The King of Pop’s classic choreography arrives on the Wii with Michael Jackson The Experience. I wish I could say the “experience” aspect was a bit more immersive. The game couldn’t be more skeletal in structure. The main menu offers the choice of mimicking dance routines from a list of Jackson songs or watching training videos. There’s no real objective other than trying to match the Jackson look-alike step-for-step. The only reward is unlocking extra training videos.
As routines are performed on screen, the Wii tracks the movement of the remote in the player’s hand. The sequin-gloved hand of the onscreen “Michael” character is what the player attempts to match. Since no other movement besides the player’s right hand registers, not much accuracy is needed. Being that these are Michael Jackson’s dance routines, the choreography is complicated but completely unnecessary to follow—I was able to score roughly the same just sitting on the couch waving the Wii remote around.
Of course, that’s not how the game is meant to be played. But the point is, it feels more than a little pointless to work on all the fancy footwork when it doesn’t benefit your score. It’s difficult to even understand how the movements of the remote are scored. Correct movements are rated either okay, good, or perfect. Time and again I received a different rating for, as far as I could tell, executing the exact same movement. I can’t begin to speculate what makes one move just okay, while the same move performed again is perfect. By the end of the song, accumulated points are tallied up. If the total is high enough, a training video is unlocked.
If these training segments are, as purported, meant to help the player dance with more accuracy, why are any of them locked in the first place? It seems to me that a better idea would have been to allow the player to build up points in the training mode in order to unlock bonus songs or maybe extra dance routines. The training videos are a weak prize to earn; the 26 Michael Jackson songs are the main attraction here and the visuals are based on the original music video when available. Many of the included songs did not have a corresponding music video, so in these cases new backdrops and routines have been created.
In a pleasant surprise, the song list is somewhat unpredictable. Most of Jackson’s biggest hits are here, but some obscurities were thrown in to keep things interesting. “Sunset Driver” and “Streetwalker” are two prime examples of lesser-known songs mixed in with the more familiar material.
There is some variety to the gameplay if you have more than one player. Multiplayer mode allows for a number of people to play as a dance crew. There is also a challenge mode for playing one-on-one with another dancer. This kind of play is where the game is most fun. Alone in front of the TV, I felt more than a little silly attempting to dance like Michael Jackson. But as a party game the title works far better.
The songs are rated at a variety of difficulty levels. However the Wii does not register the movements accurately enough to make this matter very much. Sure, the very slow ballads like “Heal the World” provide a much more relaxed set of dance steps to mimic, but I was still able to score relatively decently on the so-called “Inhuman” level of “Thriller.” And believe me when I say, I’m no dancer. Simply waving the remote around in the general direction shown onscreen will register as point-worthy movement. The choreography itself may be inhumanly difficult, but building up high point totals is not. This makes Michael Jackson The Experience ideal for younger players or perhaps players of limited mobility.
Michael Jackson The Experience is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Lyrics, Suggestive Themes. This game can also be found on: Nintendo DS, PSP, PS3 (03/11/2011), and Xbox 360 (02/15/2011).