Vita Review: Michael Jackson: The Experience HD

Ubisoft originally launched Michael Jackson: The Experience HD on consoles in late-2010. With the freshly-released Playstation Vita, Michael Jackson was treated to a second run on stage, boasting a great (albeit short) set list of Michael-only songs, dazzling visuals and all-touch controls. For fans of the King of Pop, this is an absolute treat.

You only really have one mode of play, unless you happen to have a friend to play head-to-head with in an ad-hoc battle (which I did not, so I can’t say how that works other than it exists). The Experience gives you 15 songs to pick from; from massive hits like “Bad” and “Thriller” to songs that I was not familiar with like “Ghosts” and “Speed Demon”. Even the songs I had not heard had that Michael Jackson charm to them, so I didn’t mind hearing them over and over as I tried to raise my level and clear challenges.

Each song has five challenges associated with it. Some actually require you battle someone, and since the Experience is lacking any sort of online experience, that was very frustrating. When you complete a challenge (say, “Complete the song 6 times”), you will unlock either a song effect, an alternate outfit for a song, or a glove. The challenges (outside of the ones that require a multiplayer battle) are varied in a manner that you generally have to play the song on each difficulty.

Instead of progressing through the game and unlocking new songs as you “level” up, you’ll instead be unlocking new bonuses and the ability to play on a harder difficulty. The main bonus being the combo meter (getting more points for building a combo) and the “Perfect” bonus (getting more points for perfect timing). After that, you unlock the ability to watch the song without having to play it. If it was the real music video, I would find this little feature nifty, but it’s the gameplay video.

I’ve played some rhythm games were things didn’t make sense. Not a whole song, but little instances within a song. I felt none of that while playing The Experience. Everything felt spot-on between the combinations, the spacing between gestures and even the gestures themselves. It was easy to get in the groove and find yourself bee-bopping along with the music and getting totally sucked into it. All of this coming from a mild Michael Jackson fan, too. I distinctly remember sitting down one night at 7:00pm, turning the game on, then looking back up at 9:25. The whole time, I was enjoying myself, too.

The set pieces are taken from the music videos, and as you complete challenges, you’ll even unlock some extra flair. For example, doing one challenge may unlock backup dancers so the next time you play the song, as your combo meter rises, more dancers will appear on screen. It’s a minor touch, but it adds to the overall feel of the game.

While the launch for the Vita has been solid, the selection of titles is still skimpy enough that Michael Jackson: The Experience still has some visibility. If this were more budget-priced, I would give this an easy recommendation to any and all Vita owners. But at the regular $40 USD sticker price, it’s a little over priced for what you get (15 songs and one main mode of play). What you do get, though, is still a solid experience and shouldn’t be skimmed over without a second thought. Take that from someone who only mildly likes Michael Jackson but enjoys a good rhythm game.

Pros:

  • great song list
  • the gestures and rhythm all match up superbly
  • sound quality is top-notch, even without headphones

Cons:

  • limited song list
  • no online at all and ad-hoc related trophies/challenges
  • should be more budget priced

Score: 3/5

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Author: Don Parsons View all posts by
Starting out as a founding member of Gamingcore Podcast, Don ventured on to start Gameciety; which began as a podcast, and ended as a blog. Don now handles Vagary.tv's PR work, is part of the reviews staff and has various other little projects he does for the site.