Michael Jackson: The Experience (Wii) Review

By Jorge Ba-oh 14.12.2010

Review for Michael Jackson: The Experience on Wii

When you think Michael Jackson one of the first things you probably imagine is the late artist’s versatile voice, popular and much loved hits, but the “King of Pop” also had as many dance moves at his disposal. From the iconic moonwalk to the twists, turns to the slides he making crotch grabbing acceptable to the masses. Whilst thousands of fans have attempted to boogie down like Jackson during his forty-year career, there has yet to be an interactive means of getting down the moves and to attempt to celebrate his life, Ubisoft have crafted Michael Jackson: The Experience, starting with the Wii version.

Initially you’d expect the game to be microphone compatible, a We Sing for the Jackson fans and party-goers out there, but belting out the likes of Beat It and Thriller is purely on a voluntary basis - the aim of the game here is to feel the music and dance. Essentially The Experienceis near identical, if not the same as Just Dance, and why not use the already hugely popular and accessible dance engine?

For those who don’t know Ubisoft’s sister franchise, the concept is hugely simply - in theory. Grab a Wii Remote in one hand and mimic the on-screen dancer, in this case a slightly cartoon version of Michael himself. Sounds ridiculously simple - there isn’t a “Game Over” screen in sight and you can blindly waggle away like there’s no tomorrow, but to earn high scores and unlock bonus content, it’s time to put those dusty dance shoes into good practice. Dancing anything like Michael Jackson is ridiculously hard but compelling to try and master at the same time.

Michael Jackson has a huge catalogue with a string of popular hits to bop along to, and whilst some of the obvious favorites have been omitted, there is an already-unlocked selection of 27 popular hits to choose from. You’ve got the party favourites Billie Jean, Smooth Criminal and Thriller amongst the more obscure Ghosts and Streetwalker. Even Jackson’s earlier work has made the bill, making for a varied and worthy selection to compliment the star's many years of work. That said there are some chart toppers which we would have welcomed with open arms, and feet, like the fan-favourite Man in the Mirror, Dangerous and Jam. Unfortunately there isn’t a DLC option for those gagging for an upgrade.

Whilst the omission of certain songs is a bit of a disappointment, there has been a fair bit of care and a dollop of love into the sound and choreography, with each song faithfully recreated and no cover or trimmed versions either. The key differences between Michael Jackson: The Experience and Just Dance are the choreography and difficulty levels. Granted I’m not the most competent dancer in the room, but even on the more simpler songs like and you’ll find yourself gasping for air and breaking a sweat just to keep up with the movements of your Wii hand. That said, the routines themselves are each as unique and interesting as one another, generally following the moves from Jackson’s music videos and live shows. Granted for some of the songs where reference material is sparse, some of the moves are a little odd, but there’s a smoothness and closeness to the wide range of moves that pays a solid tribute.

Screenshot for Michael Jackson: The Experience on Wii

You have three different categories to choose from - classic which feature Jackson alone, Duet that generally features a female partner and the addition of a new Crew feature. Up to four players can take the stage and boogie together as Jackson, snuggle up in the custom routines or serve as backing dancers to mimic the iconic videos of Thriller, Bad and Smooth Criminal, including the Zombie dance the patented lean. The multiplayer and partner sequences are the highlights of the set, but a foursome trying to out-do one another as the “best Michael Jackson” is also a competitive and potentially friendship-destroying highlight!

Your progress is measured in a simple score counter for how well you’ve matched the arm movements and also a star ranking, graded from one to five with the higher end resulting in many, many hours, days and possibly weeks of painstakingly learning the moves and timing. Even for the slower, relatively simpler routines, we’d skim the three, possibly four star mark.

Screenshot for Michael Jackson: The Experience on Wii

After several hours alone and with friends, if you’ve enjoyed the routines and have dreamt of mimicking Michael’s moves you can with the included Dance School mode… in theory. You’re greeted with a long locked list of videos for each of the songs, some spanning two or three, which are opened in exchange for meeting requirements. Most are points/star driven, with others earned for topping five stars in each song for example. Fair enough, but with the only way to unlock the videos to earn high scores it's seems slightly counterproductive. How do you earn the top marks? Learn the moves. How do you learn the moves? Get the top marks.

On that note we can see why the videos need unlocking. For a game that promises The Experience, the video content is half baked and not very tasty either. Instead of slowing it down to acceptable human standards we have a handful of dancers, though exceptional, who can’t teach to save their lives. "Do this" one would cry whilst moving more than fifty joins in his body. There’s no practice mode either. Granted, the tutorial feature is a bolted-on extra but it doesn’t at all feel useful, making the desire to unlock a little redundant. What would have been useful was, as we suggested for sister game Just Dance 2 is the ability to slow it down (even omitting the music) and being able to work out the steps at your own pace - think Guitar Hero but for dance.

Screenshot for Michael Jackson: The Experience on Wii

The whole thing wreaks of Just Dance, but moulded into more of Jackson’s glamorous and slightly quickly style. We have the artist himself moving as if he were on screen, animated fluidly and realistically. The backing scenes too are varied and themed in places, but aren’t always consistent in quality and design. Still, Michael Jackson: The Experience is nice on the eye and fitting with Jackson’s catalogue of music videos.

Once the dancing is done, friends packed up and gone home, there isn’t too much else to do. Fans will no doubt enjoy trying to learn the moves and climb the score ladder, but there’s a lack of additional content - no bonus songs, downloadable material or complete music videos.

Screenshot for Michael Jackson: The Experience on Wii

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Aside from the niggles in the tutorial and bonus content, the game is certainly a fitting tribute to Michael Jackson’s iconic moves and illustrious pop career. The choreography is accurate and enjoyable for the most part, and the additional crew and duet modes help those wall-clingers leap to the stage and give it a go. If you’re a fan it’s certainly worth considering, if you aren’t there’s still a handful of hits that might appeal. All in all Michael Jackson: The Experience is a decent package and a fitting tribute to the King of Pop, though we would expect a larger amount of content to sweeten the deal.

Developer

Ubisoft

Publisher

Ubisoft

Genre

Dance

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10 (5 Votes)

European release date Nov 2010   North America release date Nov 2010   Japan release date TBA   Australian release date TBA   

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