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December 8, 2017

Steam Pack 7

As you all know, I use Steam Packs as a way to quickly review some of the titles I wouldn’t spend 2,000 words discussing, and this includes a lot of cheaper games… as well as free games. I own quite a number of free games. Not that this is a bad thing, on the contrary. Free games are usually shorter or simpler than any titles on Steam you might pay for – and, as a result, those are bound to make their way onto these lists. At the same time, they still showcase great talent from young developers, and sometimes can be a lot more interesting than they seem at first. (Which isn't to say that they're all good, obviously - free games vary in quality just as much as games you can pay for.)

This time around, I want to do something a little different. Only free games! Yes, I know winter is coming, and the Winter Sale will happen on Steam soon-ish, but that’s a story for another day. Today, I want to check through my collection and take out four free games that I’ve never played, and see whether I want to keep them or not.

I guess another word for today’s four games is “ambiance”. Each game brings its own ambiance, a somewhat creepy tone, which works well in the world presented in each of them.

I am also at these crossroads of Steam where I might run out of space if I download more games, so you can probably imagine that I wish to get rid of some games in my collection; and what better way but to play through a few and see whether I want to keep them? The Steam Packs are surprisingly useful for this. Well then, let’s not waste any time!

December 1, 2017

Top 12 Just Dance Levels, Part Deux

I discussed some levels that I disliked, now it’s time to end this overall look at the Just Dance franchise with a final list of levels that I personally enjoy. Mind you, there are few of those from JD2015 because they were all covered on my previous lists. This will contain mostly levels from JD2016, and a few from JD2014. I had a decent list of levels I wanted to include here, but for the sake of keeping it to a single list, I’ve kept it to 12.

Before the list proper, a few honorable mentions:
JD2014: Maria (Ricky Martin), Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! A Man after Midnight (ABBA)
JD2015: Tetris (Dancing Bros.)
JD2016: Balkan Blast Remix (Angry Birds), Born This Way (Lady Gaga)

Well, no time to waste, let’s jump into this right away!

Dammit, I don't want to like One Direction!
But... that music... it's... so decent... I am... impressed!
Ack! No, that's how they assimilate you!
I honestly have no idea how One Direction found their way once again into my Top list. Sure, they’re at the bottom, but they reach the list! No Control is on the first page of Just Dance 2016, so it’s one of the first titles a player sees. And it’s a fantastic dance crew level. It’s not too difficult for someone who just started playing the franchise, and it’s also a great moment to present the dances with multiple choreographies that slightly differ for each participant. I have a blast every time I play this level, I almost cheer when it passes by in the World Dance Floor. That’s the mark of a great stage. Definitely ranks up there with the better content we can access through Just Dance.

A song to dance to with your father, or your son.
Or with your father and your son, if you're three
generations enjoying video games.
I wanted to avoid DLC content for this list, because it’s unfair to include levels you would have to pay for. However, I covered all good levels for JD2015 on my previous lists and I couldn’t exclude this one. Papaoutai is that French song that has been a surprise hit all over the world (and it’s great to play to a French song for once). It’s so catchy, we almost forget that it’s about Stromae growing up without a father because said father died in the 1994 Rwandan genocide! Think about THAT the next time you tap your foot to this ditty! The choreography is great, featuring a father and his son, often doing movements one at a time as though the two were separated. That doesn’t stop them from getting together at the center of the screen, son at the front, father at the back, for an awesome moment where they complete each other’s moves. It’s just a great choreography and I think it’s the favorite DLC I ever bought from the series.

There are just too many great moments in this level.
A singele image doesn't do it justice.
Any fans of comic books? You’ll be delighted by this level. It starts with comic books spread on a table, then the dancer leaps out from the cover in the center for the choreography. That’s actually a pretty cool costume too, reminding me of famous hero costumes like Wonder Woman and Miss Marvel, among others. The choreography itself is enjoyable, with the dancer swinging her arms in circles, punching upwards… The developers went a step further with the backgrounds, throwing in various references to comic book styles. The written onomatopoeia shows up at various places, explosion pass by through the screen, the camera often moves back ever so slightly to reveal the sides of the panel. The best might be when pages zoom in on the backgrounds and we see panels drawn in the styles of famous comic book artists like Jack Kirby. I have a total geek-out on this level! No wonder I love it!

