Until now Harmonix has undoubtedly had the Kinect dancing market all sewn up, but that dominance will meet its sternest challenge yet in October when Ubisoft brings the astonishingly successful Just Dance brand across to Xbox 360 in the luridly coloured form of Just Dance 3.
At first glance, very little has changed from its Wii predecessor. The graphics are significantly sharper of course, the navigation system is shamelessly pinched from Dance Central and there's nothing in your hand, but there's no doubt this is a straight continuation of everything that's made the brand such a success so far.
The big appeal of Just Dance is of course its social play, so it's pleasing to see simultaneous four-player dancing available on Kinect. The interface will be familiar to anyone who's tackled the Wii version: garishly-garbed dancers struts their stuff in the centre of the screen, with icons showing off the next move at the bottom. These icons are static images with arrows marking which body part to move and how, with word bubbles telling you how well you're doing — "OK", "great!" and so on. There's a small depth map overview of what Kinect sees in one corner, but this isn't like Your Shape: Fitness Evolved — the focus isn't seeing yourself on-screen, but seeing your friends make fools of themselves in your living room.
With four players at once the dancefloor gets pretty crowded and we noticed several occasions when the game struggled to track players behind other players, so the simultaneous mode is only recommended for those with sizeable play spaces. You can choose to take it in turns though, if your living room isn't quite big enough to support a full troupe.
The choreography seemed up to the series' usual standard, but one of the more interesting features is the ability to create your own dances and send them to your friend via Xbox Live. While this feature wasn't fully operational in the code we played, we were told you'll be able to select a track and freestyle your own moves for the sensor, creating a routine you can share online. If this feature delivers it could spread the game beyond your living room friends and out into your wider social circles, and the game's potential for social sharing is wide open.
Just Dance 3 isn't the best showcase for Kinect's advanced tracking capabilities, and at this stage it seems less technically advanced than Dance Central, let alone the upcoming Dance Central 2, but we were told the finished version will have several Kinect-exclusive features unavailable in this preview. We'll be able to try them out when the game launches in October.