"Life after Bush and Gorbachev, the wall is down but something is lost / A fine little girl is waiting for me, but I'm as bent as Dostoevsky." So sang Iggy Pop in 1993. Who could have imagined that 17 years later, actual little girls would be jumping up and down to those words in front of their tellies? But then who could have imagined that Iggy Pop would be selling car insurance by then? Or that the world's best-selling console would be the one with the least processing power? Or that a game for that console, one where all you have to do is wave your arms about like it's 1993 and you're a massive tit, would turn out to be quite good?
At first glance, Just Dance doesn't look like it's going to be any good at all. The menus are low-rent and limited, pulling off old tricks like offering "Quick Play" and "Classic" modes as if they're different. The presentation suggests the development team has played a lot of SingStar and watched too many Apple adverts. The copywriter has tried to fill out the manual with advice about checking your batteries and making sure you have enough space to move, but there are still three blank pages for "notes" at the end.
This is because the instructions for how to play Just Dance could be written on the back of a postage stamp. In crayon. You hold the remote in your right hand and copy the dancer on screen. The end. There are no other peripherals - no dance mats, no balance boards, no bits of neoprene to strap to your thigh, not even any nunchuks. This means all you need for a four-player game is four Wii remotes and not an ounce of dignity between you.
The manual claims, "The flow of your body movements will be sensed by the Wii remote." This seems a bit grandiose, especially considering Just Dance isn't playable with the MotionPlus accessory. It continues, "The amount of energy you put in is also detected and taken into account." In other words the harder you shake the remote, the higher your score. You receive one of three ratings for each move - Bad, OK or Great - and good moves fill up your score meter as the song progresses.
The game isn't brilliant at recognising your movements consistently. You can receive four Greats in a row followed by a Bad, even though you've just done the same move in the exact same way. It's hard to believe the game really knows whether you're leaping around and punching the air or waggling the remote while sitting on the sofa. Try out both techniques and you'll find it makes little difference to your final score.
So yes, Just Dance should be rubbish. It's stupid, shallow, crude and not nearly as technically proficient as it pretends. Which might explain why I like it so much. But despite all that, if you're in the right company and the right frame of mind, it's tremendous fun.
This is mainly down to the excellent work by the dancers you have to copy. There are proper videos of them, stylised to look like animations, so there's a real flow and human quality to their movements. They wear silly outfits - legwarmers and headbands, giant afros and Elvis wigs, hotpants and MC Hammer trousers - appropriate to each song. The dances are great, again tailored to suit each track. They vary in terms of how difficult they are and how much effort is required and some can cause you to work up a serious sweat. However, none are too hard for littluns to have a go at or too easy for grown-ups to do without looking stupid.