It might be dark and dreary outside at the moment, at least at TheXboxHub HQ, but I’ve been transported to a more colourful and exciting dimension thanks to Just Dance 2023, the latest iteration of Ubisoft’s popular franchise. And with the incoming sub-zero temperatures, dancing around the living room is an ideal way of warming up without having to switch on the heating.
Being only available on next generation platforms only means that some Just Dance fans won’t be able to play Just Dance 2023. Indeed, if you’re using an Xbox One or PS4 then you’ll need to hope that Santa coughs up for a new console this year. Just Dance 2023 is only available on Xbox Series X|S, PS5 and Nintendo Switch, but will those on older platforms be missing anything – is this version any different from that found in previous games like Just Dance 2022?
What hasn’t changed is that Just Dance 2023 is an ideal party activity as up to six people can connect their phones to the game using the Just Dance app. Your phone then acts as a ‘motion detector’ as you dance, allowing the game to score you. You can also use your phone as a controller when navigating the game interface, although you can also use a standard Xbox controller, which I found much more user-friendly.
A new, simpler interface means everything you need is on the same screen – playlists, game modes and songs, rather than having to skip through the multiple screens of past games. There are many options to find the perfect song: you can sort the available songs alphabetically or filter the tracks to get the perfect playlist for your taste and needs. You can choose according to the categories of music genres, choreo styles (which allows you to choose how many dancers are playing), moods, decades and accessibilities (which includes seated, small spaces, jump free, ground moves free and leg friendly).
The game comes with forty new songs, which give you a good range of music genres and choreo styles. I would argue that it is the best range we have seen from Just Dance for a while. Whether you are into K-Pop (Dynamite by BTS), 70’s disco (Disco inferno by The Trammps), alternative rock (Bring me to Life – Evanescence) or pure pop (As it was by Harry Styles), there will be something you want to get up off the sofa and dance to.
Each song is represented by a thumbnail image that shows the title, hover over it and you will see a short clip with the difficulty out of four – easy, medium, hard and extreme – along with the current highest score, shown by the number of stars achieved out of five.
Just Dance 2022 showcased different styles of animation and this has been continued and expanded in Just Dance 2023. We have the traditional – the coach animated in bright colours with ever-changing backgrounds. One song (Danger! High voltage – Electric Six) has an animated 16-bit version, which utilises retro gaming graphics like something out of a 90’s scrolling platform game. Then there is Top of the World by Shawn Mendes which has you dancing along with a 3D animated crocodile like something out of a Pixar movie. Many songs have different ‘flavours’ – be they a choice of animation style, accessibility or difficulty level. There is no specific kids section in Just Dance 2023 but there are a few songs that kids will enjoy, like We don’t talk about Bruno from the Disney movie Encanto.
If you want to dance along to a few songs in a row, there are a number of available playlists. These mostly contain between five and nine songs according to categories such as ‘kids faves’, ‘warrior women’ and ‘dance Disney’.
A returning feature comes in the form of being able to customise your dancer card, which contains your choice of avatar, background, border, aliases and badges. Gone is the gift machine from previous games, and instead you earn new items for your dancer card, as well as scoring effects and victory celebrations, by levelling up. You progress through the levels by earning XP from doing well in songs and by completing various goals; playing forty songs, collecting 100 stars or dancing to ten pop songs, for instance.
In terms of gameplay, not much has changed from previous iterations of the games.
You follow the moves shown by the coach, holding your phone in your right hand. The movement of the phone dictates how well the game decides you are hitting the moves – which it awards you a score – miss, OK, good, super or perfect. Occasionally you get a gold move – hit this and you are rewarded with a ‘yeah’ and the points rack up. Your task is to earn stars, which are awarded as you progress through the song up to a maximum of five.
What has changed over the years is the quality of the visuals – there is truly a cinematic feel as the camera pans and zooms in and out, using different angles as the coach moves across the dance floor. It is so good that it is an entertaining watch for the non-dancing members of your party, who can also sing along using the lyrics displayed in the bottom left of the screen.
Further adding to the cinematic aspects of Just Dance 2023 is ‘Enter the Danceverses’ – a Just Dance adventure. This is a playlist of songs where the characters from the songs play out a narrative and act as villains and heroes in dance battles across different locations. Cut scenes at the start of the adventure and in between songs take you through the story.
Previous versions of Just Dance had a feature called Just Dance World Dancefloor, where you could compete against other players around the world. This is missing from Just Dance 2023 and instead we have a new online multiplayer option, where you can invite up to five other players from your Friends list to join you to play. At the time of writing this is not available on Xbox, but Ubisoft promise it is coming soon.
Also returning is Just Dance Unlimited, now in the form of Just Dance+. In this optional add-on you get access to extra songs from previous Just Dance games. You can choose the length of access – three months or a whole year. At the time of writing there are about 150 songs, with the promise of more of the back-catalogue plus new and exclusive songs to be added throughout the year. Compare this to Just Dance Unlimited which contained all of the previous songs (around 700) and Just Dance+ does seem to be short-changing us somewhat.
Just Dance 2023 is another colourful slice of dance wrapped up in stunning visuals and catchy tunes – perfect for warming yourself up on a cold night, chilling out with friends or heating up the party. For us, it’s got the best playlist for a good few years too.
Just Dance 2023 is on the Xbox Store