That is not the Lion King I grew up with, but it's a Lion
King I could get used to. Besides, who doesn't love catchy
songs about tragic tales of loss and murder?
Once again, a song that is surprisingly dark for how catchy it is. “Dancing savannah animals” isn’t exactly what comes to your mind for a song about a tragic murder in a club. Still, as with any item on this list, Just Dance delivers with a level that looks great, plays great, and is overall just loads of fun. No, I didn’t pick it just because it’s got a lion, although I’m biased towards always picking that dancer whenever I play the song. What else can I say, the lion looks cool with those Lennon specs. If lions aren’t your go-to wild animal, we also have a hippo, a lemur and a giraffe. I chuckle at the thought of the motion capture session for this particular song. Gotta love how colorful everything is, yet again, even if I could say that for 95% of all friggin’ Just Dance levels. I also love the conga parts in this choreography, it’s a nice touch, especially since the song’s genre lends itself to that.

Just in case you needed a reminder of the sheer EPIC of the visuals
in this one.
I don’t know half the names on this song. I did discuss it in my proper review of Just Dance 2016, though, and spoiler alert, another song I discussed there will show up later on this same list. Hey Mama is one of those levels that is fun when you just play it, but fantastic once you realize all the work that went into it. You mimic the moves of a dancer dressed like a flight attendant, I think, and two guys in the background. Replicated to infinity. I don’t think you comprehend the concept of infinity until you see the same thing repeated to what seems like an infinite number of times. The camera moves back from the dancers to reveal the two guys behind the flight attendant, in the middle of a hangar. Oh, and just to hammer in the endless repetition of these guys, at one point the main crew is on a moving platform, passing by more floors crowded with these guys. Holy macaroni. If you’re dancing to the level, you might not even notice them, but thanks to YouTube, you can. It’s jaw-dropping.

I should probably add that a Just Dance level featuring a few copies of the same dancer isn’t quite as impressive, unless you turn it up to 11 as with Hey Mama did with its thousands of copies of the same dancers. It’s more impressive if you use all different dancers showing up for cameos, as seen with a dance higher on this list.

Why do I want a crown of flowers all of a sudden?
The original song by The 5th Dimention was very groovy, but also five minutes long, so the game instead relies on this cover by The Sunlight Shakers, which is shorter. I dunno why, I love this sort of music, even if it’s as far from metal as can be. The cover is still really good, and keeps all that’s really necessary for a Just Dance version of the original track. I might have been a hippie in a past life, because I love this song and the designs around it. The characters are two women in hippie garb, and the choreography sees great chemistry between them. Hugs and hand-holding are a part of it, too, and you all know how much I loathed whole “Hold My Hand” routines in previous Just Dance titles; here, it’s manageable since it’s temporary and doesn’t cause problems. Gotta love the visuals that change drastically between Aquarius and Let The Sunshine In, going from watery blues to vibrant warm colors, sun in the background and flowers sprouting around. It’s a damn good level for a damn good cover of a damn good song.

And it's hilarious, too!
Classical music in a game? Why, yes! And it works! As a matter of fact, it also becomes a shout-out to the physical comedy of silent films. Two jockeys dance on a race track, behaving as though they were riding horses. Items come towards then like hurdles to jump on, while the background, like a green screen, plays a recording that makes the race track feel so much longer. That’s when you realize that everything is a prop, and the dancers are actually on a stage. We’ve been played! This one is fun, not very difficult, and all-around very enjoyable. The comical elements are well present, and I can attest, everyone I’ve played this song with have had a great time. It’s also the first time my mother scored 5 stars on a song on her first try, something that would not ever be achieved again. Yes, sometimes my parents play too. This is an inclusive game!

