There’s a lot of fun to be gained from the dancing game genre even if, like me, you have the co-ordination of a drunken and clumsy elephant. Michael Jackson: The Experience taps into this just fine, but it lacks some key components to make it a great game. It really is just an experience.
Inevitably there’ll be comparisons to Dance Central – the king of Kinect games – and Michael Jackson: The Experience falters. Not in terms of song choices though. Song choices are pretty fantastic and quickly remind you just what great hits MJ has provided the world with. With 29 tracks on offer, there’s pretty much every memorable song you can think of from Thriller, Beat It, Billie Jean, Bad, Smooth Criminal to Earth Song and Stranger in Moscow. No great hits have been really missed out here and fans will be very happy at the selection.
They’ll be less happy by the extras however. There are no extras. There’s nothing to unlock, no progression to work towards such as in a loosely designed career mode. All you can do is dance and sing. As a party game, this is fine but some sort of gratification other than having a laugh with friends would have been welcome.
Playing the game is simple enough but it quickly reminds you of just what a master at dancing Michael Jackson was. Performing the moves correctly is tough. Very tough. While the game does seem a little forgiving in interpreting moves (I found it still accepted my flailing limbs when I knew I looked nowhere near as cool as MJ), it’s tough to 5 star a song. There’s the usual music game tropes such as having a multiplier increasing the more moves you successfully complete in a row, but there’s also seemingly no way of failing a song which slightly ruins the competitive element. Performing the moves feels a bit like jumping in blindly. Even the practice mode and MJ School is quite poor at explaining things, mostly leaving you agape at the realisation that you’ve got to attempt such maneuvers. All of Jackson’s iconic moves are here; all of them are just as hard as you thought they would be.
There’s a side dish of singing here too, in a way that makes you crave a ‘proper’ Michael Jackson themed karaoke game. If you choose to play Performance mode instead of Dance mode, you also have to sing various verses within the song too. There’s no option to sing the entire song though and it’s all rather poorly implemented with no pitch line available to show you how you’re singing. There’s a great opportunity here for a karaoke mode that would be worth the asking price alone but instead you feel cheated that the lyrics are all too brief.
In a way though, none of this really matters. That’s not meant to be a copout sentence. It’s entirely true. Once you’re playing alongside friends (although annoyingly you can’t play simultaneously, you can only take turns), the flaws fall by the wayside slightly. As a gamer, I looked disappointedly at the lack of features but once alongside friends and family, it was quickly apparent that they were quite happy with what was here. All they wanted to do was dance along to the music and make utter fools of themselves. They weren’t fussed that they couldn’t unlock anything or that the moves weren’t picked up as accurately as I’d have liked. The fun comes from the silliness.
Is this a good game for a cynical gamer? A resounding no. Is this a good game to play alongside your family to pass a Bank Holiday afternoon? A resounding yes. Of course this makes it hugely difficult to score as it all depends on your situation. Add a couple of points if you’re a family gamer, take a couple of points away if you’re a solo player.
MLG Rating: 6/10
Platform: Xbox 360/PS3/Wii Release Date: 15/04/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of Michael Jackson: The Experience for review purposes by the publisher. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.