'Tis the season for … dancing? As the holidays draw near, two game companies are vying to get you jumping around to songs from yesterday and today. Harmonix and Microsoft have pumped out "Dance Central 3," which hits stores today; and Ubisoft returns with its latest boogie machine, "Just Dance 4," which is also available for purchase.
"Just Dance 4" supports more platforms and their motion devices — PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii — whereas "Dance Central 3" is an Xbox 360 exclusive. Each game costs $50, on any console. But which one really offers the best overall experience? We decided to put both games to the test across multiple categories.
Each game seems to copy from the successful formula of its previous releases. "Just Dance 4" uses live-action style silhouettes that you follow on the screen, along with prompts highlighted at the bottom that show you what to do next. Meanwhile, "Dance Central 3" has you follow along to virtual dancers, dressed for each era of the song that's playing.
Both games have lively presentations that are easy to follow, but "Just Dance 4" doesn't innovate over previous versions. The dancers and the menu system haven't changed much. Meanwhile, "Dance Central 3," has more realistic-looking dancers (compared with shadow figures) and a lively mixture of backgrounds, including shopping squares and dance clubs. Plus, its scrolling dance menu system is easier to follow than "Just Dance 4."
Modes and gameplay
In both games, you have to match movements of the dancers on-screen. With the PlayStation 3 and Wii versions of "Just Dance 4," you have to grasp onto the PlayStation Move controller or Wii remote to read movements. The Xbox 360 version, however, utilizes the Kinect, and to great effect.
The Kinect also does a great job reading your body motions in "Dance Central 3," and even gives you a neon-colored grading scale to show you how accurately you're doing it. "Just Dance 4" rewards you, as well, but could've done better when it comes to progress indications.
When it comes to single player modes, "Just Dance 4" offers a wealth of features that deal with health, including Dance Quests, where you have to meet certain objectives for each song. A "Just Sweat" mode is also available if you specifically want to burn off calories.
"Dance Central 3" shows a bit more creativity in a new story mode. Here, you're part of a Dance Central Intelligence team, tracking a madman through time and capturing parts of certain songs in order to stop him. It's absurd, but silly enough to be thoroughly enjoyable.
Both games have plenty to offer in multiplayer mode. Up to four players can take part in "Just Dance 4" group routines. Over on "Dance Central 3," though, you have a Throwdown mode, where two teams of four can challenge each other to dance moves.
When it comes to single and multiplayer content, each game has something enjoyable to offer.
Finally, let's get to what's most important with a dancing game – the music. Each game features a thorough mix of songs from the '70s, '80s, '90s 00's and today.
[SEE ALSO: What's New in Streaming Music Services?]
"Just Dance 4" has its share of quirky songs, like They Might Be Giants' "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" and Europe's "The Final Countdown.". There are also plenty of radio hits, like Pink's "So What"; Justin Bieber's duet with Nicki Minaj, "Beauty and a Beat"; and Rick Astley's timeless "Never Gonna Give You Up." It's a fairly good mix, but the songs don't quite feel connected.
Over on "Dance Central 3," however, the songs actually tie better into their eras, so you can do "The Hustle" in the '70s and learn how to Dougie, groove with the Backstreet Boys (if you dare) in "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" in the '90s, then move into the current era with The Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow," among other songs. (And yes, fans, you get Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj here as well, with two separate songs.) The party feels better suited for the era you are in the mood for, whereas "Just Dance 4" relies on a very random selection.
"Just Dance 4" is a solid, if unoriginal, continuation of Ubisoft's mega-popular series, and worth checking out if you have a PlayStation 3 or Wii. However, if you're looking for the true dancing experience this holiday season, and own and Xbox, "Dance Central 3" is the boogie machine for you.
Winner: "Dance Central 3"