This is not your system crashing!
It's bound to surprise you at first, too.
The 2016 edition had a lot of odd tracks, including the Balkan Blast (AKA the Angry Birds theme song), Chiwawa, the William Tell Overture, an Irish Meadow Dance, and then this one. The Ievan Polkka is a cheery, funny song, and it’s sung by Hatsune Miku, which I’ve never really been listening to. The voice does seem to add to the hilarious, though. To think she dances on the screen while holding a leek… yeah, this is basically Meme: The Just Dance Level. (And that’s before JD2018 came out with “Beep Beep I’m A Sheep”!) The background is pretty basic, a series of screens forming a complete picture and sometimes showing different images. Best part might be when the track seems to glitch along with the character who freezes on the screen in different poses, before resuming as if nothing happened. Do not adjust your system, it’s fine. I love the silly tracks in the series, it’s a nice change of pace from the ones given to modern pop songs.

One of them looks like some metal band drummer, and I like that.
AKA the only “seated dance” that doesn’t suck. This one shows the two dancers in a close-up, only torso and up. It’s probably one of the least exhausting dances in Just Dance history, though. The concept is simple. These two guys are in a car, a really good some comes up, they dance in the car. Just the arms and head. Making faces along with the music. It’s the first time we get such a close-up of these porcelain white characters, and it’s actually pretty cool – if you don’t mind the slight uncanny valley of these bodies of utter whiteness, especially when they’re mouthing to the lyrics, and all that’s in their white mouths is just more white. Seriously though, the guy on the right is the better of the two. This level is just amazing – not that the original choreography for Teacher isn’t good, mind you, I just largely prefer this one. And while it’s a great level, never ever imitate these two during a car ride, because the driver lets his hands off the wheel far too long.

Why do I suddenly want to go watch Deadpool again?
With George Michael’s untimely passing in Christmas 2016, early this year I was interested in revisiting the duet choreography for this song. Yes, the track that sounds unbearably romantic, yet is about guilt from cheating on one’s spouse. Of course, as a result of the misleading music, the choreography for the song is very romantic. Even if it shouldn’t be. A man and a woman on a lascivious dance, requiring great chemistry between both partners (making this kinda awkward if played by two people with no romantic interest…). I’ve criticized other Just Dance levels for this, but here, it truly works. And while it makes things a little tricky if playing alone, it’s still enjoyable. You will just feel silly hugging yourself, is all. The level as a whole breathes that romantic vibe, even if it’s not supposed to be. Really, one of the strengths of Just Dance is when you see levels that combine the mood of the track with dancers that embody that mood and a fitting animated background. It's difficult to get all the parts right, but here, that was definitely achieved. Also DAYUM, that saxophone. 

Remember: As soon as you start listening to this song, a saxophonist lurks
in the shadows near you, playing along to the track. That's why the
saxophone always sounds so real when you listen to this song.
Saxophonists are great players, but also creeps.

I talked about it at length In my review, and it’s one of the shining examples, along with Hey Mama, of the improvements made in the newer game. The sole dancer switches between a few different models, one which wears clothes like Bruno Mars’ in the official video for the song. Yet, despite the model changing frequently, the choreography seams flawlessly. On top of that, the character is moved around a giant colorful city, with plenty of monuments visible. Oh, and just in case that wasn’t enough, the character is joined by multiple dancers from levels in previous Just Dance games in the background. It’s not two guys repeated thousands of times, but it’s impressive regardless. It ties the entire Just Dance universe together, in a weird way. And it’s all over this song, which is a treat no matter how often you listen to it, even three years after its release. Would there be a better way to celebrate the series? Probably, but this is as close as we get.

Just Dance Town. Population: Innumerable.
And we hope you like it as much as they do.

