Dance: Disney Party's song list pales in comparison even if you can change the languages of certain songs, depending on whether you fancy a German rendition of 'The Bear Necessities' or some Swedish 'Squirrels In My Pants'. It's especially disappointing when you think about just how many songs Disney have at their disposal from their decades of films and how many more they could have thrown in to make it compare to other dancing games there's no 'Hakuna Matata', no 'Friend Like Me' from Aladdin, a disappointing lack of Mulan's 'Be A Man' (which could have had some cheesy muscle-flexing). Gaston's song from Beauty and the Beast, I Wanna Be Like You from The Jungle Book, Zero to Hero from Hercules; even 'Whale of a Tale' from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, 'Spoonful of Sugar' from Mary Poppins, Snow White's 'Whistle While You Work' could have been good additions there's loads, basically.
Letting up to four players play together (on the Wii, each player requires their own Wii Remote), the main mode is essentially a competition to see who can amass the highest score but that isn't the only mode on offer. Team Battle is essentially the same, just with players split into two teams, but the remaining two modes, Balloon Pop and Freeze & Shake, take a slightly different stance. Still a matter of copying the on-screen moves, Balloon Pop sees each correct dance step making a balloon in the middle of the screen swell, before finally popping to leave a mass of stars which you need to collect as fast as possible by shaking your Wii Remote. Kind of like Just Dance mixed with Simon Says, Freeze & Shake has you copying the same routines as before but interspersed with 'Freeze' and 'Shake' commands, where you either need to stand as still as possible or shake wildly for big bonus points. They're an entertaining enough distraction, and certainly a bit different, but they're unlikely to be much of a time sink.
For those that have cut their teeth on the main Just Dance games, though, Just Dance: Disney Party can feel a bit like a poor man's alternative. The series has come on leaps and bounds since the early days, with unlockables, achievements and countless additions helping make the game seem more than just a dancing minigame, with the motion-detection and scoring having improved ten fold too. Yet Disney seems to be a bit on the wonky side, especially when it comes to scoring some songs could be five starred by a one-legged, blind-folded zebra, while you can have a pretty much perfect run through others, yet only get two or three stars. And as a series famous for it's cheesy, over-the-top choreographies, it's a bit disappointing that the routines in Disney Party feel so... bland. Perhaps it comes down to simplifying the moves, perhaps down to budget constraints, but whatever the case, what we've got here isn't quite as good as what's come before.
In the end, Just Dance Disney Party is a decent attempt at merging the worlds of Just Dance and Disney together, but the process hasn't gone quite as smoothly as you'd hope. While the song list does a good job of providing tracks for Disney fans, young and old, it's the number of songs on offer that feels like the biggest limitation - especially considering the depth of the source material. It's by no means a terrible game, but it could have been so much better - and that's our biggest sticking point.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo Wii