Another day, another dance game and today the focus is on the artists widely regarded as the king of pop by many and who has inspired his contemporaries and modern artists alike. The ‘king of pop' title isn't dished out lightly either, so it can really only be Michael Jackson that takes such a title. Having pretty much been the face of pop music in the 80s and continued this success and fame into the 90s and noughties, there's not many that don't know at least a few of his songs, whether we're talking a bit of Thriller, a snippet of Earth Song, his older hits with the Jackson 5, or his more recent releases like You Rock My World, there's a bit of Jackson for everyone, and now an even wider audience can immerse themselves even further into the world of Michael Jackson's musical performances with Michael Jackson: The Experience. Sporting some of the pop star's most famous routines, this game is for the dancers and the singers out there that simply want a little more than the relatively broad imaginings of games like Dance Central or Just Dance.
Of all of the consoles that one can play this game on, the Xbox 360 version is the smartest choice because of the device's Kinect software. The motion sensor simply makes the game more enjoyable than the Wii version and having the freedom to move about the room for this game is simply a must because of the complexity of some of Jacko's performances and routines. Unlike fellow dance game Dance Central, the gameplay of Michael Jackson: The Experience isn't driven by attaining various scores and trying to hit a certain number of moves or streaks; instead, the game is actually devoid of a difficulty system, instead opting to offer you options that are inconsistent on many songs. Some songs you can dance to as well as sing to (or a mixture of both), and some allow you to select the master performance (which is just like a singing/dancing performance but more complex), but different options are available for different songs.
The interface of the game should be familiar to dance game fans since the instructions are displayed as diagrams on the screen (they look like prompt cards), though you must wait for a countdown timer before they appear - this is a little disconcerting to say the least. It is particularly unusual that the standard Dance Central-style timer isn't used considering the level of complexity of some of the routines and the moves involved within them. During your performances, a visual representation of you is actually displayed on the screen along with the backup dancers, and this is where another of the game's serious flaws is located since the delay between performing the move and seeing it on screen is such that it can be very off-putting, like a musician playing a guitar with a split-second delay between hitting the note and hearing it.
One of the things that the game definitely lacks is feedback with both the dancing and the singing aspects. Since there isn't a particular difficulty setting and you aren't critiqued or slammed for poor performances, it is difficult to know where you're at, and the singing portion also isn't gauged according to your pitch either. If you combine this with the inflexible nature of the gameplay (such as not being able to slow down any parts of the songs to learn them, even in practice mode), then you may understand why the experience falls a little flat in comparison to rival dance games of the moment like Just Dance 2014.
Still, if you're an avid Michael Jackson fan then these issues aren't likely to deter you. The fact that you can dance and/or sing through Billie Jean, Beat It, and Thriller will be enough content for many, no matter what the presentation and gameplay is like. Other songs in the game such as Bad, Smooth Criminal, and Ghost, as well as many more are attractive enough to draw in the loyal Michael Jackson fans out there as well. Still, when you take into account the second-rate production values such as the lifeless stadiums devoid of energy and the multiple flaws in the gameplay such as the input lag and the absence of any real feedback on your performances or pitch indicators for the vocal input, then you have a dance game that in spite of the name in its title still cannot measure up to the dance games that surround it in the genre.