‘Just Dance’ has been a constant part of my generation’s childhood. I vividly remember waking up on Christmas Day almost every year to the new version of the game and dancing with my sister until we had gone through the catalog. I still play many of the past games on my older consoles and not only are they still entertaining, but deeply nostalgic. I jumped at the chance to be able to review the newest version of the game.
The upcoming installment, ‘Just Dance 2022,’ was announced in June 2021 and will be the 13th game in the main series. ‘Just Dance’ has been a standout party game since the first of its name was released in Nov. 2009. Not much about the game itself has changed since its conception; the player is given a list of choreographed songs to mirror and is scored on their performance. Whether the player puts just their controller or their heart and soul into the dance is up to them. No matter the player’s skill, they can “just dance” with little fear of judgement. The game proves that its creators have discovered a solid code for success combining shameless fun with popular music and exercise.
‘Just Dance 2022’ is an expected addition to the series, as it is nothing remarkably innovative, and rather an updated version of the game. On the Nintendo Switch, the player can dance with a party of up to six individuals either working together in “Co-op Mode” or competing against each other. There is the option to use the game’s controllers or the Just Dance controller app. ‘Just Dance 2022’ includes other classic features like “Just Sweat,” where the player is able to play more extreme versions of the dances, and a “QuickPlay” option where all songs are shuffled and put back to back. The game also includes a “Kids” version, similar to the last few editions, which is essentially an oversimplified version of gameplay set to children’s or Disney-inspired music. Additionally, ‘Just Dance 2022’ still gives the player “mojo” that they are able to spend in a gachapon type machine that provides new avatars, skins and taglines for your player profile.
The largest change in ‘Just Dance 2022’ is the content it provides. The tracklist reflects both the trends and radio hits of the past year with more cinematic background than ever before. The atmospheres the game creates are dynamic and engaging, if a little difficult to follow at times for what the game is. ‘Just Dance 2022’ seems to be fairly diverse in its choices as always, showcasing music from K-pop groups, forgotten internet culture, TikTok, and what I would classify as “family road trip music,” all alongside picks from the Top 100 of the year.
Some of the options were surprising at first. In ‘Just Dance’s’ trademark censorship fashion, Doja Cat’s “Boss Bitch,” has been altered to “Boss Witch.” Though a bit tacky, the change was far more creative than “bleeping” the swears, and the witchy theme was pleasing and in line with current trends. “Levitating” by Dua Lipa was also definitely a standout for both the song’s popularity and the dance’s space theme. “Happier Than Ever” by Billie Eilish definitely struck us as ill-fit for Just Dance, and yet it captures the song with the bittersweet rage it requests. Taylor Swift’s “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” also made the tracklist and I felt this was a fitting nod to Swift’s growth as an artist and recent resurgence in popularity.
For a game that attempts to wrap up the year through dance, ‘Just Dance 2022’ does an excellent job. Many of the dancers had masks tied into their costumes, and most background dancers were masked. We have all experienced the trauma that the pandemic has brought about, and are still dealing with the after-effects. Masks have become commonplace. To see COVID represented so gently in a game that does not necessarily require it felt thoughtful and truly representative of the times.
Despite its triumphs, ‘Just Dance 2022’ also had moments that were unsatisfactory, which is disappointing for a game that has been around for so long and celebrated as much as it has. Songs like El Chombo’s “Chacarron,” feel late to the jump, and including “Chandelier” in light of musician SIA’s many recent controversies seemed slightly distasteful. Furthermore, “Good 4 U” by Olivia Rodrigo was advertised, yet nowhere to be found on our copy of ‘Just Dance 2022.’
Another part of this disappointment is the constant emphasis on Just Dance Unlimited. ‘Just Dance 2022’ follows its predecessors and provides 40 tracks to dance to, yet also boasts a more expansive collection of dances. Most of these dances - both past content and new - are blocked unless the player has an unlimited subscription (I was able to utilize the free trial, which greatly enhanced my experience). There were also multiple ads for Just Dance Unlimited in between dances that felt both awkwardly placed, and like a bit of a risk to younger players that may accidentally make the purchase for $3.99 a month.
All in all, ‘Just Dance 2022’ nestles into the ‘Just Dance’ series comfortably. Though it doesn’t provide many new quirks, it doesn’t have to. The game does precisely what has been expected of it and the newest version is simply a fresh batch of dances and a better quality experience as technology improves. ‘Just Dance’ has been a constant for 12 years and does not seem to be backing down any time soon.
‘Just Dance 2022’ will be available for purchase on Nov. 4, 2021 for the Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and Stadia.