If there’s one celebrity who deserves to be immortalised in a video game, it’s Michael Jackson. The way he danced, dressed, and sang was quite simply out of this world.
Taking elements of his dance choreography and back catalogue and combining them into a rhythm game was an inspired choice by Ubisoft.
The Experience HD is a port of the multimillion-selling motion control game that’s already appeared on the Wii, PS3 Move, and 360 Kinect. This version is iPad-only, which suggests that screen acreage is a factor in making the game work on touchscreen devices.
Even from beyond the grave, the self-styled King of Pop remains something of a perfectionist.Thriller
The concept is that you pick a song from MJ’s varied career and then dance along with him. Well, not so much dance as tap and swipe your fingers across the screen in time to the music. Based on your performance, MJ’s combo meter fills up and the screen becomes a dazzling lightshow of neon-glitter starbursts.
Each song has its own custom dance routine, costume, stage, and backing dancers. If you pick 'Beat It', for example, you get MJ in all his Thriller-era majesty, wearing a red leather jacket and hopping about with a gang of hoodlums on the docks.
Select 'Smooth Criminal' and you find MJ in that club from Moonwalker, flipping coins and raising merry hell on the dancefloor.
It’s not all just falling in step to the music. At intervals during a song you can break into a freestyle routine, stringing moves together to score extra points. MJ breaks off to do a solo dance without you, before returning to the rhythm game proper.
The graphics used to render MJ and his dance moves, from every stage of his career, are mighty impressive. His avatar occasionally looks a little stilted and robotic, but for the most part it looks so natural we half-suspect there’s been some kind of mo-capped jiggery-pokery to heighten the realism.Bad
Unfortunately, there are only four songs bundled with the game. Additional songs and outfits will have to be added via in-app purchases, which is kind of obligatory if you’re any kind of a fan - no-one is going to play this game and pass up the chance to relive classic tracks like 'Billie Jean' or 'Black or White' as well.
Also, if you’re at all familiar with rhythm-action games, then you’ll know that there’s very little variety to the controls themselves. You simply pay close attention and do a sequence of taps when prompted to do so. If you need more of a challenge you can pick from three difficulty modes to adjust the speed at which the symbols appear.
As a special bonus, there’s a backstage area where you can watch 'on demand' performances of the songs. Put your fingers away, because all you’re required to do here is sit back and watch as MJ struts his stuff and the camera swoops around his head. It’s a great little feature, putting a new spin on familiar material we’d already seen a hundred million times on MTV.
If you own a games console, you might get better value from The Experience by buying it on one of those platforms and throwing yourself around the living room. If you don’t, then the iPad version is a decently made conversion that ably pays tribute to the formidable energy of the man himself.