Michael Jackson: The Experience is a game for fans of Jacko. That might seem somewhat obvious, but it is truer than you might think. The previous incarnation of this game for the consoles was a dancing game, so even if you were only a mild fan of Jackson, you could still get into the dancing mechanics of the game. You didn’t need to even have a familiarity with the music to get some enjoyment out of it. Like the 3DS version before it, the Vita version is different.
You know you are in for something odd when you take a dancing game and remove the dancing. It would be like taking a first-person shooter and removing the gun. There’s just something fundamentally wrong with it.
With Michael Jackson: The Experience on the Vita, the dancing is entirely self-inflicted. In other words, you can dance if you choose to, but you won’t get any points or anything. You may receive a few awkward stares, but that’s about it. No, for the Vita, this game has morphed into a rhythm-based game, where you are tasked with using the touchpad to tap in sync with the on-screen icons, mimic certain prompted movements, and try to keep the timing in line with the prompts. So basically you push and swipe on the screen, and there’s your game. To make sure you hit all the prompts, your best bet will be to set the Vita down in front of you and use two fingers, which can be awkward, and somewhat contradicts the nature of handheld gaming.
The game also offers a meager 15-song track selection, and there aren’t many modes. You have the “HIStory” faux-campaign, a battle mode for multiplayer, and a few challenges. If you really wanted to, you could complete everything this game has to offer in a few hours, tops.
If you are a fan of Jacko, the music alone might be worth the purchase. Each song plays out like a music video, and some have cut scenes in the middle of a handful of songs that you can view and enjoy. As you watch Jackson dance, you are treated with a digital take on some of his most famous pieces of music. The movements on the screen that you accomplish also affect the way Jackson moves, so you do have a modicum of control over the choreography, but it is minor. For fans, it’s novel. As a game though, it’s lacking.
Besides the shallow nature of a game that requires you to just mimic a few movements with your finger and call it a day, the prompts occasionally are occasionally out of sync with the music, especially on the harder settings. For a rhythm game to actually lose the rhythm of the music is hair-pullingly annoying. It is infrequent, but it happens.
If you played the 3DS version, you know what to expect. The stereo sound and the graphics are better, but the game is pretty much the same shell of its console counterparts.
This is a game for fans of Michael Jackson, and only fans of Michael Jackson. And not just fans, but hardcore fans willing to shell out $40 for what amounts to a collection of digital music videos that you can punch the screen to. And really, that is where the biggest problem lies: the value. Strip everything away, and even if you love the finger-swiping controls, there are still only 15 songs included.
The console version was a fun experience that allowed you to immerse yourself in the world of Jacko’s music and dance. Even minus the music, it was still a decent dance game. The Vita version takes that away and replaces it with the ability to tap a screen while listening to music. Yay?
Score 4 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita on a copy provided by Ubisoft)