This level has it all: Great song, great choreography, great
backgrounds, it plays super-well, it's just the right level
of difficulty... and it's HOT.
Sometimes, all it takes is a simple song with a simple level, along with cool graphics. No matter how many improvements the franchise has seen with time, a fun dance is a fun dance, and nothing trumps that. This is one of the unexpected entries on the list, even passing by some of the most beloved levels in the series to steal the #1 spot. “Follow The Leader” is a one-dancer choreography assisted by multiple dancers in the background, all of which move in rhythm with the main one. I also love the juxtaposition of cold and hot, represented by the factory at the back. Cooler colors in some scenes featuring giant gears, and larger hot scenes with floating particles, lava thrown upwards, even more gears, and a whole crew of back-up dancers in the dark. Damn, is it me or it’s getting hot in here? The changing colors on the dancer’s clothes wasn’t anything new by that point, but it meshes so well with the backgrounds. The choreography is great, not too easy, not too hard, and very enjoyable every time I play it. Truly a fantastic example of what can be achieved with this franchise.

I don't get it. We're close to winter in Quebec, there's snow on the ground,
we are below zero Celsius, and I am sweating!
This is too hot. I'm hyperventilating!

Well, I guess that’s truly all I had to say about Just Dance. Closing the book on that franchise now. It was a fun time, wasn’t it? Some cussing, some praising, a lot of music. Really, you should give the franchise a try, if you haven’t. And if you already love it, more power to you; keep enjoying it. I know I love it.

Next week… Hm… I really should do another Steam Pack.

November 27, 2017

Worst 12 Just Dance Levels, Part Deux

In 2015, I made a big mistake. I split my favorite and least favorite Just Dance levels in two lists, one which had 24 items, one which had 12. Because I’d much rather be positive. However, I had not played enough Just Dance 2014 to discuss some of the levels in it, whether it’s the ones I like or dislike. The lists would have been much more different, had I gone to do this. Now, Just Dance 2016 was not a part of those lists, so most entries on this list and the next one will be from that game – but expect to see a few levels from Just Dance 2014 and 2015 in the lot, either as levels I used to like but don’t anymore, or levels I grossly oversaw during my original list and now deeply regret skipping.

And since I like to get the bad out of the way before I discuss the good, I will start off with a new, updated list of 12 (technically more) levels I utterly despise in Just Dance 2014, 2015 and 2016. Also note that most levels came back on the Just Dance Unlimited service, usually with improved graphics, and that's where I got my better screenshots for this list.

Microsoft, G4? Product placement much, Pitbull?
Yeah, I know, it’s another case of “I hate one of the names behind the song so I put the song on the list”. I made my hatred of a certain guy clear in my previous list. However, it’s not exactly a reason to hate the level itself, so I’m placing it at the bottom of the list. The level itself isn’t quite bad, just forgettable. The difficulty is fine, the dancer looks alright, the Gold Moves are spaced out and easy to make. I don’t quite hate Pitbull, though it feels as though he’s trying to cooperate and team up with every single musical artist out there. When is he teaming up with Metallica? I want to hear that. I'll live happy not hearing the other guy on this song, though.

11. Gibberish (MAX) JD2016
Thanks to the lyrics for pointing out that we are
listening to nonsense.
Just Dance loves to include choreographies by duets, trios and dance crews. Some duets are paired off pretty well, others aren’t. Every choreography that comprises more than one member should be paired off pretty well, actually, but sometimes things just don’t seem to work all that well. Personally, Gibberish always gave me that effect. It’s enjoyable enough, but I’m not a big fan of the choreography and feel it doesn’t really mesh, especially the interactions between the two dancers. There’s also that part in the actual gibberish part of the song, in which the camera moves a little forward, only to snap back in its original place afterwards. Not even sure why. Might be just to show off the effect… which, you know, that’s not necessary, other levels do it better.

November 24, 2017

Just Dance 2016

(Title card coming... whenever I have time to do it.)

You’ll tell me, “You’ve already reviewed three Just Dance games! There can’t be that much to say about a dancing franchise! Surely you’re gonna run out of material!”

Well, you’d be surprised what can be said still about Ubisoft’s Just Dance, one of its lesser franchises, one that doesn’t make the news as much. We can say so much about Assassin’s Creed, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, WatchDogs, or any of their other franchises (and everything that’s great and/or awful in them). We can say so much about Ubisoft and how they offer three dozen different editions of every game: a collector’s edition, a gold edition, a platinum edition with tie-in book and figurine, a silver platinum edition with the cap of the main character, a golden platinum edition with the autographs of every single creative consultant, a gold-plated platinum edition with a hair strand containing an as-close-to-guessed DNA of the virtual main character, a silver-gold-platinum-diamond-ruby-sapphire edition with all that and a urine sample of the nonexistent virtual character and if you buy all of them, Ubi also has a bridge to sell you.

