Michael Jackson The Experience HD Vita Review: Simple Yet Addictive

Michael Jackson The Experience HD Vita Review: Simple Yet AddictiveI admit when I’m wrong. When the Playstation Vita launch list was first revealed, if there was one game I had zero interest in playing, it was Michael Jackson: The Experience HD. I just didn’t see how the game could be anything more than a simple rhythm game, the same kind that clog store shelves because there is nothing “unique” about them. I see a button symbol and I press it, rinse, repeat; simple.

But there was one factor that I overlooked. One thing that would make this game UNIQUE, and that was Michael Jackson himself. No matter how people felt about the man in his later years, nothing can take away his talent. And that’s why playing Michael Jackson: The Experience HD is very enjoyable.

MJE HD is a touch rhythm game. A direction symbol appears on the screen, and you mimic it with your finger(s). You make circles and half-circles, or tap the touch screen, all in time with the music.

These direction symbols make Michael dance. We are talking iconic moves like the Thriller dance, for which I got a trophy for figuring out the “zombie walk move” during a freestyle segment.

Michael Jackson The Experience HD Vita Review: Simple Yet Addictive

There are fifteen songs to choose from, ranging from ‘Billie Jean’ and ‘Beat It,’ to later hits such as ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Blood on the Dance Floor.’ There are no ballads, no R&B classics; these are all hot dance tracks.

Each song is represented by its “video” (or CG recreation of its video) and there are five different tasks that need to be accomplished to earn medals. Earning these medals unlocks different accessories for Michael to wear when he’s dancing. This also leads to some PSN Trophies.

The controls are simple. Everything is handled with the touch screens, both front and back. The front screen handles 90% of the moves, and during freestyle segments, which are earned after pulling off a set number of combos, the back screen comes into play.

In fact, tapping the back screen during freestyle makes Michael perform a signature move taken directly from the video of the song. This is how I unlocked the “zombie move” from Thriller.

It can get complicated when you need to use multiple fingers to pull off a complicated move and still hold the PS Vita. Sometimes one of my hands blocks the screen and I miss a move and kill my combo streak, but it’s nothing that touch screen games haven’t dealt with before.

MJE HD is broken down into solo play, called HIStory, and Battle, which allows for ad hoc, head-to-head dance offs. There is also a mode called Backstage, where you can view and customize your Michael complete with gloves, clothes, and hats. There are different difficulty setting, the harder levels unlocked as you progress through the fifteen songs, which I imagine can get really, really intense.

Michael Jackson The Experience HD Vita Review: Simple Yet Addictive

The graphics really pop, and the art design captures Michael in each of his different eras. He never moves too stiff except for in the ‘Thriller’ video, but that was choreographed, and the presentation of the songs as their classic music videos is neat. I would have rather had real footage intercut with the CG Michael, because some of the extra characters – especially in the Black and White video- look real creepy.

The sound is excellent and one of the best parts of the game. Vita’s stereo speakers really sound great, and as the game suggests in the very beginning, the volume should be turned all the way up for optimal enjoyment. Even when my game isn’t going so well, I’m still really enjoying it, because the songs are so great.

If there was one drawback to Michael Jackson: The Experience HD is that it is a glorified iOS-like game. This same game could be played on an iPhone, or iPod Touch. There is nothing that really makes it a “need to own” title for the infant PS Vita system.

Michael Jackson The Experience HD Vita Review: Simple Yet Addictive

No matter how incredible the gameplay is, or how enjoyable it is to hear these songs again, I just can’t stop thinking that I could get a similar game from the iTunes App store for a buck instead of paying $40 for it. And therein lies the problem. Only really big fans of Michael Jackson’s work will want to pay that kind of money, especially for only fifteen songs.

Michael Jackson: The Experience HD is a fun game, more fun than I ever thought it could be. I enjoy playing it, and I really enjoy listening to the music again. It takes me back, and, as the game’s title suggest, it truly is an experience.

Shop for Michael Jackson: The Experience HD on Playstation Vita for a discounted price at Amazon.com (February 15, 2012 release date).

Michael Jackson The Experience HD Vita Review: Simple Yet Addictive

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