Ubisoft struck gold last year with Just Dance, a light-hearted game that didn't really care about hardcore talent as much as it did good times and booty shakin'. Its runaway success explains the improved sequel, Broadway number and kid-centric titles we've seen only one year into the franchise, so it was really only a matter of time before the artist-specific ones started rolling out.
And, good lord, are they starting at the top of the musical heap with Michael Jackson: The Experience. The late King of Pop is undoubtedly one of the greatest dancers pop music has ever seen, but what could've been a truly stellar video game experience for Jacko fans winds up being merely pretty good on account of not doing enough with the man or his career.
At its core, The Experience is essentially Just Dance 2: all songs are open from the get-go and are played by copying the on-screen dancer's movements as if they were your mirror image. Each of the 26 songs pulled from Off The Wall, Thriller, Bad, Dangerous, HIStory and Blood on the Dance Floor gets its own special game adaptation of the associated music video and iconic dance routines, so there are zombies for "Thriller" and light-up flooring for "Smooth Criminal" all translated into the nifty neon/pastel Just Dance art style. It works about as well as you'd expect – that is to say quite well: Jackson fans will get a real kick out of performing these routines, and the loose scoring system keeps the intimidation factor at bay. The song selection is excellent although perhaps a bit small, and disappointingly there is no downloadable content shop to expand the track list.
There are, however, some notable improvements made to the whole formula. Certain songs allow you to perform the background dancers' routines as well, both solo and with three other rump jigglers. The interface has gotten even tidier and more informative, depicted as coloured swooshes along the sides of the screen with little dots that act as star markers. Additionally, earning stars unlocks instructional videos to teach you how to perform three or so moves from each song, broken down by professional dancers with French accents.
But apart from these little videos, The Experience falls short for a game dedicated to an artist of Jackson's calibre. While it does let you experience the dance routines, which are obviously the most important part of the whole thing and make it all worthwhile for dance and pop fans, it really fails to capitalise on his career or the man himself. Apart from cover art and years for albums and singles on the song selection screen, there is nothing to show for his legacy. Those little instructional videos have snippets of live shows and videos of the man dancing, but there's otherwise a very distinct lack of photos, footage or other extras like biographic information or anecdotes. The Beatles: Rock Band this is not, and that is quite disappointing considering Jackson's musical legacy.
Michael Jackson: The Experience is indeed a good way to dance along to your favourite King of Pop routines, but that's really about it. While there's enough fun to be had with the iconic routines to please fearless fans, there's a disappointing lack of extras to elevate this beyond anything more than a glorified Michael Jackson track pack for Just Dance. It'll rock with you, just don't expect anything more.