After the poor transition of the regular Just Dance series to the Kinect, I was more than apprehensive when I learned their kid-oriented one was next to expand over several platforms. Yet Just Dance Kids 2 for the Kinect surprised me with its ease of navigation and overall decent play experience.
The game immediately launches a mini-tutorial on how to play the game, complete with stick-figure pictographs showing how you should move your hands as you navigate menus. You can choose to play one-song-at-a-time, play through either a pre-made or customized playlist, or simply play non-stop. Each choice allows you to either dance, aim for a team high score, or "pose and shake" as you play (reminiscent of the game "Simon Says," though while you're dancing).
The song selection, as in all Just Dance games, is most impressive and diverse. Over 40 songs are available, such as Istanbul, Whip My Hair, and The Gummy Bear Song. You can choose to view the songs based on whether they're for younger- or older-kids, as well as by its difficulty. Before the song begins, you have the option to have a friend join in the fun by standing with you and waving, enabling two-player mode.
As an adult dancing to these songs, I couldn't help but feel like a kid again with some of the silly moves involved. Yet I was equally impressed when I tried the hardest songs and saw some of the same, simpler moves used in the regular Just Dance games; it's like playing the prelude to the JD series, building you up for the "adult-oriented" versions. The dance moves are very age-appropriate, with the "younger" songs having simplified choreography, and the "older kid" songs having more difficult, yet still feasible motions.
In true JD fashion, each song has its own "theme," complete with themed avatars. The avatars, however, are real kids dressed up in costumes designed for the themes. I found this to be a nice, personable touch which will help engage kids all the more as they play. Factor in that the "avatar kids" are genuinely having a good time as they dance and you'll notice how contagious their enthusiasm can be.
Bright, cheerful colours and images are everywhere throughout the game, emphasizing how much fun it is to play the game. Even the scores are depicted in such a way that the poorest of players will feel like winners, even if they only achieved one- out of five-stars.
The "playlist" feature is a nice touch for parents who aren't sure which songs to start their kids with. You can pick a pre-programmed set-list with themes like "young kids" and "older kids," or you can create your own and save it for future, repeated use.
"Non-stop" is a great option, especially if those who're playing have mountains of energy to expend. You can choose a specified length of time to play, or simply have the songs play back-to-back as long as you want to dance.
The game falls short with its "create" feature, where you're supposed to be able to record your own choreography to any song in the game. You only get to record dance moves for a small part of the song, with no ability to choose your length of time. As it records, your on-screen avatar moves smoothly, leaving you excited to see the end result. When you play-back your recording, however, the animation is very choppy and hard to follow. Considering how energetic kids can be, flailing limbs and all, no one, not even the kid who danced the recorded moves him/herself, will know what the avatar is doing. This makes this feature effectively useless. A very big disappointment for something many kids would have appreciated if the game had been programmed to record at a faster frame-rate. Luckily it's not a complete waste since they at least get to see themselves as a funny-looking avatar "blob" on-screen as they record.
The parents option in the menu showcases the kid's progress in songs, how often they've played certain songs as well as the game, and even how many calories they've burned in a session. The most surprising part of all this is one part titled "philosophy." It's simply a text-based "slide-show" of sorts describing the benefits of music and dancing for kids, giving parents a bit of an educational experience as to why the game is worthwhile.
Both fun and ridiculous, I can see many a kid enthusiastically playing this game, both on their own and with friends. Just Dance Kids 2 has a great selection of songs for all ages, is very user-friendly, and parents will appreciate this fun option to get their kids to use up their energy. It's now available on the Kinect, PlayStation Move, and the Wii.