‘Just Dance 2021’ review: Groove those WFH blues away with this fun family experience

We played Just Dance 2021 on the Nintendo Switch and found the video game provides wholesome entertainment to make being house-bound a bit more fun

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Despite lockdowns phasedly lifting, the pandemic is still raging. But confining yourself to your home can get boring and you need excuses to move around. On top of that, we miss going out with clubs being closed. That said, Just Dance 2021 is precisely the thing to make you bust a move, an experience that is especially fun if you have your family joining.

Just Dance 2021

  • Developer: Ubisoft, Ubisoft Paris
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Prices: ₹2,999 Playstation 4, Xbox One ; ₹3,499 for Nintendo Switch

Ubisoft’s Just Dance series of games are year-on-year releases, much like EA Sports’ FIFA, except the focus here is a arcade-like dance simulation with every release packing in some of the hottest tracks of the year. Though it is weird for a game with 2021 in its title to have tracks from 2020. All of this unfolds through digitally rotoscoped versions of Ubisoft’s own dancers. Fun fact: Just Dance mostly comes out of Ubisoft Pune.

Switch to Switch

We reviewed it on the Nintendo Switch, and we believe that is the best version of the game. It is easy to set-up and my eight-year-old daughter was able to dive right in easily. Just make sure one of the motion-sensing Joy-cons are in one hand, with a strap for safety, and you are ready to go. While the game is available on every other system, you will need a connected smartphone app that the game uses to accurately map the dance moves. However, there is always a danger of your smartphone flying out the window — a too-real possibility, given Just Dance 2021’s tricky dance moves.

Screenshot from ‘Just Dance 2021’

Screenshot from ‘Just Dance 2021’
| Photo Credit:

Getting into the game is as the title suggests, you just dance by mimicking the movements of the colourful on-screen characters with the help of handy illustrations. I enjoyed the ease and fluidity of past Just Dance games, but 2021 adds many unwelcome flourishes into the choreography. The Weeknd’s ‘Blinding Lights’, for example, has an easy beat, but the on-screen prompt had some awkward hand and head movements that were just not flowing with the song.

This mismatchedness was present on a few songs, and evoked inadequacy in me. I may have two left feet, but my daughter, a natural, also found it hard to follow. Ultimately, we were playing catchup to the professional dancers doing the motion capture and not having much fun.

Mixes for days

That aside, the track list is excellent and well-rounded, featuring songs from my favourite K-pop groups BLACKPINK’s ‘Ice Cream’ and K/DA’s ‘Drum go Dum’, to ‘Magenta Riddim’ by DJ Snake, to evergreen hit ‘Bailando’. There was a lot of fun to be had. What was especially good was the mix of songs, from ‘Village People; to ‘You got a Friend In Me’ from Toy Story, to some hot hits from Eminem.

On the upside, the game has a bunch of modes, and I did like the cardio ‘sweat’ mode to squeeze in some exercise. There is a kiddie mode, too, aimed at toddlers and small children, well-timed for the movement-inhibiting lockdown.

Screenshot from ‘Just Dance 2021’

Screenshot from ‘Just Dance 2021’
| Photo Credit:

You will need to dance away to unlock the full tracklist. However, if you want more songs you will need to opt for Just Dance Unlimited subscription service, which has more than 600 tracks, which makes the yearly game a bit pointless, as Just Dance Unlimited will work on last year’s titles too. You can put that same money to good use with a Spotify or Apple Music subscription and dance the way you wish.

Just Dance 2021 is a great first game for those who are curious about the series. However, the 40-plus initial songs are just a paid demo that tries to upsell you to its Unlimited subscription; this is only worth it if you really like the dance choreography. Our advice? Just keep an eye out for sales.

The writer is a tech and gaming enthusiast who hopes to one day finish his sci-fi novel

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