Version tested: Xbox 360
If, like me, you have the music tastes of the average 13-year-old girl, you'll no doubt be aware of the dramatic reformation of Steps, the formation-dancing pop troupe of late nineties/early noughties cheese fame.
The dancing game genre has also recently found its second wind in the shape - and shapes - of the original Just Dance's breakaway success. This after the DDR dance mat revolution (also of the late nineties/early noughties) had largely faded away into bargain-bin oblivion.
Mats were out, Wii was the new stage, and Ubisoft seized the moment to unleash its own formation-dancing neon sugar-rush of pure pop gaming. Arriving now on Kinect (a PlayStation Move version is due in December), millions of sales later, the genre theoretically and theatrically reaches its logical conclusion, shorn of all that is inessential. Everything, in other words, but the moves and the music.
Just Dance is not an experience to over-analyse, it's one to embrace without prejudice or dignity. Just Dance 3's song list is the biggest, broadest, poppiest and silliest of the series, a multi-genre, decades-spanning hit parade of humiliation. It's not difficult to establish whether it's your sort of thing or not.
Songs are divided up between those for one, two or four dancers. Very obviously, the more of you there are involved, the more fun it is, with the game's preposterous group highlight surely Danny Elfman's This Is Halloween. I won't spoil it for you.
From the pulsating synth-pop of 2 Unlimited's No Limit to an inexplicable undersea ballroom sway-a-long to Robbie and Nicole's take on Somethin' Stupid, this is the video game equivalent of a hen night or a Pride march. It's a wonder Ubisoft didn't bundle the game with a bottle of poppers.
Just Dance 3's main competition on Kinect is the formidable Dance Central. Dance Central - with a sequel imminent - offers the deeper, more accurate, technically more accomplished 'dance experience'. It's much more of a 'proper game' in the way it scores you and tracks you and encourages competition. But that's not to say it's necessarily more fun.
Just Dance 3 doesn't takes itself seriously and nor should you. Once the critical part of the brain is activated, it's painfully easy to pick holes in the mechanics of the experience, where it falls short of Dance Central's cool professionalism. But this is a game greater than the sum of its parts. And the main parts that need to matter at a Just Dance party are the moves and the tunes.
Bitter experience of multi-format releases where there's a Kinect instalment made me fear for Just Dance's fortunes before the uncertain gaze of Microsoft's elaborate webcam.
To my surprise, in-game, it actually works rather well. How closely and accurately it tracks the body is hard to say, and a point not worth labouring in any case. It works well enough that I feel it rewards and punishes my performances appropriately. Similarly, the game also manages somehow to track four bodies - a compelling feature when Dance Central 2 only supports two.
The downside to this superficial success is that you don't get any useful feedback on where you're going wrong. And the choreography symbols themselves are often so unhelpfully opaque that you're better off just learning from the virtual dancer.