At a press event in late October, we had a chance to go hands-on with a number of upcoming Ubisoft iOS games. One of the biggest surprises was Michael Jackson: The Experience for iPad, a rhythm game with some of the most realistic dancing animation and music video visuals we’ve seen in an iOS game. We spoke with Nathanial Tam, designer for MJ: The Experience, about what to expect when the game launches this Thursday for $4.99.
What kind of information or feedback did you get from the Michael Jackson estate?
Nathanial: The MJ estate was really involved in helping us be true to Michael’s short films in everything we created, from the environments to the costumes that the Michael Jackson avatar wears in the game. We met every week during the production of the game and they were very involved in every decision that was made throughout the course of the project.
Nathanial: Well, unlike other handheld games, we wanted the player to feel a more direct connection between what he was inputting on screen and how the avatar was performing. We wanted the player to actually feel like he was controlling the dance that Michael’s avatar was performing on screen. We’ve even got a Freestyle game feature that allows the player to choreograph the sequence of the dance moves for bonus points in a set amount of time.
What are your favorite dance moves or locations that made it into the final game?
Nathanial: Some of our favorite locations include the mansion interior for Ghosts, the graveyard from Thriller, and the Egyptian palace from Remember The Time. Fans should also know that we’ve managed to have the skeleton avatar moonwalking and spinning around in Ghosts as well. In fact, many of Michael’s iconic dance moves are used in the game, from the gravity lean in Smooth Criminal to dance off with the Rabbit in Speed Demon.
Is there a way for players to learn the famous MJ moves while playing the game?
Nathanial: We did not include a dancing tutorial like you see in the other versions of Michael Jackson: The Experience. However, there are lots of Michael’s famous moves choreographed and included in the game. We also have a Freestyle mode that allows players to control how the Michael avatar dances on the screen.
Are there modes for both advanced players and beginners?
Nathanial: For each song, there are 3 levels of difficulty– easy, medium and expert. Beginners should naturally begin with the easy level of difficulty and seasoned players will find things challenging with the expert level of difficulty.
Are there any special bonus features, like the original music videos, clips of MJ, wallpapers, or audio downloads?
Nathanial: We will offer an in-game special mode called On Demand Performance, in which the player can just enjoy short videos we produced for the game based on Michael’s short films with no interactivity needed. Every time a player unlocks a song to play, that song in On Demand Performance mode will be unlocked accordingly.