Michael Jackson: The Experience • Page 2

Do you remember the time?

Performances are divided into three categories: Classic (just Jacko), Duets (as seen in Just Dance 2, with two inter-related performances), and Crew. The latter gives you the choice of either Michael's or the backing dancers' routine. What this means in practice is the framework for some uproarious multiplayer fun with more than two involved.

The Just Dance model is limited by tracking a single controller in one hand (in this case, neatly, Jacko's sparkly-glove-wearing one). These limitations are more evident here thanks to the dizzying complexity of some routines – though given my general aptitude for rhythmic movement I'm mostly glad it isn't tracking legs.

It's not easy to get high scores. I've yet to five-star a single song – and while that encourages more committed play, as with its predecessors you never feel the response ever quite reaches the accuracy necessary for consistent levels of achievement.

For a dancing game based on arguably the world's most recognisable performer, a few of the song choices are baffling. However you feel about divisive cheese-nuke Heal the World as a tune, I suspect you are more likely to hear it played at a funeral than a disco.

I suppose I can just about see how its relatively modest physical demands and mawkish gestures might appeal to parents with young children. Or a catastrophically drunk hen party.

The defiantly un-dancey Earth Song is – surprisingly – much more successful, with its daft, drop-to-knees moralising nutty enough to offer an amusing performance piece to accompany a fantastic pop tune.

Has Macaulay Culkin played the game yet?

The duets are great party pieces. The rabbit vs. Jacko jive of Speed Demon is unfailingly fun, as is the crotch-grabbing, chest-rubbing raunchiness of In The Closet – possibly one to avoid trying out with your gran over Christmas. Especially if you're Katie Waissel.

Outside of the game there's not a great deal else. Training videos can be unlocked in which a trio of dance instructors walk you through moves specific to classic Jacko vids. Useful-ish, but not interactive and stuff you could probably find on YouTube.

And, in a move that defies logic, you can't unlock videos showing you how to perform complex dance moves until you've, er, earned enough stars through performing them in-game.

Unlike Just Dance 2, there's no link to an online store, so no scope for expanding the collection of MJ tunes here. And it should be noted that the game's retail price is higher than either of the Just Dance games, with 18 fewer songs than the second.

Ubisoft might argue that the licensing costs for original Jacko records are higher overall, which I'm sure they are. But you're still paying more for fewer features and less content. Having said that – and this applies to all artist-specific music games – if you are a serious fan you'll probably love more of the songs than are featured on general compilations.

Good luck with this one when the Kinect version comes out.

And really, if Michael Jackson: The Experience isn't for fans, then who is it for? You could spend a long, joyless day skewering the game for its technical limitations and inadequacies. And while you're doing that, I'll be flailing drunkenly in a four-man dance troupe doing zombie moves in a pretend graveyard. And loving every moment of it.

At the Children's BAFTAs on Sunday, four awards were dished out in the Kids' Vote category – the only ones voted for by the public. And what was the kids' favourite videogame, in a line-up featuring the likes of New Super Mario Bros. and LEGO Harry Potter? Just Dance.

Yes, Ubisoft could have done an awful lot more to pad out the product with archive material and so on, but what matters ultimately is whether it's fun to play.

And on that score, two decades after my first virtual encounter, he may no longer be a system-seller, but Jacko's still got all the right moves.

7 /10

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About the author

Johnny Minkley

Johnny Minkley

Contributor  |  johnnyminkley

Johnny Minkley is a veteran games writer and broadcaster, former editor of Eurogamer TV, VP of gaming charity SpecialEffect, and hopeless social media addict.


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