Annie, are you okay?
The King of Pop has claimed a shiny new stage on the PlayStation Vita in ‘The Michael Jackson: The Experience HD‘ fro Ubisoft. Are you ready to ‘Beat It’ in the palm of your hand?
In this dance rhythm game, you can step into the moon-walking shoes of Michael Jackson and control the on-screen avatar as you dance through a collection of his greatest hits. A brief tutorial explains the four touchscreen moves; tap, line, semi-circle and circle. Once you’ve chosen your selected song from the 15 smash hits available, you’re ready to begin. Michael Jackson appears on screen and by carefully drawing and sliding your fingers on the touchscreen in time with the on-screen prompts, you mimic the dance sequence. The dance sequences are broken up into dance and freestyle. In dance you simply listen to the beat of each song and attempt a well placed slide of the finger or tap on the screen. You have to watch the sequence carefully and perform the gestures in the right order and at the right time to make sure Michael is sticking to the choreography. Then, in each song, there will be an opportunity to perform freestyle. This is your chance to link together different gestures as you wish, adding some customisation to the sequence. Every move you perfect will give you bonus points, as long as they are not replicated. Each of the moves can be drawn in many directions for different effects, so it’s a matter of playing close attention and concentrating on the rhythm and beat.
The game is split up into three main areas; History, Battle and Backstage. In history mode, you simply scroll through the 15 iconic Michael Jackson songs and select the one of your choice. Once you’ve performed your song, you’re then graded. Your song is then added to your overall total game score to determine your dancer rank from A to F. For the majority of the time I mostly received either A or B on rookie level, but when you try the harder levels out on Expert, you find your fingers flying frantically around the screen and often forgetting in what order they first appeared. It’s great fun to try out and discover what your dance limits are, and before long you’re unlocking outfits and various bonuses. Rookie is for the more easy going players, where it’s pretty laid back and you feel you can take your time, but soon as you move up to medium and expert the game moves onto a faster pace.
In battle mode you can go head to head with another player ad hoc, sadly there is no online play, and this is a great opportunity to show off your dancing skills and earn some bragging rights. The backstage area gives you the chance to unlock bonus features, such as the Michael Jackson figurines and engage in performance on demand videos.
Various songs have secret sequences of moves, which can be attempted in freestyle and this is where you can unlock some of the games’ surprises, such as outfits and gloves. The History mode is expansive and, in single player, each song has five challenges that will go unlock various abilities and medals.
The front screen handled most of the touchscreen moves within the game and touching the backscreen allowed you to perform a signature move from Michael Jackson, which has been directly taken from the video. The different gestures required are all straight forward and easy to perform, especially as you can perform them anywhere on the screen. But with more difficult songs on a higher difficulty level, you will find your fingers zipping around the touchscreen like crazy.
Graphically, the game looks crisp and polished and there is a good variety of songs to choose from. However, the limit of only 15 songs, and not all of them being the popular tunes that you would expect, does diminish the potential enjoyment of the game. Hopefully some DLC will be incoming to ensure that gamers keep on playing.
Essentially, the game is far more enjoyable than I initially thought. Each time you hear one of Michael Jackson songs, your fingers will start twitching as they prepare to dance. You’ll find yourself replaying songs to gain better grades and higher scores. Unfortunately, the game has a limited scope, especially as this is a solo experience. If DLC is not introduced then I can literally see Michael Jackson The Experience HD spinning and falling flat on it’s face.
But if you’re a Michael Jackson fan, then this is a great, if short lived, experience and you may find yourself surprised at how much the game actually draws you in. There are some excellent songs and the music videos are visually stunning. Ultimately, you’re either going to think it’s ‘Bad’ or ‘You Won’t Stop Till You Get Enough’.