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Posted by on Dec 13, 2010

Review: Michael Jackson: The Experience (Wii)

Review: Michael Jackson: The Experience (Wii)

Title: Michael Jackson: The Experience
Platform: Wii
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
TWOLS (Ten Word or Less Summary): Great for fans – will-wear-off-soon novelty for others.
Family Friendly?: Click here to skip the detail and see if this game is right for your family!

The good news is if you loved Just Dance 2, you’re probably going to love Michael Jackson: The Experience.

The bad news is if you hated Just Dance 2, you’re probably going to hate Michael Jackson: The Experience.

Yes, somewhat inevitably, MJ:TE is Just Dance with slightly better backdrops and infinitely better music. Taking the tried-and-tested – not to mention jawdroppingly successful – formula of the original Just Dance series, it enables players to step into the white-socked-black-shoed feet of one of the best movers of modern times, taking you through some of Jackson’s most infamous – and insanely difficult – dance routines.

But before I begin: did you watch the video above, the advert for this game? The one where those impossibly gorgeous, lithe and perfect twenty-somethings crowd into a frighteningly trendy loft and twist and turn in perfect time with the game? I WAS NOT LIKE THIS. I used to think that I could dance before these kind of games came along – particularly if a bottle or two and misplaced confidence was involved. I now think I was unjustly smug; my jerky, mismatched and wholly unpleasant body movements are often at odds with the routine on the screen.

However – in spite of this – what I’ve always loved about the dance game genre is that no matter how much of a knob I look, I still have fun. MJ:TE is no exception. Thanks to an impossibly addictive tracklist and – let’s face it – a tempting premise (for who hasn’t wanted to dance like MJ at some point in their lives?) – it’s certainly one of the most appealing dance games currently available.

So what do you do? You probably know the score by now as well as I do. Stand before your TV, Wiimote in hand, and mimic the movements on screen. Jackson and dancers guide you through the famous – and infamous – routines, all played out in environments that are loose interpretations of the music videos themselves – think, for instance, a subway in Bad, the cultural backdrops of Black or White, the inevitable graveyard for Thriller. It’s surprising how heartening these little touches are; coupled with the costumes on your Jackson-alike and backing troupe, it all further enhances the authenticity of your MJ experience.

The video-inspired backdrops add a fun touch of authenticity

As you’d expect from the King of Pop, the tracklist is practically faultless. Boasting everything from Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough to Beat It to Thriller to Bad to Who is It?, there’s the perfect blend of dance and soul to not only get you on your feet, but also keep you on them, too.

The gameplay itself is just as it should be. Occasionally the Wiimote doesn’t respond as you’d hope – and limited by the wiimote sensor, the game won’t acknowledge your awesome footwork or Jackson-esque crotch-grabs – but on the whole it’s pretty much as we’ve come to expect from sensor-based dance games. There’ll be times when you’ll hit an ‘OK’ when you’re expecting a ‘PERFECT’ but there’ll also be times when you mess something up and still score. It occasionally feels somewhat random, but I’ll chalk it up to a cosmic balance thing.

What plagues this game is inflexibility. Whilst providing a suite of performances of varying difficulty, it’s not possible to dial up – or down – your preferred setting on each individual track. Trust me when I say that this is more irritating than you’d first suspect. Whilst adults can scan the head-up’s prompts for what move is coming next – even if said prompts are on occasion a little confusing – younger kids may not necessarily understand them. This is further compounded by the fact that Jackson’s most famous, and therefore kid-friendly, tracks are often the ones accompanied by intensely difficult routines. And what five or six year old is going to manage Smooth Criminal on an immoveable hard setting, or Thriller on the quite frankly insane Inhuman? That said, there’s no unlockable content, which means that 25+ tracks are unlocked from the get-go, and with no ‘fail’ capacity, kids can still try those inhuman routine without crashing and burning – possibly the game’s one true saving grace.

It's ok to be Bad - there's no 'fail' mechanism!

Regrettably, the game also lacks any kind of tutorial support. The game’s factsheet insists that you can ‘rehearse before the show with video training to practice Michael’s most challenging moves’ but in my experience, this simply wasn’t the case. Whilst the ‘Dance School’ can be unlocked as you side-step and crotch-grab your way through the set, you’re often only granted routine break-downs after you’ve amassed a considerable score – not helpful if you need those videos to amass the score in the first place. This is baffling paradox, given the inflexibility of difficulty settings that often make five starring routines practically impossible without some kind of tutorial support beforehand.

