‘The Michael Jackson Experience’ Experience

by on November 17, 2010

On Monday, November 15th, the good ship and sailors of GodisaGeek were invited to the launch event of ‘The Michael Jackson Experience’ which, as it turns out, is a new Wii, PSP and DS game from Ubisoft and not some hidden camera footage from the linen closet of the Neverland ranch.

I went with GodisaGeek “Big Dawgs” Asim and Ruk to the glamourous, central London location (in glamourous central London) to get first hand experience of the DS and Wii versions of the game.

Before we go on, you should know that I have very few rules in life. One, however, is ‘never dance in public’. I implemented this rule my twenty-fifth birthday using the simple logic “you’re twenty five, you tit, no more dancing”. Another rule is the equally sensible ‘never refuse a free drink’.

I’ll be honest; these two rules to have a tendency to clash.

The night began with the pink DS’s scattered on the dinner tables, all of which came with ‘The Michael Jackson Experience’ (MJE) ready to play. To anyone who has played Elite Beat Agents, MJE will be instantly familiar. The same tapping, spinning and sliding in time mechanics present in the DS classic are also here, with points being scored for consecutive successful stylus moves. Time was limited, but the career mode seemed to be called ‘Tour’, with the player working through Jackson’s back catalogue as DS Michael J crotch-grabbed and moonwalked across the screen. There was also a ‘Jukebox’ mode, not really explained by the game or the ever-present Ubisoft PR team, that could have been anything from a singing game to a mode where you just watched polygon Michael dance around the screen. Lacking context it was, at best, a little confusing.

Two beers later we were turfed off the handheld consoles and encouraged by friendly PR Rachel to sample the meat-and-potatoes of the evening: the Wii version.

Now, I know what you’re thinking; “God man, remember rule 1” (no public dancing). Fear not,  whilst I had been partaking in rule 2 (not saying ‘no’ to a freebie drinkies) I certainly wasn’t pissed enough to break rule 1. The problem was that, irrespective of the beer, the game was itself somewhat intoxicating.

Elite 'Beat It' Agents

Let us be clear, it was very quickly apparent that MJE went to ‘Just Dance’ college and graduated with honours. The dancing avatars, the symbols indicating a change of step, the forgiving controls, Ubisoft took the massively successful formula of their previous dancing smash hit and barely changed it all. They had clearly heard the old adage “if it ain’t broke, add Michael Jackson to it and sell another million copies”.

By this point I had watched another couple of tracks. I’d also had another Heineken, on the house. The reality became startlingly clear: Michael Jackson, for all his weirdness when alive, has an incredible back catalogue. If Moses had brought dance music down from the Mount and not commandments, those stone tablets would be engraved with the tunes to Dirty Diana, Smooth Criminal and Billie Jean. Like Apple bringing The Beatles to iTunes, the dance performance genre wasn’t complete without a tribute to Michael Jackson.

At this stage I was probably attacking beer number seven like an crocodile attacks a drinking gazelle. I was about to break rule number one. I could feel it.

As Ruk, Asim and I shook our Wiimotes, as much in anticipation as in attempt to calibrate them, we talked about not overdoing it. The plan was simple; don’t look like fools, don’t actually dance, just barely copy the on screen prompts and don’t get sucked in. We veered away from this plan very quickly. Our first mistake was picking undisputed king of disco tune-age, ‘Don’t Stop ‘til you Get Enough’.

Michael Jackson's Bad. So is my dancing.

When playing the game you use the Wiimote to mimic the movements of Michael Jackson’s gloved hand (oops, Macauley Culkin’s spider-sense just tingled), following the on-screen prompts and then copying the dancing Michael avatar on screen. Points seemed to be awarded for the accuracy with which you mirrored the on screen choreography and the timing of your moves, with extra points available if you performed key moves that caused the gloved one’s hand to glow gold. It was all very simple, but in a room full of people all enjoying music from a track list that consisted of massive hit after massive hit, it was, against my wishes and better judgement, incredibly good fun and all too easy to get dragged along by the posing, preening and hip-waggling of the whole affair.

That’s the greatest praise I can give the game, really. Whilst I didn’t have access to all of the games features and modes -and couldn’t possible provide a review score- I can say this; I danced with my feet. I danced with my hips. I danced with my shoulders. None of which were being tracked by the Wii. All the game cared about was the little Wiimote in my right hand, yet I danced with my whole body. IN PUBLIC!

Damn those free drinks. Damn The Michael Jackson Experience. It made me have fun whilst I danced with strangers in public.

How awful.

The Michael Jackson Experience is being released on the 26th November on PSP, DS and Wii and, if I overheard a conversation correctly, will see a PS3 and Kinect release sometime in early 2011.