If you're at all familiar with the Just Dance franchise, you probably already know if you are in or out. The mechanics of the game are always the same; dance to a bunch of cool, slickly produced videos set to a collection of great music, hold your phone in your hand, try to score points with the sometimes-tricksy tracking system, see how your performance compares to others. It changes, but it doesn't change all that much. If you are here, you are probably just wanting to know how this year's offering is. So, for the committed fans, I'll give you the Cliff's Notes version - the songs are awesome, the videos kick ass, but the structure of the game has evolved into something a bit confusing and muddled.
Just Dance is my family's Madden. It seems that every gamer has that one game series that releases annually that they just can't resist, whether that be EA's annual "It's the same game as last year!" NFL offering, the yearly NBA 2K microtransaction festival, or the international sensation that is FIFA. For the folks in my house, our annual indulgence is Just Dance. Every year we look forward to the blast of new songs, and for a month or two, I get treated to a new wave of pop and dance tracks that I wouldn't ever hear otherwise. My kids dominate the main TV in the house (and my phone...and my wife's phone) for a month or two through the holiday season, and then we go back into dancing hibernation for another year, checking in occasionally for new tracks but mostly just biding our time until the next big release drops.
So there was great joy in the Hauter home this year when Just Dance 2024 dropped a little earlier than usual. This was followed by a great deal of confusion, and then some mild disappointment. This year's Just Dance installment isn't bad, it's just weird.
Here's my big mistake: when I went to download Just Dance 2024, I still had Just Dance 2023 installed on my PlayStation 5 (I told you, we're big fans). I entered the prompts to download the new version, and then...nothing happened. No indications that anything was downloading, no ping when downloading finished, and I couldn't find "Just Dance 2024" in my PS5 game library. It was like Just Dance 2023 took a jealous look at the new hotness that was Just Dance 2024, and then freakin' ate it.
After a lot of fumbling around, I finally figured it out. This year's version of Just Dance 2024 is not a stand alone game. At least, that is, not if you already own 2023. If that's the case, then the two games glop together into a single game, with the tracks from both of them showing up in a single UI, now simply entitled "Just Dance". Just like me, it took a while for my PlayStation to figure all of this out, but after a day or two the Just Dance 2023 icon disappeared off of my PS5 dashboard and was replaced with a new, undated icon. Turns out, both me and my PlayStation are a little slow.
After a bit of consideration, this new alignment of titles makes a lot of sense to me as an adult, as it makes Just Dance into more of a platform than a single one-off game offering. Just keep piling all of the songs into one framework, which expands each year to contain everything you own. Sounds fine to me. To my kids though, it was bitterly disappointing. "It's not a new game," my seven-year-old insisted. "It's just the same game with a few new songs."
"No, no," I say. "There are like 40 new songs in there. That's more than a few."
"But all the old songs are in there too. And it doesn't look any different. And there are always new songs showing up in there. What makes this different?"
"Well...." and then I stopped, because these are all valid points. My kids had earned every trophy from Just Dance 2023, and from what I can tell, there are no new ones for 2024. The UI, though a bit refreshed, looks very much like the old one. Though there are new sets of the usual rewards like characters, frames, stickers, etc., all of those from the previous game are still available, making this new stuff just feel like a continuation of last year's experience. The 2023 edition had a fun little campaign to play through that introduced new songs and mechanics, and this year's edition does not. And our beloved World Dance Floor mode is still missing in action, seemingly abandoned forever in favor of some new advanced leaderboard features.
The kids have come around a little bit, as I've begun pointing out some of the absolute bangers included in this year's Just Dance "song pack". We all happily played the game over the weekend, dancing to old favorites while experimenting with some of the new tracks. But I wonder how the whole experience would differ had I deleted Just Dance 2023 from my PS5 before downloading the new one. Would there be new trophies? Would it feel more like a "new game" to my kids? It's very difficult to tell. The entire onboarding experience was murky, and I wonder how many other players have struggled to figure out how the whole thing patches together.
"Okay, dude, enough" you say. "We get that you are old and confused by new things. But how are the new songs?"
Well, they are as awesome as usual. I was delighted to see "Chaise Longue" by Wet Leg make the cut, and "vampire" by Olivia Rodrigo was immediately put into heavy rotation by my daughter. "Gimme More" by Britney Spears quickly flew up the family charts (much to my wife's dismay - she had to ban "Toxic" from the house after last year's endless replays), and this year's BTS hit ("Butter") is as catchy as usual. The mix that Ubisoft is able to assemble for these games is astounding, and even the sound-alike covers ("Rapper's Delight", by Not-The-Sugarhill-Gang) sound pretty good. There is a great mix of classics ("I Wanna Dance with Somebody" by Whitney, "Survivor" by Destiny's Child), current hits, and off-the-wall weirdo tracks. As always, I marvel at how much Ubi must be paying for the rights to these songs. I mean, beyond all the legacy acts, the game includes songs by Miley Cyrus, Bad Bunny, Billie Eilish, Bruno Mars, Fall Out Boy, and more. It's a bit ridiculous, and assembling all that talent can't be cheap.
Much like last year's game, the new videos are much less static then in years past, with the camera whirling around the digital environments. The creativity that goes into these productions is fantastic, and I find that I enjoy watching just as much as I enjoy failing to dance to them.
In addition to the 40 tracks the game comes with, you also get a one month membership to Just Dance+, which gives you an assortment of older songs to play (after the month, you have to pony up a nominal fee to keep access to those older tracks). And this year extends last year's focus on multiplayer, with 2023 owners able to play with 2024 players, adding to the feeling that Ubisoft is creating a "platform" here instead of a game. A few other new features are included, like a calorie tracker in workout mode that shows how much you burn off by playing the game. It's a neat little addition, but not enough to feel like a true step forward for the franchise.
I might be expecting too much from Just Dance, which in the end is sort of a niche title, I guess. But after last year's huge step forward, Just Dance 2024 does indeed feel like a bunch of new songs have been plugged into last year's game. I'm not as disappointed as my kids, but I must admit that the new edition of Just Dance is ultimately just an extension of last year's game. Whether that is worth the cost of admission is entirely subjective. I can say without a doubt that even if I weren't reviewing Just Dance, I still would have bought it. But that purchase would have felt just the tiniest bit regrettable, as I don't fully feel like I'm playing something "new".
I finally know how all of those Madden fans feel.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Howdy. My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids. During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories. I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 and PS VR2 to my headset collection. I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.
My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then. I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep. Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, Series S, PS5, PS4, PS VR2, Quest 2, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super sweet gaming PC built by John Yan. While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.
When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect. I also co-host the Chronologically Podcast, where we review every film from various filmmakers in order, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.
Follow me on Twitter @eric_hauter, and check out my YouTube channel here.View Profile