As thoroughly immersive and enjoyable as MJ:TE is, what’s missing here is heart. For the first artist-specific game, Ubisoft struck gold with the King of Pop himself, but I really feel that they missed an opportunity to explore the man himself, to offer fans the chance to unlock video footage, interviews or performances that could’ve pushed this game further in terms of replayability and features. Whilst perfectly enjoyable in it’s own right as a dance game, the lack of meaningful content and features holds it back from what otherwise should have been a toe-twinkling, stellar title.

Good times!

  • amazing tracklist
  • backdrops imitate videos
  • choreography faithfully follows Jackson’s most infamous routines

Bad times :(

  • occasionally lacks responsiveness
  • even easy is occasionally too hard for kidlets
  • Dance School feature serves no real purpose

Family Focus

Parental Perspective: Vikki is the mother of a seven-year-old lad who spends much of her life juggling home, work, parenthood and a love of gaming – although not always in that order. She loves survival horror games, puerile humour and men dressed up like doctors, and is constantly searching for the perfect family game that she and her son can play together and both genuinely enjoy.

Although a huge Jackson fan growing up, I lost interest right about the same time Jackson lost his skin pigment. That said, his earlier albums still get frequent iPod time, enough that Sam knows and can sing along to most of his more infamous hits. It’s because of this that I surmised that MJ:TE would be a perfect game for a Blake family review.

There’s something inherently enjoyable about getting some friends around, pushing furniture out of the way (or out of the bloody room if it’s a Kinect game) and firing up a dance game. Whilst some people still fumble with plastic instrument peripherals, dancing requires little-to-no experience and it rarely discriminates against age. So on this occasion I drafted in close friends and kidlets to accompany us to put MJ:TE through it’s paces.

Immediately, the lack of difficulty settings were really disappointing. We had two seven-year-old boys playing – one of whom is a huge Jackson fan – and he became frustrated (and subsequently upset) when, very early on, he couldn’t get to grips with the routines for Smooth Criminal and Thriller. It also didn’t take long for us to realise that the on-screen prompts are meaningless to children; concentrating on the dancers and their own flailing limbs, they both seemed to struggle to follow the on-screen prompts with any success.

That said, they were able to soldier on with cripplingly poor scores because – thankfully – the game doesn’t ‘fail’ players in any performances. This is a godsend if you have younger kids or, quite frankly, adults who cannot dance!

Whilst I’m unsure of the longevity, this is a great family party game. With a host of Jackson tracks to choose from, there’s genuinely something for everyone. Uh, unless you hate Michael Jackson, of course, in which case you should probably leave the room.

Kid Kritique: Sammy is the seven-year-old lad of aforementioned Vikki with a burgeoning love of video games, particularly sport and kinetic (although not necessarily Kinect) games, and titles based on his favourite costume-wearing superheroes. He loves SpongeBob, Doctor Who and Tottenham Hotspur Football Team.

Although Sam has had some help typing and formatting his contribution, the words and thoughts below are entirely his own and have been transcribed without interference.

I really enjoyed this game. I like Michael Jackson’s songs, so it was really cool to be able to dance to some of his famous songs and pretend to be a dancer. A good thing was that there were loads of his songs and I know most of them, which was cool. The videos for the dancers were interesting and it was fun to watch them when I was trying to do my dancing. I did have to be careful dancing though because I nearly hit my friend on the head when we were doing Smooth Criminal!

But some songs were very hard. When I play Guitar Hero, I can change the game so it’s not hard for kids like me. This game didn’t have that. When me and my friend wanted to be zombies in Thriller, when had to dance on hard level, even though we were kids. This wasn’t very fair.

I think kids would really like this game. It’s fun and very healthy to dance and it’s funny to watch grown-ups dance because they’re rubbish!

Vikki Blake

Vikki has a penchant for Yorkshire Tea, raspberry cider and swear words. In addition to founding and running GGS Gamer and, she writes news for GamesRadar+ and IGN, and has written reviews and interviews for other places, including Destructoid, Eurogamer, and She’s Big Boss at Silent Hill Heaven and a rabid Halo, Destiny, Resident Evil and Mass Effect obsessive.

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    • You are defiently right I’m starting to get a pack looking form from playing rock with you and manymore I just love it congrats on the weight lost and heckk yea they should make a 2 or 3 with lots of hits

  2. MJ in my heart…the legends go on

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