Millions of you bought Michael Jackson: The Experience and probably realized, all too quickly, that it’s really hard to mimic the King of Pop’s moves. Really, really hard. Maybe you got the zombie part from Thriller down to a science, and maybe you’re kicking with the correct leg, but a whole MJ routine? Well, some things are better left to professionals.
Thankfully, Michael Jackson: The Experience HD on the PlayStation Vita removes any chance of public embarrassment via pelvic thrust, and gives fans an Elite Beat Agents-style game that exclusively uses the touch screen. We’d be eternally thankful for the experience except for the fact that there are only fifteen songs included. Fifteen. And three of those (“Hollywood Tonight”, “Ghosts” and “Speed Demon”) aren’t even chart-toppers. Hell, we didn’t even know two of those songs existed until we played the game.
As mentioned earlier, gameplay is similar to Elite Beat Agents where you tap and swipe, as indicated by dots and arrows that appear during each song, and scoring is based on how closely to the beat each move is performed. Freestyle sections, where you’re allowed to swipe and tap to your sequined heart’s content, also allow you to get bonus points.
Each dance is ranked by letter grade upon completion, and racking up points unlocks higher difficulty levels, trophies and song-specific bonuses like alternate outfits and back-up dancers. Challenges, like successfully completing a freestyle without repeating a move, are unique to each song and add another level of interest. The easiest levels are simple enough that your mother will be able to boast that she mastered the routine for “Beat It,” while harder levels will necessitate putting your Vita down to utilize both hands.
The original Experience looked like a slightly modified version of the Just Dance series, where a fuzzy version of Michael Jackson danced next to a fuzzy version of yourself on a forgettable stage backdrop.
Thankfully, Ubisoft took the art direction used with The Black Eyed Peas Experience and reproduced fifteen environments with coordinating outfits mimicking MJ’s music videos. If you can ignore the creepy expressionless faces, it’s actually quite amusing to see these famous videos recreated scene for scene.
But, let’s get back to those fifteen songs. Considering that the original Experience had over thirty tracks, it’s disappointing that the visually superior HD version has less than half that (with no mention of DLC yet), so even with the challenging and enjoyable gameplay, we quickly experienced song fatigue. (For the record, we teared up when the King of Pop passed and will readily admit that we put his discography on repeat for at least a week afterwards, so being tired of any MJ song is no small feat.)
While this is visually the best looking Michael Jackson game ever, we find it difficult to recommend this title to anyone but the most rabid of fans, unless there’s a promise to deliver DLC in the future. Fifteen tracks does not a King make.