If there's one thing you can say about the Just Dance games, it's that they're certainly logical. While the Wii Remote wanging fun of the previous games has seen it become a storming hit - even knocking uber serious first person shooter Call of Duty off the top of the charts - the chances are, if your little ones have ever attempted playing it, they may not have been all that impressed with the selection of songs - or could even have found it too hard. Knowing that there are few things children enjoy more than jigging about to a funky rhythm, developers Ubisoft have come up with this - Just Dance Kids - a Just Dance game that's squarely aimed at the CBeebies crowd. Think of it as "My first dancing game".
The first that stands out about Just Dance Kids is the song selection – filled with a mixture of nursery rhymes, songs from various animated films and well-known pop songs, there should be something here to entertain a wide range of ages of kids. There's classics like 'Itsy Bitsy Spider' and 'Jingle Bells'; songs from films like 'Despicable Me'; and even a few pop songs like 'Love Me' by *shudder* Justin Bieber, and 'Burning Up' by The Jonas Brothers - it also features this annoying little ditty, which has the potential to get as annoying as The Crazy Frog from a couple of years ago. Songs like 'Barbara Ann' by the Beach Boys and Blur's 'Song 2' also get a look-in, so there are a few for the adults too - which is a good thing, seeing as we'll inevitably be roped into playing along. Somewhat strangely, you can change the language for some of the songs, too – should you feel that way inclined, you can even do a German version of 'Hokey Cokey'. Ja, das Hokey Cokey. At least you can't say it's not educational...
Having recently received a copy of the game to review on the Wii, your faithful reviews dove straight in on Counting Crows' 'Accidentally In Love', as featured in Shrek 2. Set against a back-drop of castles and princesses, the game was essentially the same as Just Dance has always been – little stick-men move across the bottom of the screen, which depict the moves you need to do while holding the Wii Remote - all you need to do is copy them, to the best of your ability, to get points. With actors also performing the moves in the middle of the screen for you, it's not all that different to the songs usually featured on kids TV programs, which almost inevitably ask your child to perform some sort of actions to go along with it - so if that sort of thing goes down a treat, this likely will too. As a little added bonus, things seem a lot more forgiving this time around, meaning you can be a lot less precise with your moves, and still get given a perfect rating - every time you successfully hit a move, the Wii Remote vibrates too, just to let you know you've got it right, which is a nice little extra we wish they'd move over to the full blown games.
In a similar way to The Smurfs: Dance Party, there's a few variations on the usual Just Dance formula here, in the form of some different modes designed mix things up a bit. The first, 'Freeze & Shake', works a bit like statues, where you need to follow the dance moves as usual, until a Freeze icon appears, when you'll need to stand perfectly still, or a Shake icon, which means you need to shake the Wii Remote like your life depends on it. Along with this 'Freeze & Shake' mode, Just Dance Kids comes with a new 'Bubble Pop' mode...
Ever adventurous, we decided to try out the new mode, this time on that other Blur song everyone knows – 'Song 2' ('Girls & Boys' was used up on Just Dance 1 [what about Country House? Parklife? Coffee and TV? - Ed]). Beginning in a similar way to normal, to start with, you'll just need to follow the moves at the bottom of the screen in order to earn points - but in this mode, those points also cause a balloon to inflate. Once we'd hit enough moves, the balloon exploded in a shower of ice-creams and cookies, at which point you needed to shake your Wii Remote as fast as humanly possible to hoover up as many as you could, which were then converted to points. The rest of the song then followed the same cycle of copying moves to make the balloon grow and then shaking the Wii Remote like a lunatic to sweep up all the food. Which certainly went down a treat.
Somewhat awkwardly, though, for those who have a mix of children, there does seem to be a definite bias towards little girls for Just Dance Kids. Whether that's because Ubisoft think girls tend to be more interested in dancing than boys is beyond the question, but it could lead to a few embarrassing moments if your children decide to play together - a fair few of the videos and songs are likely to make little boys in their 'ewwwwwwwwwwww girls' phase run a mile, with their pink fluffiness, princesses, and all that's sugar and spice. There are a few concessionary 'boys songs' thrown in though, like Blur's 'Song 2' and the one-song-fits-all nursery rhymes, but maybe not enough to keep them entertained for as long - especially as girls don't tend to react in quite the same way to boy-ish things, like Pirates and Rockstars.
But with a bit of parental guidance over the song selection, Just Dance Kids should go down a treat with the same sort of audience who love getting up and jigging along to the songs on CBeebies, Forgiving, and most importantly, fun, Just Dance Kids is likely to be a hit with the younger crowd - just be prepared to be pestered for every Just Dance game that comes out from now until the end of time, or your wallet, whichever comes first.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo Wii