reviews\ Dec 11, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Michael Jackson: The Experience Review


When Michael Jackson passed away, the world was in shock. The impact Jackson had on the music industry was huge, and judging by what the documentary This Is It showed, his comeback tour was going to be a hell of a show. Alas, all we have now are the memories of his performances over the years, from light-up floors to Smooth Criminal battles. Ubisoft tries to replicate the King of Pop's legacy with its latest dancing game, Michael Jackson: The Experience, but awful controls and questionable presentation make it feel like a missed opportunity, rather than a tribute.

You'll have over 20 of Jackson's songs to choose from, including some hits from his earlier days and more contemporary favorites. The songs are always a joy to hear, including "Thriller" and "Smooth Criminal," which are still catchy tunes after all these years. However, not all the song choices are ideal. Why softer tunes like "The Girl Is Mine" were included is beyond me. After all, this is a dancing game, right?

But the song choices aren't nearly as bad as the game's presentation. Rather than use video clips from Jackson's videos or stock footage of him in motion, Ubisoft opted to create these odd-looking video sequences that try to capture the spirit of the songs. So, yeah, you'll see 30's gangsters defying gravity in "Smooth Criminal" and odd cultural types dancing along to "Black Or White". These faceless characters look like rejects from the Just Dance games, and the Michael Jackson clones look ultra-creepy. Their dance moves are great, but there's a sense of discomfort as you watch everything that's happening on-screen.

Then there's the gameplay itself, which is a complete mess. When Michael Jackson: The Experience was originally announced, it looked as if it was intended for use with the Kinect and PlayStation Move. Now, after playing the Wii version, it's easy to see why. In the game, you'll only use a single Wii remote to read your movements. The inability to use a Nunchuk throws the accuracy of the game way off the charts. You'll try to copy the moves in the game, through on-screen prompts and virtual dancers, but half the time they won't read correctly. As a result, your performance suffers, and the fun quickly disappears.

Furthermore, there isn't really much to do in the game besides dance along to the music. There are no bonus modes, no history pieces on Michael Jackson (a bit odd considering the game's labeled "The Experience", right?), no extra outfits, no nothing. Even multiplayer is limited, as all you do is dance along with friends, trying (and failing) to mimic everything that's happening on-screen.

Finally, the game does come with an exclusive physical item -- a sequined glove similar to the one Jackson wore in his heyday. It's an interesting idea, and Jackson fans are sure to love it, but the glove itself is way too big for kiddie hands. And we can't think of one adult who'd wear it, even while playing the game. Good try, Ubisoft, but you should've had a mail-in promotion with optional glove sizes available.

Michael Jackson deserved better, obviously. The Experience is a game that simply can't keep up with his legacy by any means. The dancing controls are lousy, the visuals are too lame for their own good and the lack of options (or anything resembling information regarding Jackson's legacy) are disappointing. Stick with a Greatest Hits album instead and tell this game to "beat it."

Below Average

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