Michael Jackson's unique vocal talents and performance style have made him one of pop's most enduring icons. The dance routines of such songs as "Thriller," "Beat It," and "Billie Jean" are ingrained in popular culture, but thanks to their complexity, few have the skills to replicate them. Michael Jackson: The Experience gives you the opportunity to try your hand at some of his most famous routines, sing his songs, and battle it out with friends. Its Kinect credentials make it easy to pick up and play, with a variety of difficulty levels and an inability to fail out of songs, which ensures that even dancers with two left feet are given a sporting chance. A vast set of instructional videos give more determined dancers the opportunity to perfect routines, though the lack of detailed visual feedback on your movements--offered by the likes of Dance Central--and significant input lag cause a dissatisfying disconnect between your motions and the ones you see onscreen.
6308332Thriller has one of the better-looking backdrops.
The input lag stems from the game's unique approach to dancing. Rather than just monitor your movements, the Kinect camera places your image onscreen beside a group of virtual dancers, whom you try to replicate. It's an interesting effect, putting you in the middle of the action on stage and making you feel like a superstar performer. However, while your movements are tracked accurately for scoring purposes, your virtual self's movements are not. There's a significant delay between performing a move and seeing your onscreen self replicate it, which is incredibly distracting and makes keeping time difficult--not to mention that the way your movements don't sync with those of the background dancers makes you look like a terrible dancer. Each of your movements is rated as bad, OK, good, or perfect, depending on your performance. Five stars in the corner of the screen fill up as you rack up points, with an overall score appearing underneath. If you perform several good or perfect moves in a row, you increase your multiplier. If you're especially good, you get the chance to activate King Power by raising your fist above your head when a crown appears, giving you bonus points.
Points give you little more than bragging rights among your friends, though, because no matter how few you get, it's impossible to fail out of a song. While this makes the game much more accessible, it removes some of the challenge. There's no incentive to strive for higher scores; no bonus content to unlock, and no leaderboards to see how you measure up against other players. What is challenging is the choreography itself. Most routines are based on those in Michael's music videos, with a few original creations inspired by his dancing thrown in too. Signature moves, such as high kicks, toe stands, and moonwalks all make an appearance, and they are extremely tricky to replicate if you're not blessed with Michael's skills. A set of static pictures on the bottom right of the screen highlight upcoming moves, but they're difficult to follow while looking at the virtual dancers. You can vary the complexity of routines, though, by choosing from one of three difficulty levels.
Master Performance is the most difficult level of the three, with complex routines to follow and a full singing part. Lyrics are displayed at the bottom of the screen while you're performing, and you're given a rating based on your pitch and rhythm. Unfortunately, like dancing, there's a lack of visual feedback for your performance, so you won't find a pitch bar like you do in Rock Band or Guitar Hero. If you drop the difficulty down to Performance level, the singing part is reduced to certain sections of the song, while dancing parts remain the same. The easiest difficultly is Dance, which drops the singing altogether and leaves a gap between each movement, giving you time to readjust before the next toe stand or booty shake. If you're finding it all a bit much, there's a Practice mode where you can choose a particular section of a song to perform repeatedly. Unfortunately, you can't slow down the music during practice, which is a missed opportunity to make things easier.
The Superman is a classic MJ move.