Monday, December 27, 2010

Video game number three hundred and sixty four: Michael Jackson: The Experience

Video game review number three hundred and sixty four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Michael Jackson: The Experience".

I'm a big Michael Jackson fan. By that, I mean...I've been a fan since I was a kid, and more importantly...I was still a fan before he died last summer. Even after his long fall from grace, I continued to buy his albums the day they come out (including Invincible, which most people have forgotten about). A lot of people would snicker at me, and I understood why (after all, the guy had some serious problems), but I'll be damned if he didn't make the best music ever.

Heather and I were lucky enough to go see him perform live with his brothers for the big CBS special in New York back in September 2001. It was one of his last concerts in the US, and I'm really glad we went. I'm also glad that the world finally enjoys his music again, it's just too bad he didn't live to see it.

Imagine my excitement when, at E3 this year, "Michael Jackson The Experience" was announced as coming soon to all three consoles. I envisioned a game like DDR, perhaps with some Karaoke Revolution thrown in. With Michael Jackson's entire back catalog as the soundtrack, I imagined this could be the mother of all singing and dancing games.

A few months ago, Ubisoft announced that they'd be taking this one back to the drawing board for the PS3 and 360, to better support the Playstation Move and Kinect. That is totally cool with me, so long as it won't feel like a port of the Wii game. I suppose I could have waited for the newer versions, but being the fan that I am, I had to rent this one. Gamefly had a long wait...and I'm only just getting a hold of my copy now.

I've gone into great detail about what I think about dancing games on the Wii. As far as the gameplay goes, this new Michael Jackson game is no different than Just Dance (it's by the same folks, and the gameplay is virtually identical). The only difference is the awesome soundtrack. If you read this review, you'll see a professional game critic writing the exact same stuff (almost verbatim) that I wrote about Just Dance 2 a few months back. Clearly, I am not alone in my feelings about the game....but I might stand alone in my feelings about the experience.

After three songs, it was clear I wasn't going to like this game as a video game. The scoring is still horse shit and you will have the same amount of interactivity dancing along with the radio as you would with the Wii. For some reason, I didn't quit...because's still fun to dance along to Michael Jackson music. I don't care if you're at a club, a bowling alley or just a house party...when Michael Jackson music plays, it's fun to dance.

It's fun to dance along with Michael Jackson music while playing the Michael Jackson Experience...even though the two things are more coincidental than they are related. I made peace with the fact that I wasn't playing a video game, because in reality, that's not what this is. As a video game, it requires virtually no input from the player. Scoring is both inaccurate and irrelevant, but because of the music itself, it's still fun to "play". Think of this game as a really pretty "CD+G" from the early days of compact discs.

I danced along with Bad, Smooth Criminal and Beat it. I never scored more than 3 stars (and I still have no idea how the stars work). Heather watched as I laid down on the couch and "danced" to Thriller using only Wiimote and one hand. I was able to earn two stars on that song, while lying on my back and waggling the Wiimote with one hand. That sounds dirty.

Anyway (standing up again), I played Billie Jean and to my surprise, I actually felt like I was doing moves from the classic video (and Motown 25) at times. Sometimes the scoring told me I was doing it perfectly...which was awesome. Of course...I wasn't actually doing the moves correctly, but the Wii didn't know that, because it's only tracking the hand that had the Wiimote in it. I might as well have been dancing along with MTV....but when I suspended my disbelief and allowed myself to pretend, I had fun with that song.

Overall Score? 2/10. It's fun to pretend. If you have a good imagination, you might like this game. Then again, if you have a good imagination, you can turn on your radio, and dance along...and save yourself 50 bucks. The only reason I'm giving this is a 2 is for the amazing soundtrack. I'm really hoping the Kinect and Move versions are worth the wait, because this Wii game is pure garbage.

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