Michael Jackson: The Experience Review
Posted by James Newton
Bad, and not in a good way!
Last year saw Ubisoft release Michael Jackson: The Experience on Wii, the first video game to feature the King of Pop since Sega's Space Channel 5: Part 2. Essentially a Jacko reskin of runaway chart-topper Just Dance 2, the game shifted 2 million copies and has now landed on PlayStation 3, but has Ubisoft harnessed Move's additional power to create a Thriller?
For starters, you don't need a Move controller to play the game: you can experience the game as a singer using just a SingStar microphone, and while this is a decent enough experience, it's no SingStar. The real appeal is the ability to get on the floor and dance, and for this you have to use Move.
For the most part, the game is very similar to its Wii counterpart, unlike the brand new creation that is Michael Jackson: The Experience on Kinect. You need only one Move controller to take part as you mimic dance moves from over 25 of Jackson's most iconic numbers, either as the King of Pop himself or, in some routines, as a back-up dancer. Best of all is playing an odd Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney hybrid in a tank top for The Girl is Mine, a track that still has the power to induce nightmares nearly 30 years after its release.
Cue cards will scroll up the side of the screen, indicating which arm to move and where, with some more complex moves using arrows to show spins, windmills and so on. No other part of your body is tracked, and while this means you only need to concentrate on the movements of one hand it also limits your feeling of involvement to just one quadrant of your body. The choreography is generally good and offers plenty of use for your hands, but dancing to Billie Jean or Beat It with only one hand just doesn't feel right. While it worked fine on Wii, we'd expect a bit more on offer from the PS3.
Solo players aren't well catered-for here: pick a song, dance or sing and upload your score to the online leaderboards. As you earn stars in the tracks you'll unlock videos from the MJ School, a form of non-interactive tutorial that shows you how the moves you're attempting should look when done correctly. Exactly why the game's only real help is locked away from new players is beyond us, but it's not much help even at the best of times.
The main problem with the game really is the poor detection of the Move controller itself; we'd consider ourselves adequate dancers and certainly capable of copying the on-screen instructions, but the game will rarely reward you for anything more taxing than a set of finger-clicks or glove-shakes. Iconic poses and static sections are poorly recognised, to the point you feel less like you're becoming the King of Pop and more like you're wrestling with a control scheme designed for a less capable motion controller which, as it turns out, you are.
Of course, the game is meant to be played with a group of players, and here the game rises above its Kinect counterpart by offering simultaneous multiplayer for up to four players — two singers and two dancers. Of course this doesn't negate the issues with motion detection, but in a party atmosphere with the correct liquid accompaniment you might be more willing to forgive its technical issues.
The PlayStation Eye camera can snap stills and video footage from your performances, and you can upload the photos to your Facebook page and save your clips locally to view later.
Graphically the game hasn't really advanced since its Wii debut, other than the inevitable resolution increase. A small video window shows your efforts next to the professionals, but it's a poor attempt to put you in the action compared to the same game on Kinect. The stages and environments don't show the same level of polish or detail as the 360 version either, as they're all lifted directly from the Wii release.
One thing the game does have going for it over the Xbox version is the addition of unlockable content in the form of Jackson trivia and photos, awarded for nabbing Trophies in the game. It's still a barebones offering considering the wealth of content locked away in the Jackson archives though — where are the music videos, the concert clips, interviews and more?
Michael Jackson: The Experience is disappointing: while the same game on Wii proved a fun effort, it doesn't scale well to a PlayStation 3 title. Controller recognition is patchy at best, although karaoke fans will find they're better catered-for, and the game is at its best with a few friends around who are more interested in having fun than clocking high scores. For most fans of the King of Pop, however, this just isn't good enough considering the enormous potential that's ended up squandered.