Thursday, January 13, 2011

Gonzo Review Michael Jackson: The Experience

In the late 1980s, I pumped a lot of quarters into Moonwalker at the local arcade. You got to dance, hear midi-versions of MJ hits, turn into a robot and even Bubbles was in the game!
It was the one regret I had about choosing a Super Nintendo over Sega Genesis (although, I felt vindicated years later when I learned the Genesis version paled to the arcade game).

When Michael Jackson: The Experience was announced, I was both excited and skeptical. But as gameplay videos began to leak out in the fall, I knew I'd have to get it sooner or later. The game has met with mixed reviews. Personally, I think it's a hoot. Following on-screen guides, you use your Wii-mote to replicate MJ's on-screen moves. Greater accuracy garners higher point values. It's a great party game (especially after a few beverages), and you will work up a sweat. All tracks are the original masters, although a couple are edited for length.

I will say that the track collection could have been stronger. The most iconic cuts are here, but there are also a few very questionable choices. For example, "The Girl is Mine:"

Other headscratchers include "Dirty Diana," "Heal the World," "Will You Be There" and "Money." For a dance game based on an artist known for high octane pop, these ballads are neither challenging nor particularly interesting to play. I would gladly have foresaken these cuts for "Jam," "PYT" or "Scream," all of which are excluded from the game. The upcoming PS3/XBox versions will have two extra cuts however. The equally pointless "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" and "Blood on the Dance Floor," which could be interesting.

Ballads aside, the game is a blast. One edge the Wii version has over the PS3/Xbox versions (at least from the press material I've seen) is that the Wii game puts you inside of the iconic videos for MJ's hits, while the other versions put players on a concert stage. For an artist whose popularity rests largely on music video innovation, it seems odd to forgo drawing on that familiar imagery.

On the other hand, the Xbox version is likely to have the best control. I haven't used a Kinnect, but the with one hand held Wii-mote as your only measure of movement, you can bs the moves if you really care to. Hell, you could stand still and simply move your hand in the appropriate directions and get the points (similar to the vocal in Rock Band being based on pitch and rhythm rather than actual phonetics). But that defeats the purpose, no? Might as well go all out and burn a few calories.

In sum, the song collection could be better, but other than that, I think that most Michael Jackson fans will enjoy the game, and that cocktails will be spilt on many a living room rug as players dance the night away.

Up next: review of the Michael Jackson's Vision dvd box.

No comments: