Published on April 15th, 2011 |
Review: Michael Jackson: The Experience (Kinect)
Release Date: April 12th 2011 (US), April 15th 2011 (UK)
Genre(s): Music, Singing and Dancing
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+), 12+
Many many people know me as somebody who doesn’t like Michael Jackson so much. When he died, as sad as it was, it got a little on my nerves, because no matter what radio station I turned to in a car, it was MJ here and MJ here. Almost two years on from his death, he’s had a movie made about his This Is It concert, he has a soon-to-be-released tribute show being prepped, and now he has his own video game, Michael Jackson: The Experience, from Ubisoft.
This game was going to be released at the same time as the Wii version, but it got pushed back to April. The big question is, does MJ: The Experience on Kinect live up to the hype? Get ready to hold your crotch!
So the game itself has around 29 Michael Jackson songs all pre-loaded into the game. If you did not already know by now, this is a dancing and singing game. The game contains big hit songs, such as “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, “Thriller”, “Bad”, “Smooth Criminal” and many other hits too. Before you start anything, there are some educational videos you are able to watch to help you warm up before you start all your dancing. You don’t have to watch them if you don’t want to. They are totally optional, but useful. Now let’s move on with the training segment of the game. I’m sorry to say Ubisoft, but the training segment is a huge thumbs down for me. When you choose training, each part of a song is broken down into segments, such as “Verse 1”, “Chorus”, “Intro”, “Outro” and so forth. In a segment of a song, rather than showing you how to do a single move step by step, you need to do a whole bunch of moves all in one go, so you don’t have time to stop and take a breath. A lot of the time, you are left struggling to get a good practice % score, let alone a good score on the song itself. When you want to do an actual performance, depending on the song, you get these choices (besides the Practice option):
- Dance – This is where you just dance, and you do not sing.
- Performance – This is where you sing and dance, but not at the same time
- Master Performance – An ultimately harder version of “Performance”.
Below each of the categories is a difficulty setting, ranked from 1 to 5, showing how hard it is to dance/sing to that song. To be honest, every song should be ranked up to a 4 at least, because most of them are that hard. And unlike most dance games, where they have “Easy, Medium, Hard and Expert” difficulty modes, this game doesn’t, and it forces you to play the harder modes. It’s just not that easy to do all of the dance moves all in a bunch. For example, when you are twisting your leg (not like twisting it twisting it, as in “Ouch I twisted my leg”), you’re often doing that too much for too long, and your leg ends up aching so much you just want to collapse on the nearest seat. Maybe it’s because I am not a hugely active person, or that I am really bad at dancing, or if it’s just the game wanting to be cruel to me. I think what the game is doing is trying to make you too much like Michael Jackson. For him, the dance moves would have been a breeze. For us regular people, it’s not.
You may be thinking: Well this reviewer has said nothing but bad things about this game. Let’s talk about the only upsides to this game then. The game, of course, allows you to listen (when you are dancing or singing) to some of your favourite Michael Jackson songs. The game itself is also really colourful, and in the loading screen, I tend to wave my arms about like an idiot to see what shape I can make as the colour follows your arms movements. At least you have something to do while you wait for the song to load rather than just standing there. The build up to a performance is also great too, as it makes YOU feel like the star and not Michael Jackson. The crowd is also always cheering you on in the game, no matter if you are doing brilliantly, or terribly, so you won’t feel down when the imaginary audience is always cheering you on. When I first heard about this game, I was also expecting the game to force you to learn how to moonwalk or how to lean, so I was panicking a little bit as I did not want to learn them, because quite frankly, it would be a waste of time for me to learn how to moonwalk as I would never get the hang of it, and if I leaned, I would basically break my neck. But, Ubisoft has a solution!
*sings* This game is Ba- You know what, you get the message.
To do the lean move, you turn to the side, you bend your knee in front of you and you lean forward, so you are safe when leaning. I’m not sure if you would still get the score if you can actually lean, but I would be amazed if you still can. For the moonwalk, you would basically moonwalk on the spot, and then you (on the screen that is) would automatically move along the screen as if you were moonwalking. It’s a lot cooler than it sounds. Like every Kinect game too, MJ: The Experience will also take pictures of you while you dance, but unfortunately, there is not an area where they are stored for your viewing. The pictures are just used for the thumbnail of your previous scores on that particular song. It’s kind of an up and down for me, as with most pictures taken of me while playing Kinect, it shows me looking like a total plonk, but with Michael Jackson The Experience, I don’t seem to look too much of a plonk as I do with most games… strangely.
One thing that really bugs me so much is the backup dancers. In almost every song, you get duplicates of the same back up dancer. In “Bad”, I had four of the exact same back up dancer. Really, Ubisoft? You’re just not trying. And if that wasn’t enough, it honestly looked like some of the backup dancers were wearing masks or that their faces were just attached onto someone else face, as if Ubisoft were trying to hide a dancers facial expressions as they danced. Sometimes I thought their faces were actually going to fall off. Sorry Ubisoft. You might be able to get away with duplicate animated back up dancers in games such as Dance Central (the twin back up dancers), but when you do it with live action dancers, it just doesn’t work. Not to mention, when you are dancing, you’ll most likely be following what the backup dancers are doing as you won’t have a clue what to do, and with Kinect, there will always be that little tiny lag. If there is a Michael Jackson: The Experience 2, you really need to try a lot harder next time.
Let’s move onto the Co-Op. Now unfortunately, there is no worldwide multiplayer; only local multiplayer, so the co-op instantly drops down into the “Party Game” category. There is “Team Co-Op”, where you and up to three other players will do their fair share of the singing and dancing to a Michael Jackson song of your choice, so at least the pressure isn’t put all onto one person. But if you think you will be able to get all the achievements through local multiplayer, you got another thing coming. All “Earn 5 Stars in this song” achievements are solo only, so you either have to get all the achievements yourself, see if your friends can get them through solo mode, or rely on a REALLY good dancer (Louie Spence anyone?). And trust me… it is NOT easy to get the achievements, so this game is not for achievement hunters. The other mode is Battle Mode, in which you and up to three other friends battle it out to see who is the better singer and dancer. It’s as simple as that.
Thank goodness you can’t hear me sing. I am amazing….ly awful. And yes that little figure… is me. Go figure.
And no. You don’t have to have a good singing voice to get a 100% singing score. Although I did pick up that sometimes the Kinect microphone doesn’t always pick up my singing, so if you have an Xbox 360 microphone, it might be better off to use one of them. But it was only a couple of times it didn’t pick me up, so it’s not too big of a problem. The game also uses the same technology as in their previous Kinect game, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, where it actually shows you on the screen, rather than you just be an outline. It’s good, but still quite creepy to litterally see myself dancing like an idiot.
If you were to compare this game to Harmonix’s Dance Central, Michael Jackson: The Experience is nothing too special. It has quite a few flaws, and you really need to be a Michael Jackson fan to be able to know the beat and rhythm of all of the songs for the singing segment. This may be a good game to play if you were having a small party, but honestly I don’t think people will play this game as often as people play Dance Central. Ubisoft could have tried a lot harder. I wanted this game to be good, but I have so many mixed feelings about this game.
See this guy makes it look easy…. It’s not.
- Very colourful
- A good selection of Michael Jackson songs
- A nice tribute to the man himself.
- You sometimes feel like MJ himself.
- Easy menu navigation
- Poor effort in a lot of places
- Practice mode feels lazily made
- Poor way of setting up difficulty mode
- Extremly hard to learn the moves
- The back-up dancers look like puppets.