Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Michael Jackson: The Experience review

Michael Jackson has been one of the worlds greatest entertainers, from his early introduction to showbiz with the Jackson 5, right up to his untimely death. Now, you can dance and sing to some of his greatest hits, from the comfort of your own living room.

Entire games dedicated to one artist or group are nothing new, we have had Guitar Hero Aerosmith, the stellar Beatles Rock Band and a large selection of others, but none have given you the chance to dance. The rise of motion sensor controllers and Kinect means that dancing games are getting better and better. No more dance pads which require nothing other than stomping, now we have full body tracking, requiring you to actually perform the moves. Dance Central set the standard for Kinect dance titles, but how does MJ: The Experience compare?
Many famous MJ sets have been virtually recreated

The first problem with the game is that there is no story or career mode. It is a party game, so it's understandable, but a single player mode would have been a welcome addition. Instead, all songs are already unlocked, giving you the freedom to choose from a selection of 30 songs. Not a huge number, but not terribly low. The next thing you'll notice is that there is no breakdown of the moves in each song, meaning you have to, to some extent, guess the moves the first time you perform them. Dance Central had an amazing tutorial system, allowing you to practice each move individually before putting them together in a sequence. Nothing like this here, but you can find some videos of professional dancers telling you how to perform different moves. It's clear that a lot of effort has been put into the videos, but a gamer doesn't want to watch, a gamer wants to play. And the speed with which you pick up the moves in Dance Central just proves that it works. The lack of this feature in MJ:TE makes it instantly less user friendly, and takes away some of the fun. It isn't all bad though. Each song is a virtual remake of the original MJ music videos, putting you in the frame, and in many of his most famous sets. One of the best is Billie Jean, as wherever you place your foot, a tile lights up. Probably as close to the real thing as many fans are going to get.

Another feature which could have been amazing but is in reality a little disappointing is that you can both sing and dance. But it isn't as it sounds. For example, choose a song and you will start to dance, then suddenly the dancers disappear and a vocal bar appears, and after a small section of seemingly random singing, you go back to dancing. It would have been infinitely better to have both singing and dancing simultaneously but it is not to be. Whether this is due to technical limitations or not remains to be seen. It's great that you can use the microphone built into the Kinect sensor however, as you don't have to rush for a microphone. Just sing!
Shame there is no simultaneous singing and dancing

What a dancing game should require from you is great timing and accuracy. It's the same with singing, the pitch and timing should again be perfect to score big points. This is not really the case with MJ:TE though, as it apparently chooses which moves and vocal performances to reward at random. You can pull off a move perfectly and you might not get any points because the game decides that it was wrong. It works both ways though, as you can completely ruin some moves, yet get top score for perfect performances. It needed a lot of work and it is a shame that it didn't have a couple more months for all of the creases to be ironed out.

To be fair, it had some tough competition. As far as dancing games go, Dance Central is close to perfect. As far as artist games go, The Beatles Rock Band is a masterpiece. It's main problem is that it is trying to be two different games. The focus should have been entirely on vocals or dancing, instead of an odd blend of both. Either both at the same time or just one for the whole game. With more work this could have been a great game with a mass appeal. Instead, it will only be enjoyed by the die hard MJ fans. Decent effort, but a tribute to such a great star should have been given a lot more attention and polish.


by Louis Gardner

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