Michael Jackson: The Experience

I’ve always envied people who can dance. Not the freestyle social jiggling found at clubs and parties, but real, choreographed dancing. For someone whose limbs refuse to obey commands beyond basic walking and running, the lure of private tuition from the late King of Pop and his professional troupe was too great to pass up. Surely it would be worth the effort and indignity if I could just master the moonwalk. After all, Moonwalking looks like standard walking… sort of. How hard can it be?

From Ubisoft Paris, the creators of the Just Dance titles, comes Michael Jackson The Experience. Featuring 26 tracks from MJ’s vast repertoire and many of his signature dance moves, the game requires no funky dance mat or even a truckload of talent - just the Wii remote and some room to unleash the groove. For a single player session you don’t need a lot; two metres of clear space in front of the telly is ample. With two players you should allow at least another metre, otherwise you may be unable to see the onscreen prompts, and could cop a mouthful of Wii-mote into the bargain. Any more than two and your lounge will resemble a mosh pit. Imagine up to four people of varying sizes and abilities, swinging their arms around and shaking their booties in a confined space. Not a pretty picture…

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Speaking of pictures, let’s talk graphics. Screen layout is minimalistic, with progress bars and prompts tucked discreetly into the edges of the screen. The main focus is on the performers, which is as it should be. Each routine is set against a static background reminiscent of the original music videos (or ‘short films’, as the maestro preferred to call them). Depending on your song selection the glowing onscreen avatar of MJ will either dance solo or with his back-up dancers or duet partners.

The wardrobe includes authentic-looking ensembles, such as the zipped and buckled leather jacket from Bad, the black tux from Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough or the white suit, spats and fedora from Smooth Criminal. While it was only worn briefly during the 80’s, the trademark white glove is present in all songs. It has to be; this is your primary visual reference for mimicking his moves. The other reference is a series of stylised prompts which appear just prior to executing a particular movement. These are a bit like foreign road signs: usually self explanatory, but sometimes open to gross misinterpretation.

The impressive soundtrack includes some of Michael Jackson’s biggest hits, although personally I reckon anything after the Bad album was pretty rubbish. If you’ve got a decent home theatre system you’ll be able to wind up the volume and sing along to the lyrics displayed at the bottom of the screen. Singing plays no part in scoring, though; it’s purely for added entertainment.

Difficulty-wise there’s a good mix of easy and challenging tracks to select from. It takes just a few minutes to figure out how everything works, and while it’s not perfect the sensor picks up most movements with an acceptable degree of accuracy. For some reason the slow songs proved far more challenging than the faster ones, however it is relatively easy to ‘cheat’ since the game only tracks the hand holding the Wii remote. Effectively this means you can get away with not using three of your limbs. Standing in one spot and waving one arm around is not technically dancing, but it means the less talented among us can nail a competitive score and four stars without even breaking a sweat.

Accumulating stars will unlock video tutorials featuring sections of dance moves from the music videos. These are really only of value to people who can actually dance; the sequences are quite complex and the instructors use a lot of dance jargon that will mean very little to most punters. On the plus side, you can replay sections of each tutorial until you can string the moves together with confidence… in theory, at least. Watching the dancers in action certainly makes you appreciative of the work that goes into dance routines to make them appear effortless. There’s nothing wrong with tutorials, but I would’ve preferred to see more variety in the unlockable content, such as a biography, a gallery, Michael Jackson trivia or a quiz - maybe even bonus tracks.

As for longevity, once you’ve worked your way through the entire track list and unlocked all the extras, the only real incentive to continue playing is to improve on previous scores, or perhaps spring it on some unsuspecting mates at your next soirée. Michael Jackson The Experience won’t make a real dancer out of you, but as a party game it sure is fun… and no, I still haven’t learned how to moonwalk.

"As a party game it’s surprisingly good fun, and good exercise"
- Michael Jackson The Experience
Follow Own it? Rating: G   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 5 Min


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Comments Comments (7)

Posted by Davesto_Brolinga
On Wednesday 8 Dec 2010 11:06 AM
Hm I did think of getting it. It looks pretty interesting and it's MJ after all. Very informative reivew! Thanks!
Posted by mattyj1974
On Wednesday 8 Dec 2010 12:10 PM
ASounds like it may be better on Kiect. If you like this sort of thing...
Posted by tnzk
On Thursday 9 Dec 2010 3:58 PM
"The impressive soundtrack includes some of Michael Jackson’s biggest hits, although personally I reckon anything after the Bad album was pretty rubbish."

Aww hell no!

I think the game actually highlights one of the biggest issues of MJ's post-Bad era: his music became less and less dance-centric, and more autobiographical. I mean them two HIStory songs, "They Don't Care About Us" and "Stranger In Moscow" (not featured in the game) are perhaps the most artistic, poetic, and technically groundbreaking of his entire repertoire, only to be rivaled by Billie Jean. You can still listen to them 'til this day and they wouldn't have aged a bit, unlike most of his 80's output.

You certainly can't dance to "Money" or "Who Is It", and it's defo the reason MJ didn't include them in his tour set lists. Why Ubisoft put those songs in, and some other rare songs to dance to is beyond me.
Posted by JABBAR
On Friday 10 Dec 2010 1:43 PM
assassin creed brotherhood
Posted by rebolta
On Friday 11 Mar 2011 12:08 PM
Freestyling to Just good friends by M.J and Stevie W. (from Bad) would be sooo fun.
Posted by ThomasB
On Saturday 30 Apr 2011 11:31 AM
cool the king lives for ever
Posted by SuperKeizChain
On Tuesday 10 Sep 2013 12:42 AM
This is a true party game! Inviting friends over and throwin this puppy in is just the ticket to get a sweat on, while jammin to some dope MJ! Make sure you have plenty of space and no clumsy friends nearby... ;)