Michael Jackson is and forever will be the King of Pop. Last year Ubisoft announced, that a full-fledged game would be made in his name. The Wii version was the first of the bunch, coming in as a simple Just Dance clone, the game was ill-received by critics. Even with such mediocre results, the game easily sold over 3 million copies worldwide. I for one was one of the disappointed souls, but held my hopes that the Kinect version would be a full recreation of his dance steps. Now that the game is released, how does it hold up against the Wii version and Dance Central?
• It tosses away the fake Michael Jackson for a more digital you.
Unlike the Wii and Playstation move versions of MJ: The Experience. You take center stage instead of a fake Michael Jackson. The Kinect camera takes a glimmering representation of your likeness, and places it on screen for all to see. So if you’re making horrible dance mistakes, you’ll see your fatal flaws on stage no matter what. It also makes for some awesome stage moments, when you’re standing alongside NPC’s while performing perfectly.
• The concert style presentation certainly makes its mark.
The stadiums are brimming with flavor from each individual Michael Jackson video. The intro for each stage is unique to whatever song you’re playing. With your sparkling avatar rising out of the ground surrounded by silhouetted crowds. The camera pans around your avatar as you sing, and there is usually a video of the song playing in the background.
• Let’s play a bit of the comparison game.
On the Wii version of Michael Jackson: The Experience, players use the Wii remote to track their movements. A virtual Michael Jackson moved about on screen, while the player followed the prompts with the Wii remote. The problem with the Wii version is simple, you really couldn’t tell if you were getting the moves right. That and it failed to follow a lot of the classic Michael Jackson moves from the videos.
Now with the release on the Kinect, the hope was to have a fully realized move list from Michael Jackson’s repertoire. That’s where you’d be utterly and completely letdown. This game would have been safer in the hands of Harmonix. Dance Central is so much better at capturing dance moves from players, and giving them the proper feedback on what they’ve done wrong. It’s almost a shame to try to play MJ: The Experience, knowing that it could be so much better.
I want to see if I can explain this even further; it’s not that the game doesn’t accurately capture your moves. There are even times where it can be pretty lenient about your dance steps. It’s just a simple fact that you’re playing a dissected version of a game about Michael Jackson. Someone who’s moves are immortalized in videos like Beat It, Thriller, and Smooth Criminal. Only to realize that the game itself, utilizes probably 5 dance steps per song.
That’s right, if you’re playing Thriller… the game will repeat several steps from the music video. Usually it’s some slow canned animations that don’t match up to the source material. Now I can understand this being acceptable on songs like Sunset Driver or Money. These songs don’t really have videos to back up the dance steps of the King of Pop. However… if you’re trying to dance along to Billie Jean and Smooth Criminal. You’ll be disappointed to know, that the game barely makes an effort to do half of the moves from the video.
A majority of the time the game places the same dance moves into different songs. Even when they don’t have a place in them at all. Throwing your arms out to the sides at different speeds in Rock With You, and Don’t Stop til’ You Get Enough isn’t impressive. That and watching some wannabes dressed up like Michael Jackson, lacks the flair of the cartoony style from the Wii and Playstation Move version. I would have preferred if they used a lookalike to dance next to you instead.
The singing portion of the game isn’t nearly as comprehensive as something out of Rock Band. I know people are probably saying “I don’t think many people can sound like Michael Jackson”. I’m with you on that note, but this game doesn’t even give you the option to try. Unlike the Rock Band games, you don’t have to sing at different octaves to get a song correct. You don’t sing while dancing or anything of the sort, so it’s confusing why you can just talk over all of the singing parts.
The best part of all this, is how the Kinect registers your voice in the game. You’re supposed to be 7 feet away from it and sing. However, the microphone doesn’t really pick your voice up from that distance. So you’ll miss a lot of words while singing a song, just because you aren’t screaming at the top of your lungs. You can use a microphone during the game, but throwing it down and picking it up constantly is a chore.
So what do I think about Michael Jackson: The Experience as a whole? I think it’s more of an exercise game with the MJ name strapped on it. Only the most hardcore of Michael Jackson fans should apply. I think it works as an MJ game just for the ability to sing his most popular songs. You’ll learn how to do half-ass performed steps from Michael Jackson, and be disappointed to know there isn’t a DLC option. So in conclusion… Michael Jackson: The Experience receives a D+ from Half-Ass Gaming.