When modern pop stars pair catchy tunes with snazzy dance moves, they owe a debt to the man who did it bigger and better than anyone: Michael Jackson. The King of Pop was an electrifying performer, and Ubisoft is aiming to channel that excitement into Michael Jackson The Experience. By working with professional choreographers, some of whom actually worked with Jackson in the past, they aim to mimic Michael's dance moves while ensuring that the game is accessible to players with two left feet. We grabbed a Wii Remote and stepped up to the screen at the Tokyo Game Show 2010 to see just how easy it is to fill some of the biggest dancing shoes in history.
To play Michael Jackson The Experience, you grab a Wii Remote in your right hand and get ready to dance. As your song starts, you see a virtual version of Michael Jackson onscreen with a sparkling sequined glove on his left hand. This is the mirror image that you mimic while dancing along to the song. You are flanked by two backup dancers, though this number may change depending on how many players are dancing along with you. In any song, one player can be MJ while up to three others back him or her up. Each player needs a Wii Remote if they want their accuracy to be tracked, but whether or not your backup dancers are getting scored, it's still a blast to have them around (and the whole not-scoring angle seems like a good way to encourage shy players to get off the couch and join you).
In addition to simply following the dancer onscreen (easier said than done, we assure you), there are visual cues that appear on the left side of the screen to help you out. These are pictures of simple poses that indicate an upcoming mark you need to hit, so you can plan your moves accordingly. They offer a nice visual anchor that can help you get back on track if you are floundering, or just give you an extra incentive to nail the move.
The virtual dancers themselves are very lively and move with an invigorating realism. We found that even though the reality of our own moves was far from graceful, the vibrantly animated dancers helped each move we pretty much did right feel like a move we absolutely nailed. The dancers' quickness can also make you feel a bit slow on the uptake, but eyeing the pose cues provides a helpful way to get back on track, and when all else fails, watching the sequined glove is a good way to at least get your arm moving in the right direction.
Smooth Criminal and Black or White were the two songs on display during our demo, and the rest of the partially announced setlist can be found here. Though our dance session was tiring and not a resounding success from a score point of view (we tallied almost three out of five stars), we came away feeling that dancing along to a virtual MJ was a lot of fun. Michael Jackson The Experience for the Wii is due out November 23 alongside the PSP and DS versions, with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions following in 2011.