Michael Jackson The Experience Review

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3.5

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By: Ubisoft

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By Jim Squires | Dec 8, 2011 |

It's a great rhythm game for the iPad, but there are only so many times I’m willing to listen to Blood on the Dance Floor

When celebrities mesh with video games, it usually meets with disastrous results. Just look at what happened with Linkin Park, or Wesley Snipes. Michael Jackson, however, has had a pretty stellar history with the interactive medium. Remember SEGA’s Moonwalker? Or Jacko’s cameo in Space Channel 5? The tradition of great Jackson video games continues with the release of Michael Jackson: The Experience for the iPad.

Sharing a name with the home console games released by Ubisoft earlier this year, the iPad edition takes a somewhat different approach than its Wii/PS3/Xbox 360 brethren in that it doesn’t expect you to actually dance.

Michael Jackson The Experience

Instead, players will perform a series of taps, swipes, and other finger motions on the touch screen that match the commands appearing in front of them. As they do, a CGI Michael will get his dance on, using the backdrops of his popular music videos as environments.

Sure, it’s easy to argue that gameplay in The Experience is just yet another variation on the Simon-esque gameplay we’ve seen in everything from PaRappa the Rapper to Rock Band, but finding such gameplay designed exclusively with a touch screen in mind is rare. In fact, the only other touch screen rhythm game that comes close in terms of device uniqueness is Pulse, and like that game, we’re blown away by how satisfying the gameplay here is.

In terms of presentation, Experience is something of a knock out as well. Intros, outros, and the occasional mid-song finger break present you with stunning, almost Pixar-worthy recreations of scenes from Jackson’s videos. The audio is crystal clear, and the MJ that appears on screen during gameplay dances perfectly – you’d think the late King of Pop had worn a mo-cap suit himself.

The problem with Michael Jackson: The Experience isn’t what’s here, though, buts what’s not. At launch, the game only features seven songs. Worse yet, only four of them come included with your purchase; Smooth Criminal, Blood on the Dance Floor, Speed Demon, and Beat It. Three additional songs are available – Black or White, Billie Jean, and Hollywood Tonight – but each song will set you back a whopping $1.99. The game also offers alternate outfits for MJ in some of the songs, but at 99 cents apiece.

Michael Jackson The Experience

Not only is this a title that’s light on content, it’s one that will try and nickel and dime you to death should you want more. And as long as we’re on the subject of content, where are his other hits? Where’s Thriller? Where’s Bad? No offense to his most rabid fans, but I don’t think anyone is lining up to play Speed Demon.

Michael Jackson: The Experience is a game that manages to get most everything right. The gameplay is uniquely suited to the touch screen, the visuals are top notch, and the spirit of the game captures the fun of Jackson’s music videos flawlessly. It’s a shame, then, that there’s so little of it to go around – and that you’re only getting about half the package with your initial purchase.

This is a fantastic rhythm game for the iPad, but the amount of content you’re getting for the price of admission will likely be enough to scare most people off. What little there is to play ends up being tremendous fun, but that doesn’t negate the fact that you can see everything the game has to offer in about 30 minutes. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for some more content down the road – and we’ll cross them even tighter in the hopes that some of it won’t come with such a hefty price tag.

Pros:

  • Captures the fun and spirit of Jackson’s music videos flawlessly. Wonderfully unique touch screen twist on rhythm gameplay.

Cons:

  • Very little content, and almost half of it requires additional in-app purchases. With so few songs, you’d figure they’d want to stick with his bigger hits.

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