The Michael Jackson Experience HD (PS Vita) Review – Who’s bad?

Posted on Mar 5 2012 - 9:35am by Jeffrey L. Wilson

MJ The Michael Jackson Experience HD (PS Vita) Review   Whos bad?

It’s easy to knock Ubisoft’s initial PS Vita launch batch as one that’s port-heavy, but that doesn’t mean that the games are not worth a purchase. Case in point, Michael Jackson The Experience HD ($39.99, Amazon or $34.99 via Vita download) The Michael Jackson Experience HD (PS Vita) Review   Whos bad?, a mobile version of the 2010 console rhythm game. The slick music title features a handful of tracks from Gary Indiana’s Favorite Son’s solo catalog and includes such hits as Thriller, Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough, and Remember the Time, as well as lesser known gems such as Blood on the Dance Floor. Although I’ve ranted about the music game genre’s lack of creativity, The Michael Jackson Experience HD easily devoured several hours of my existence courtesy of a one-two combo of an outstanding soundtrack from one of the world’s greatest artists, and numerous hidden unlockables that kept me coming back for just one more session.

The Michael Jackson Experience HD easily devoured several hours of my existence courtesy of a one-two combo of an outstanding soundtrack from one of the world’s greatest artists and numerous hidden unlockables that kept me coming back for just one more session.

The Michael Jackson Experience HD, naturally, utilizes the PS Vita’s touchscreen, prompting rhythm-gamers  to make taps, swipes, and swirls in time with the music. Rookie, the lone level available until you unlock Medium and Expert, serves as the entry way to learn the strokes after you exit the tutorial. Rookie, frankly, is too simple, as is Medium. You’re given letter grades after each performance–I very rarely received anything less than a B on Medium. In fact, I have never failed a session even on Expert even though the difficulty swings wildly between challenging and hair-pulling.

Stringing together successful moves builds your multi-tier combo meter, which nets you a greater score. Each individual input is judged from OK to Great (assuming you’ved nailed it), but, oddly, Perfect is an unlockable. That was a head-scratcher as one would think the full grading system would be available from the jump.

The are a decent amount of songs from each of Jackson’s solo work–enough to make you appreciate the different eras in MJ’s career, but some will inevitably gripe that a favorite is missing. Each track has its own challenges that lets you unlock content such as backup dancers (who only remain on screen as long as you maintain a strong combo), visual effects, and more when you meet certain criteria. The in-game graphics beautifully recreate costumes and scenes from various MJ videos, and there are even CGI cutscenes–based on scenes from music videos–that unfortunately dip into the Uncanny Valley during face close-ups.

A game of this type can very become incredibly repetitive incredibly fast, but Ubisoft has given gamers enough to keep matters fresh. There are moment in the game, Freestyle sessions, where you actually get to control Michael by busting out moves you’ve learned and gliding him between the foreground and background using the rear touchpad. This is a nice break in the action, but sometimes inputs don’t register as accurately as they should and Mike becomes locked in an animation.

All of these elements come together nicely to give you what is indeed the Michael Jackson experience. There are moments when the controls, music, and imagery come together so perfectly that the title becomes less a game and more a tribute to a mega-talent. The Michael Jackson Experience HD‘s one major drawback is its price. At $35-$40, it’s expense for a two year old title, especially considering it can be purchased on the iPad for $5 (granted, iOS user are nickled-and-dimed with certain in-app purchases). Only MJ diehards will drop that type of cash for a simple button-pushing mechanic–the rest of the gamingverse may want to wait for a retail sale or price cut. Still, it’s far more engaging that one would think.

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Jeffrey L. Wilson is the former Big Boss of 2D-X.com. Now retired, he spends his days as a man of leisure. Kinda.

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