Michael Jackson: The Experience
Developer: TRIUMPH INTERNATIONAL, INC
Platform: Wii (PSP, DS, Xbox 360 Kinect, PS3)
Released: 26 November
Michael Jackson: The Experience had been in development for a long time until its release late on in 2010. Some may have proclaimed otherwise, saying it was just a quick cash-in job by Ubisoft trying to make the most of the shock and hype that surrounded untimely death of the singer, song-writer and dancer, or more recently, a cash-in of the festive period and the sales frenzy that goes along with Christmas. However, it had long been known that a game was in-development. In fact, its release was meant to coincide with the planned tour that never came to after Michael Jackson’s death, so the game has been in development for a while now, and it certainly shows.
In a lot of ways, Michael Jackson: The Experience is basically just ‘Just Dance: Michael Jackson’. The user interface in-game, as well as the instructions moving up the side of the screen during gameplay are identical to that of Just Dance 2 which released earlier in the year and achieved sales success. Conversely, it must have sold well for a reason, so if Ubisoft held a winning formula in Just Dance 2, why not carry it over and mould it to suit Michael Jackson the experience. It turns out this was their thinking exactly, and although in Michael Jackson: The Experience you’ve got a game that shares a lot of similarities with Just Dance 2, the game has clearly been stylised to portray a true representation of the King of Pop along with his unique dance techniques.
Michael Jackson: The Experience consists of two main modes, ‘Dance’ and ‘Dance School’, both of which are fairly straight forward. As you will have probably guessed, you spend the majority of your time in ‘Dance’ as this is where the main bulk of the package is located – the dancing part. There is a choice of 27 songs in this Wii version, which are as follows:
-Another Part of Me*
-Black or White
-Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough
-Heal the World
-In the Closet
-Leave Me Alone
-Remember the Time
-Rock With You
-The Girl is Mine
-The Way you Make Me Feel
-They Don’t Care About Us
-Wanna Be Startin’ Something
-Who Is It
-Will You Be There
-Workin’ Day and Night
As you can see, it is a fairly varied tracklist, including a mix of iconic tunes and some lesser known songs from the artist. It is worth mentioning that ‘Another Part of Me’, as marked by an asterisk above, was limited to only special edition day one copies of the game at selected retailers, therefore, so to speak, for most copies of the game there is a choice of 26 songs. It is also worth noting that despite the advertising campaign saying you can dance and sing like Michael Jackson, only the dancing part is recorded and scored at the end, but by all means sing along as you are dancing – you will often find yourself singing along to the hits involuntarily anyway.
As for the dancing, this is tracked and scored at the end and is the main part of the game. You can dance along to individually created routines for each song, and in the instances of songs that were accompanied by music videos, the same choreographed dance routines seen in the music videos. At the end of the song you are then awarded a points score and a rating out of five stars based on how well you pulled off the moves and moved in time to the song. Each set for the various songs is different, and you will never feel like you are re-doing dance steps from a previous songs. They have all been carefully crafted and choreographed, with a separate animated Michael Jackson figure guiding you through the steps, as well as backing dancers in the cases of songs which include back-up dancers. The animations are very good and look realistic, authentic, and more importantly clearly guide you through the dance moves. They are also entertaining enough to watch, and the game can hold the interest of those watching because for each song on the tracklist the costumes and number of dancers onscreen changes, keeping it fresh and absorbing.
For the songs which include backing dancers, you also get the choice of doing their routines instead of taking the lead as Michael, and as a result the dance routine can vary in difficulty. It varies between tracks anyway, but by giving you a choice between roles within the song, the game also offers variation in the difficulty within a song. For example, on ‘Thriller’, you can choose to play as Michael, hence you will dance the set given the ‘Inhuman’ difficulty ranking, or you can choose to play as a backing dancer and subsequently the difficulty rating is lower, coming in at the ‘Hard’ ranking.
Additionally, there is a ‘Dance School’ mode. This is comprised of videos which you gradually unlock as you are dancing. These videos feature advice and tips from professional dancers in regards to many aspects of dance, such as warming up or technique. This is an added extra which those wishing to further their dancing can benefit from, and those who wish just to have a good time can also benefit from too, as it can help improve your scores in-game or prevent you from pulling a muscle by helping you to warm up.
Overall, Michael Jackson: The Experience is a good game, and although it shares similarities with Just Dance 2, it has clearly been developed in the image of the King of Pop. With a new dance routine for each song and convincing animations of dancers doing the moves with you, it really is an ‘Experience’ as you dance along in the style of Michael Jackson. It is debatable just how much of your movement is being tracked as you are only being sensed by the Wii remote you are holding in your right hand. Arguably, you could achieve similar scores sitting down and flicking your wrist about, but this defeats the point of the game and spoils the fun. In this respect, it may be worth favouring the Kinect version of the game as at least then you know it is scoring you based on your entire body. Obviously, if you aren’t a fan of Michael Jackson it may be worth considering the more generalised Just Dance 2 instead, but there are some classics included in Michael Jackson: The Experience and for a more defined dance style, I’d recommend this game. It offers great entertainment, there’s multiplayer so it would make a good party game if you’ve got the space, and it is also a formidable but enjoyable source of exercise unlike some of the monotonous fitness simulators on the market which put too much of an emphasis on the exercise part of the equation.
- Fun source of exercise
- Animations and routines are different every time
- Choice of 26 MJ songs including some famous hits
- All carefully choreographed in Michael’s style
- Wii version doesn’t track movement particularly convincingly
- Instructions along the side can often leave a lot to be desired