Michael Jackson: The Experience HD Review
MJ would not be happy.
Since getting my mitts on a brand new PS Vita, I’ve been playing through as many games as I possibly can to see which ones are truly worth my time. The latest game to find its way to me is Michael Jackson The Experience HD, which although bares the name of the king of pop turned out to be a mediocre experience at best.
Michael Jackson The Experience HD is at heart a rhythm game, which challenges players to tap in time to some of his best hits. Unfortunately while this may have seemed like a good idea to Ubisoft, the execution is not as smooth as it could have been. The concept is very simple – as the song plays you have to either tap or swipe the screen in time to build up your combo and score points. The more points you get the better your end score and the more items you can unlock in the game. There are in total about four different symbols that can appear on screen – a pink circle indicates a tap (with one or two fingers), a blue arrow means swipe in the direction of the arrow, a yellow arrow indicates a ‘U’ shape, and a green arrow indicates a full circle. While initially the songs are very easy to complete with just a few changes in the symbols, the later difficulties prove to be much more challenging as multiple icons fill the screen.
During each song there is a ‘freestyle’ mode, where you can swipe or tap the screen to make Michael pull off various moves – the game penalizes you if you swipe the same move two times in a row, so mixing things up is the key to racking up the combos. You can also slide your finger along the rear touchpad to move Michael around the scene to add a bit of flair.
There are only 15 tracks to dance along to, which is a sheer disappointment given the vast catalogue of tracks MJ released. So your MJ experience is technically over after about half an hour of playing, unless you keep chugging through to level up and unlock the harder difficulties. You can also unlock different dance effects as well as gloves, which you can equip later on to earn bonuses. It’s a reward system that doesn’t feel very rewarding, as you have to go back and replay the songs on harder difficulties to unlock anything worthwhile.
What makes the game frustrating is that it often gets very finicky when you draw the correct symbol. I found myself building up a 126 move combo only to have it destroyed because I was off by a few degrees when swiping a symbol diagonally. This crops up again and again, so you have to often be quite accurate when playing if you want to keep your combos going.
Graphically the Vita does a fairly decent job of rending the on-screen King of Pop as he glides across the screen, and for most part the various levels are faithful renditions of his various music videos. The only place where things go downhill is in the mediocre CGI sequences. Rather than use clips from the music videos, the scene has been re-rendered in CGI that looks like a claymation spot from 1992. This really jars with the general look of the game and will ruin the gaming experience for most MJ fans.
Apart from unlocking the various rewards and difficulty settings, there’s nothing else to do in this game. apart from trying to get onto the leaderboards. The music is of course timeless, but the limited choice is a real let-down. I doubt that there’ll be future songs as DLC, so if you’re happy repeating fifteen songs over and over again then this is the game for you.
Michael Jackson The Experience HD would only appeal to hardcore fans of his music, and even then the short lifespan of the game won’t guarantee a memorable experience anyway.