Review

Michael Jackson: The Experience Review (PS3)

Where were you when the King of Pop was pronounced dead? Don't pretend you don't remember. Everyone remembers! I was peeling an orange at the time. It was a solemn moment. But don't worry, because MJ left behind a wonderful legacy of music and dance, all of which can now easily be abused by every possible industry available. Hurray!

Michael Jackson: The Experience attempts to cash in on the latest dance craze sweeping the motion-controlled gaming scene, providing a whole host of classic MJ tunes that other games can't afford. While the song selection is great, and some of the ideas and settings are perfect for Jackson fans, technically The Experience is not so slick, with awful detection and barely any feedback whatsoever.

Can you beat it? We're sure lots of other dancing games will

Compared to Dance Central, the other Kinect-enabled dance game that is also the best Kinect release to date, MJ: The Experience can't hold a candle. Where Dance Central provided training, on-the-fly feedback and unlockables and ranks to track your progress, The Experience just doesn't bother. You're left to squirm on the spot, hoping that you're getting the moves right and feeling rather silly.

That's not to say that MJ is completely off the mark. The game uses the exact same interface as seen in Ubisoft's fitness game Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, which we previously described as "one of the best we've seen so far for Kinect". Again, it works well here, with the player being displayed in the centre of the screen on a sort of 'stage'.

Options appear around your body, and you can reach out and select them with your hands. In fact, every part of the game, from the menus to the dancing, is done via this interface, and provides an easy way to track exactly where you're meant to be at any given time. Keep honing this interface, Ubisoft - you've got something good going on there.

The interface also makes great use of classic Michael Jackson scenes from his music videos. During Smooth Criminal you'll be dancing in a club with smartly-dressed individuals, while zombies lurk during a round of Thriller. These settings will definitely excite any MJ fan, and are produced very well indeed.

The song selection is varied enough that both MJ enthusiasts and more casual listeners will know a good range of songs. Classics like Bad, Beat It, Billie Jean and Thriller are accompanied by lesser known titles, such as Streetwalker and Will You Be There. It's a really good mix, and proves suitable for parties.

Songs are broken down into three different modes - Dance, Performance, and Master. Dance does exactly what it says on the tin, as you're provided with dance patterns to move along with. The cue cards in the corner of the screen resemble those from Dance Central, but aren't nearly as decent, and it can be difficult to work out what you're meant to be doing.

It's especially difficult given that no feedback is provided, and instead you're told 'Good!' or 'Excellent!' or 'Poor!'. You have no idea what it was that you did in particular that was good or poor, and this can be incredibly frustrating. When you compare it to Dance Central's highlighting of individual limbs, it's obvious that The Experience is definitely not up to that standard.

There are tutorial videos available to watch, but these are unbearably awful. Dance instructors say 'here is how you do this dance!' and pull off some crazy moves, then say 'OK, you've learnt how to do it, well done!'. We clearly had not learnt how to do any of these moves at all, and quite quickly gave up on the videos and dived straight into the game, which wasn't a very good teaching method either.

Performance mode mixes in some singing with the dancing. Mainly you'll be singing the verse, and the game is nice enough to 'fix' your voice for you, so that what you hear is yourself singing in the right tune, even if you didn't.

Unfortunately, the singing elements are completely pointless. We stopped singing for a moment, and noticed that the game still said 'Good!', even during our silence. It turns out that The Experience really doesn't track your singing well at all, and will in fact just give you points for going 'Bleeh urrgh raaaar' or even staying silent. In other words, it's a complete gimmick.

The environments are fun, but the dancing isn't so much

Master mode puts it all together, while including some extra special MJ moves, like the Moonwalk, and that thing he does with his leg. This is perhaps the most entertaining mode, as you're actually asked to dance like the man himself - and once you can get some of the moves together, it's moderately entertaining. Alcohol and a couple of friends definitely helps, as we couldn't really see ourselves playing this on our lonesomes for too long.

In short, Michael Jackson: The Experience is Ubisoft looking to make a quick buck (or a million) from the popularity of a deceased legend. We don't take offence to the content, but rather the execution - it's poorly designed, and feels hopelessly filmsy. If you're looking for a game to take out at parties then this may well do the trick - otherwise, steer clear.

Top Game Moment: Putting off a perfect pose and 'turning into' Michael Jackson.

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