Other than that, there's not much of a game here. All of the game's songs are available when you first put in the disc. That's a great feature for when you want to invite all your friends over and start dancing, but it doesn't give you any sense of progression. The only thing that you can unlock from scoring a number of "stars" is a series of training videos by three of Michael Jackson's dancers. The bits from these dancers are not very informative or instructive; the whole "Dance School" feature fills a bit tacked on. It would have been a lot more helpful if the dancers actually helped you while you were playing the game instead of just playing a video. It's a double no-no that you only unlock these videos by scoring well dancing the very moves that it tries to teach you. How counter-intuitive is that?
But none of that really matters, because Michael Jackson The Experience is not meant to played by yourself. Put a Wii Remote in the hands of a bunch of people who like to have fun and they'll be dancing to Smooth Criminal in no time. A lot of the songs can only be played alone, but most of your favorites are classified either as Duo, where you and someone else (usually female) dance together, or Crew, where up to three other players can grab a controller and become your backup dancers. You may need tons of room in front of your TV to fit all of your zombies in orange jumpsuits, but dancing with a crew behind you is one of the joys of Michael Jackson The Experience. It's a smart feature for the inevitable chaos that comes with groups of people that you can pick up a Wii Remote and join in at any point during a song. The songs are a little on the long side, and you will definitely feel like you've gotten a killer workout after dancing to three or four in a row. Just ask The Escapist staff after I convinced them all to dance Thriller with me. I'm not the only who's sore. Even if you're taking a break from sweating on the dance floor, the game displays all of the lyrics as Jackson sings them allowing you to find a new appreciation for his music.
The Wii version of the game is pretty basic, but the Kinect and Move iterations coming in Spring 2011 will provide karaoke support, which should make it even more challenging. These will also feature full body tracking, which won't let you cheat by only mimicking your right hand moves like you can with the Wii Remote. I could see getting bored with the lack of game-like features once the novelty of dancing wears off, and I wish that Ubisoft included a career mode for that reason. For now, Michael Jackson The Experience is a great party game that lets the King of Pop live on.
Bottom Line: I picked up Michael Jackson The Experience as a skeptic, but I had a lot of fun dancing with my sequined glove despite myself. There's not much of a game beyond mastering the choreography, but it's worth it if you ever wanted to dance with a legend.
Recommendation: Buy it if you love Michael Jackson or you have a dance crew who's been aching for more authentic moves. Otherwise, rent it for your office Christmas party. You won't regret it.
This review is based on the Wii version of the game.
Game: Michael Jackson The Experience
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier / Ubisoft Paris
Release Date: November 23rd, 2010
Available from: Amazon