Music and dancing games seem to be a dime a dozen these days with Kinect's Dance Central and the various Rock Band and Heros. Ubisoft's experience with Just Dance gives them a leg up in developing a game based on the signature dance moves of the late great Michael Jackson. It may seem odd to have a game based on the deceased King of Pop, but Michael Jackson The Experience is far from a cheap cash-in. The moves of the Gloved One translate surprisingly well to a dance videogame and gives the player a new appreciation for the pop phenomenon of Michael Jackson.
The game is simple. You hold the Wii Remote in your hand and follow the choreography for 26 of Michaels Jackson's best songs. Even if you're not a huge fan of Jackson's music, you'll soon find yourself emulating his signature dance moves. Want to turn back the clock and strut to Don't Stop Til' You Get Enough? Want to do the classic and slightly suggestive Beat It move with your right hand? Want to break your wrists like a funky zombie in Thriller? It's all right there. Even the less well known songs like Leave Me Alone and Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' shine with Michael's soul and grace.
I'm not one for needless nostalgia, but I can say that the spirit of Michael Jackson lives on in videogame form. It's not clear how the Ubisoft team did it, and frankly I don't care if it was an excellent motion capture team or whether the animation was based on videos and concert footage, but the animations look as if Michael Jackson was dancing with you. The backdrops are less important, but they all adequately place you and Jackson into the setting for each song.
As you try to mirror Jackson's moves on the screen, you get feedback on whether you've got the moves down, from an X for no points to Perfect for nailing the beat. It's pretty clear that the game only tracks movement from your right hand, so you can cheat a little on moves that only involve your left side. Some songs have a Gold Move which I suppose gives you extra points. These come at special moments, which usually involve iconic moves such as raising your right hand in the air in Thriller. Your score grows up the side of the screen and fancy gold sparkle animation plays when you pass a "star' milestone. After the song is done, your score is totaled for you and I thought it was a cool touch to let you enter your name in less than five characters to that song's leaderboard. I could see a healthy competition between friends to get the top score.
But if you think the game is going to be easy, you got another thing coming. Michael Jackson's moves are tough, and it's not an easy feat to score higher than one or two stars. The difficulty of the dancing is tied to the song. You can't play Thriller on easy, for example; it's always going to be "Inhuman" to mimic Jackson's undead moves. The game provides a clue as to what the next dance move is going to be, but it's a little hard to interpret on the pictographs on the first playthrough. You do start to learn the choreography after a while, so multiple plays will see your score start to rise.