On consoles, Michael Jackson The Experience is a game that makes you get on your feet and dance. Obviously, this wouldn’t work on an iPad– nobody wants to fling their $500 device around at high velocities– so the developers have turned it into a music/rhythm game on iOS. So, instead of trying to mimic slick dance steps with your whole body, you can lean back on the couch and tap the screen to make MJ grab his crotch and do the moonwalk.
The first thing you’ll notice is that game looks phenomenal. Michael and his back-up dancers are rendered in gorgeous CGI, and they move with realistic, ultra-slick smoothness. The game also uses CGI to recreate the settings of the music videos for these songs, so if you grew up in the ‘˜80s and ‘˜90s watching MTV, the game is like a trip down memory lane.
A king of pop.
And obviously the music is fantastic. Whether you’re a fan or not, you have to admit that Michael Jackson put out some of the most successful pop hits of all time. The problem here is that buying the game only gets you four songs. The songs included are ‘Blood on the Dance Floor,’ ‘Speed Demon,’ ‘Beat It,’ and ‘Smooth Criminal.’ If you want to pony up an additional $1.99 apiece, you can purchase ‘Black or White,’ ‘Billy Jean,’ and ‘Hollywood Tonight,’ but that’s it. They say that more songs will be released in the future, but even still, four songs makes for a paltry music game.
Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn’t fare much better than the song selection. While you’re playing the game, visual prompts appear around Michael, telling you when to tap, swipe, or draw a symbol on the screen. For each move you do, the game ranks how closely you stay on beat. Timing a tap or a swipe is pretty easy, but when you have to draw a circle, for instance, it’s more difficult to tell when exactly you should lift your finger. Worse, we’d often draw a symbol as directed, but the game would dock us a point anyway, saying, ‘Wrong shape.”
A leader of men.
If you miss a beat, the corners of the screen pulse red. However, Michael keeps on dancing perfectly, and the music keeps going, so you don’t get much concrete feedback on your performance as you play. Nor can you ever “fail” a song. Even if you stop playing, the song will go until it’s finished, and Michael will keep on dancing.
At the end of each song, your points are tallied up and added to your total. As you play, you level up through ranks of skill, but you don’t get any in-game rewards for gaining levels. It would be nice if they’d give you new outfits for Michael to wear when you reach a new level, but instead his alternate outfits can only be unlocked through in-app purchases. Each new outfit costs a buck, which seems excessive.
With its great music and flashy looks, Michael Jackson The Experience could have been a fun music/rhythm game. But with only seven songs available, three of which cost extra money to unlock, and severely uninspired gameplay, the game ends up feeling like a shoddy cash-in. Fans of Michael Jackson’s music would be better off watching the actual music videos on YouTube, or buying the songs in iTunes.