Michael Jackson: The Experience Review

by on January 13, 2011

Game: Michael Jackson: The Experience

Developer: Triumph International

Publisher: Ubisoft Paris

Available on: Wii, DS and PSP (Wii version reviewed)

When Ubisoft announced Michael Jackson: The Experience last year at E3, you kind of had a feeling they were onto a winner. Their highly successful Just Dance formula combined with the music of the late Michael Jackson, the game was destined to sell millions.

Sales figures aside though, the quality of a game is what ultimately defines it. With that sentiment in mind, does Michael Jackson: The Experience provide plenty of thrills or is it just bad, really really bad? Read on to find out.

GRAPHICS: A dance game is never going to be judged purely on its aesthetics, however, it must be said that the visual style of Michael Jackson: The Experience is actually quite impressive. From the main menu all the way to the in-game “action”, the visuals pay homage to the King of Pop in their own unique way.

The distinctive in-game visuals seen in Ubisoft’s Just Dance titles make a return and, once again, compliment the gameplay really well. Surprisingly, no footage from MJ’s actual music videos are used during gameplay. Instead, dancers dressed as the legend himself are superimposed into settings which are based around the theme of his now iconic music videos. Thanks to a combination of the quality dancers and the unique visual style, this actually works really well. All the themes portrayed in MJ’s music videos are superbly recreated, with special mention going to the likes of Thriller, Beat It and Billie Jean.

SOUND: The game contains 26 classic MJ songs, what’s not to like? The track list has everything from Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough to Dirty Diana and they are all a pleasure to listen to whilst you dance away in front of your TV.

Taking into account this is a dance game, there are some rather odd inclusions in the track list though. The likes of Billie Jean and Thriller are fine, but it is highly unlikely any sane person would want to dance to Heal the World or Earth Song. That slight niggle aside, the game truly excels in the audio department.

GAMEPLAY: Much like the Just Dance series, the concept behind Michael Jackson: The Experience is very simple. You hold the Wii remote in one hand and try your best to mimic the on-screen moves performed by the dancers to the beat of the music. There are scrolling on-screen images that aim to provide extra help, but you’re always better off trying to copy the dancers. Obviously, the secondary goal is to try and not look silly whilst doing this, but that is something very few people will manage to do!

If you’re looking for a dancing game with extreme depth then that is not what Michael Jackson: The Experience is going to provide you with. This particular title is all about the picking up that Wii remote and having some instant fun whilst getting your groove on to some classic MJ songs. Sure, in theory, you could just sit down and shake the Wii remote to the beat of the music, but that would defeat the purpose of the game completely.

As mentioned earlier, the game only tracks the movement of the hand you are holding the Wii remote in, meaning that your hand is the sole part of your body you have to move in order to be successful. However, when you get into the game, you will find yourself moving your entire body and actually attempting to dance like the King of Pop himself. It’s something that will happen naturally and you won’t even realise you’re doing it until the song is over or you hear the laughter of your family/friends! To be honest though, the reason behind this “phenomenon” probably has more to do with the songs than the gameplay itself. Still, whatever the reason, it manages to add a hidden layer of fun to proceedings and that can only be a good thing.

For the most part, the motion controls work really well and the Wii remote is detected without any trouble. However, you will encounter scenarios where even though you have performed a move correctly, the game will fail to register it at all. It can be a bit annoying, but thankfully these scenarios don’t pop up often and hinder the overall experience, which is undoubtedly a lot of fun.

As enjoyable as the game is though, it is severely lacking in content. There is only one proper game mode on offer (Dance), a fact which is baffling to say the least. Within this mode you have access to the games 26 songs and they are divided into three performances categories. Certain songs can only be played as MJ (classic), some can be played with a partner (duet) and others can be played with multiple people (crew). This approach is certainly a nice idea in theory, but in reality it only further highlights the lack of content on offer in the game.

A tutorial mode has also been thrown into the mix, but in all honesty it might as well not be there. For some reason, to unlock the tutorial videos (they are not even interactive) you have to earn points/stars by actually playing the game. This totally defeats the purpose of the tutorial mode and makes it a massive waste of space. Sure, the game is fun, but it is also quite challenging due to the nature of some of MJ’s more complicated moves. Therefore, if some actual thought was put into the tutorial mode, it would have made a really good addition to Michael Jackson: The Experience.

LONGEVITY: If you’re a massive MJ fan and play dancing games regularly then this title will probably stay in your Wii for quite a while. However, if you don’t fall into that category then the lack of any content outside the Dance mode won’t keep you occupied for too long. Saying that though, it’s one of those titles you can bring out at parties or family gatherings and everyone will enjoy it. Thanks to the iconic music of MJ, it definitely has that mass appeal.

VERDICT: The lack of content included within Michael Jackson: The Experience is a fact which is quite difficult to comprehend, especially when you consider the title is based on the most iconic artist in the history of music. It’s actually quite disappointing, because the game itself (played solo or with family/friends) is so much fun.

You only need to take a look at the quite awesome Rock Band game based on The Beatles to see how to pay tribute to a great musical act. If done correctly, a mode based on the career of the King of Pop himself would have been something truly special. As it stands right now, Michael Jackson: The Experience is a decent enough dance game that fans of the genre are sure to enjoy, but it’s also a massive missed opportunity.

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Michael Jackson: The Experience is due to hit the Xbox 360 (Kinect enabled) and PlayStation 3 (Move enabled) on April 12th in North America and April 14th in Europe.

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