"We love getting your money."
...Oh wait, that's actually EA's
motto. My mistake.

They also got the character coloration wrong. Probably
because the porcelain-white characters of the Just Dance
series would look a bit creepy without the usual human
Oddly enough, there’s still a lot to say about Just Dance. We can say how, in spite of having a new edition out every single damn year, it still tries to innovate (emphasis on “tries”, its success is left up to you). We can say how it still glitches, freezes, or lags from time to time, once again making me think my Wii is faulty, yet it only happens with recent Just Dance games. I can even attest that the Just Dance games are the only ones to have ever caused my system to crash completely, requiring me to unplug it to solve the issue. We can say how Just Dance, having a phone app so that you can play anytime, on any TV, was blatantly advertised for many painful minutes in The Emoji Movie of all things – which, for the record, fuck no, I’m never reviewing that film even if it contains technology, Just Dance and Candy Crush. I’m drained with bad movies, I overdosed on Pixels. Besides, if the Internet was a physical place, you could throw a rock anywhere and it would land on a review of the Emoji Movie anyway.

From the choreography
for Martin Garris' Animals.

If we get down to the basics, Just Dance is always the same thing. Follow the movements, score 10,000 points to get 5 stars on a song, and try to get 5 stars on every single song. Play in multiplayer with friends, or matched against random people thanks to the World Dance Floor. Forget the industry bullcrap surrounding it, today once again we’re revisiting the simple game, its simple concept, in what is probably my last Just Dance review. (Because I work at night, cannot play on evenings, and my feet hurt because of standing for so long at work so dancing is a no-no lately).

November 21, 2017

The fresh, newest, latest, amazing-est updated list of games

With the conclusion of my reviews of Nintendo DS games, I feel it's time to go back on my collection and see what I own, what I still need to review, what I wish to look at soon, and what awaits. It's going to be a simple list, based off the previous one with the updates - including what I bought since that previous list, which was posted all the way back in December 2016. It's been a year!

Animal Kingdom: Wildlife Expedition
Just Dance 2016
Rabbids Go Home
Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition
Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space
Sonic & The Black Knight
Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity
Sonic Unleashed
Spectrobes Origins
Super Mario Galaxy
Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's: Duel Transer

The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past
Paper Mario
Phantasy Star

Deer Drive Legends
Sonic 4 Episode 1

Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom
James Noir's Hollywood Crimes
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon
New Super Mario Bros. 2
Pokémon Sun
Pokémon Ultra Sun
Pokémon X
Rabbids Rumble
Scribblenauts Unlimited
Super Smash Bros. for 3DS

Assassin's Creed 3
Beyond Good and Evil
The Crew
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell

The Angry Birds movie
Assassin's Creed
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Max Payne
(pokémon films? Maybe)
Ratchet & Clank

Mighty Magiswords (?)
Rabbids Invasion


Note: Since I have such a stupidly large collection on Steam, here's what I'll do. I'll post pictures of the many, many screens I can take of the Grid View on the collection screen. Here's how this list works. Make sure to click each image to get a fullscreen version, if you want to see more clearly every game on the list.
Blacked out: This game has been reviewed, it doesn't need to be reviewed again.
Surrounded by a yellow circle: This game's review has been written or is currently being written.
Surrounded by a red circle: I've played this game. A review might be coming soon, but that's not guaranteed (a red circle indicates that a game has been played; it doesn't mean the game has been beaten, though it may be).

There you go! And, if you're a reader of this blog... please, do take a look at all seven pictures posted here, and tell me one game in each picture that you'd like to see me review sometime soon. You can even suggest bad games in the list, I know I've got some, I would love to tear through some bad games as well, and I know some people prefer to read that sort of thing as well.