[Review] Just Dance 2020 – Nintendo Switch

Written by Mel Curtis
  • Developer: Ubisoft, Ubisoft Paris
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Release date: 5/11/2019
  • Price: £49.99 / $39.99

Introducing: Just Dance 2020 Switch Review

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not exactly the target that Just Dance 2020 is aiming for. While I enjoy dancing games, I’m not the type that feels the need to buy the newest one every year and I’m not inclined to play something where you pick it up and play it for just a little bit to get moving. I like sinking lower into the couch cushions as I play, thank you very much. All that said, though, I do live with two teens (19 and 15) who love these kinds of games so I picked this up when I found it on sale and enlisted the help of these veteran players for their keen insight into this entry.

Let’s get two things out of the way right off the bat. Yes, this game is available for the Wii. Ubisoft has always been pretty coy about why this is, but speculation generally falls towards the Wii having an absolutely massive install base, despite being discontinued years ago. The other elephant in the room is the fact that this game series is not one that you buy each year for changes in gameplay, but rather changes in the songlist. If you don’t like the songlist, it’s frankly more cost effective to pick up last year’s edition of the game. That being said, there is a story campaign in this game, if that’s enough to sway you (but we’ll talk more about that later).

Let’s Get Grooving

The gameplay is largely the same as previous entries, just follow along to the dancing that’s happening on the screen. The better you do, the more points you’ll score. Well, more like the better your right hand does, the more points you’ll score, because that’s all that the game is able to track from you in these versions. You can use a Joy-Con or a phone that has the Just Dance app, but frustratingly, you cannot mix and match the controllers, it has to be all one or all the other. If you have a family where everyone has a phone, this isn’t a problem, but if you only have two Joy-Con and two phones, but four family members, you’re going to have to take turns or shell out for another pair of Joy-Con.

So, how is that songlist? Well, it’s not very big. While it’s a similar size to previous games, my family was a little disappointed to find that 13 of the 54 routines that you can dance to are a second routine to one song, meaning that these alternate routines make up nearly a quarter of those available overall. I don’t keep up on music all that much, but to me the list seemed to be very diverse (there’s some K-pop in there in order to please that crowd, even). I asked my sisters who are much more music-conscious what they thought and was told that they only knew 11 of the songs, of which they only liked about six. The entire list is available to be viewed online, so I recommend you take a look for yourself to determine how much of it actually appeals to you.

Boogie, Boogie

Different from the main mode of the game is the kids section, which is clearly geared more towards children and is a much less competitive form of the game. In this mode you’ll find ten songs, most of them just instrumental. eight of the songs can only be found here. The two the overlap between the two modes are “Baby Shark” (Included as the requisite meme song for the year) and “Into the Unknown” (added after launch as a download, requiring an internet connection to get). There is also a lack of a heads up for what the incoming moves are, so the movements are much more simplified. This area is bright and colorful and I don’t see any reason that it would not appeal to a fairly young child,  but I would think anyone beyond maybe 6-8 would be quite bored by it.

There are no scores here. The star system remains and the goal of five stars is very easy to reach, though it does require actually playing. Leaving the controller just to sit does not get any points, so your kids are going to have to do at least a little work. We actually tested this out a little. My sister played just flailing around and deliberately not getting anything right and managed a decent three-star score. Young kids will be able to compete here, but it’s certainly a much more laid back version of the game, even if I find the use of mascot costumes here kind of unsettling.

Down the Tracklist

Like with any game of this type, there are some parts of it that are locked up until you put in the effort to unlock them. Most of this is the alternate routines, which can be unlocked by scoring well or playing the standard version five times, depending on the routine. I think the score one is pretty limiting to those who are not great at the game, like myself, but considering that they unlock the much harder routines, it’s completely understandable. 

The bigger issue is in regard to the story mode, which unlocks the routine for “High Hopes,” one of the songs that my sisters were looking forward to unlocking. Story mode is a gauntlet of ten songs from the history of the game in order to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the series. These are additional songs that are not in the standard list, but I don’t count them in the number of routines since you have to go to this specific mode to play them, which is much more of a hassle and won’t be the first thought of players. It would be nice if they were added to the standard list when they were played and unlocked in the story mode, but for now they’re tucked away in a weird corner that you’re likely to forget. And for the record, despite being something that they were looking forward to unlocking, my siblings rarely play “High Hopes” since they consider it one of the less fun routines in the game, so you might find all that work to ultimately be disappointing. I’m not a big fan of the games and even I can tell that it’s less fun and exciting than average.

The last set of things that can be unlocked from the game’s digital capsule machine with the plentiful coins that the game will be throwing at you. Unfortunately, these unlocks are incredibly disappointing since they’re little more than a few pictures and words. When you amass a large amount of these coins it can take forever to run them through the machine and all you get out of it are “titles” and icons. These are incredibly unrewarding and eventually I just stopped trying to get them. There was no appeal in being able to make myself a panda instead of a generic face in some score sharing system that I cared nothing about.

Let the Music Play

The last thing that we need to look at is the subscription service that comes attached to the game. It’s called Unlimited and it allows you to have access to tons of routines from the past. It’s not quite everything, even if it might look like it, but the selection is wide and varied, pulling even from spin-off titles (which leads to there being a surprising amount of ABBA songs). It’s $24.99 a year, which could feel like a lot on top of the price of the game, but you feel that a lot less if you manage to get the game on sale. I personally just let my Nintendo gold points pile up from my other games and pay using those. It all depends on if you think it’s worth it. My family does spend more time on the Unlimited songs than the standard. The game is definitely going to pressure you into coughing up, which feels kind of sleazy.

What I do appreciate, though, is that there is an option to buy access to unlimited for just one day at a time, even if it’s not a deal compared to a longer length of time. However, this means that you don’t have to pay for a full month if you just want to have Unlimited for a party you’re holding. Given the nature of Just Dance as a party game, having this option is a point in its favor, even if I’m not fond of there being a subscription service in the first place. However, if you’re going to have it for more than just a day or two, it is more cost effective to go for a longer period of time.

Feel the Beat

Overall, Just Dance 2020 is very much like what has come before it, for better and for worse. The gameplay hasn’t changed but the reasons for the song list being limited have. Ubisoft is back at it again with the upselling, but if you’re willing to go in on it, the game does expand a lot. I will say that in times like these where fear of a pandemic is keeping a lot of us indoors, this is one way to get yourself up and moving while having some fun.

Pros

  • The same old gameplay that you love
  • The option to pick up expanded services for only a single day when wanted
  • Has a variety of music types

Cons

  • Really hard to play undocked due to screen size
  • Ubisoft upselling with Unlimited service to reach enjoyability for some
  • Many unlockables don’t feel worth it
  • No ability to mix and match controllers
  • Olds songs that are available are hidden from standard play.

Verdict

A fun way to get some moving and grooving in, even if there are a few bumps in the road.

3.5/5

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