Michael Jackson The Experience Review

A Michael Jackson dance game. Pretty much just from those five words you already know if you're going to enjoy this game or not. MJ, and I'm not referring to Michael Jordan for those that think of sports first and foremost, is a pretty polarizing figure in entertainment even in death. Personally I'm a big fan of his music, videos, and dancing so I'm kind of the target Ubisoft had in mind with Michael Jackson: The Experience, MJ:TE, for the Wii. Where I'm not the target is that I'm an older dude with negative rhythm. Nevertheless I slipped on the white sequin glove that came with the game (disclaimer: the glove comes with a warning not to wear the glove while playing...ha!) and let out a thunderous "Wooooo!" as I decided to see what kind of damage I could do on the dance floor. But will the "experience" be worth it or is this just another lame rhythm game with some cool music?

MJ:TE uses the same basic engine as Ubi's Just Dance series. I never played any of those games but I do know that MJ:TE is more-or-less like them. It's a rhythm game where you need to mimic the on-screen moves. Basically you just mirror the man in the TV set and try to keep up as best a possible. Of course that Man is none other than the King of Pop so it's not always as easy as it would seem. The game doesn't take advantage of the Motion Plus accuracy so at times it can be rather frustrating. The layout of the game has a bar on the side of the screen, additional bars will show up as needed depending on the number of players, and a flow of icons representing the move needed to score points. The icons can be a little confusing and certainly don't represent exactly what move you're going to need to throw down but as you play a song more than once and understand the choreography you will know what they really represent. You bust your move as it passes over a special area of the bar and you're given points on how well the Wii thinks you did. You only use one Wii remote so, really, you can cheat and just sit on the couch and make sure the Wii remote is generally in the correct position. It certainly goes against the spirit of the game, but there you have it. How accurately the game picks up your moves is debatable and is on the generous side which is good as far as I'm concerned. After all the game is certainly for the casual gamer and, besides, do you really want to throw out your back or tear a muscle trying to realistically duplicate some of the gravity defying moves of Michael? I didn't think so.

There are 26 songs to pick from and all are thankfully unlocked right from the beginning although I was a bit disappointed in some of the selections (Money, Streetwalker and Sunset Driver??) and once you select the song it's time to get your groove thang moving. Depending on the song selected you can choose to try Michaelís dance moves, the backup dancers, or even a duo. The videos for the songs are usually a stylized version of the actual video or at least one of the more memorable sections of the video. For example, graveyards for Thriller, streets that light up for Billie Jean, or various exotic backdrops for Black or White. Michael is also usually dressed in similar clothing from the video. It is pretty remarkable how iconic some of the clothing he wore is when you see a rough version of it in a game and can recognize it immediately.

I was kind of expecting the game to be more of a loving tribute to MJ's career, something along the lines of what Harmonix did with The Beatles: Rock Band but it just doesn't have the same attention to detail or love of the material as that game. Where The Beatles would give lots of special and rare recordings or videos the best that MJ:TE can provide is an instructional video from a cute French girl about the importance of stretching your groin. OK, that video was actually cool, but the rest of the unlockables are just various dance instructors giving you quick instructions about how to mimic MJ's dances. Trust me, it's going to take more than a few minutes to get the real-life moves down. I think the game would have been better served to have some behind the scenes footage or something else that was more personal about MJ especially with regard to his videos or concerts. It just seems like a pretty big opportunity was missed.

Final Rating: 77%. Michael Jackson: The Experience is fun but just knowing how much more could have been done ultimately is disappointing.


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