Michael Jackson: The Experience HD (PS Vita)
Bad, Beat It, Billie Jean, Black or White. Other than starting with the letter "B", what else do they have in common? That's right, they're all smash hits of the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson.
I gotta be honest, I only started looking more into MJ's songs after he passed away, but that doesn't mean I've not listened to his songs before when I was young. In fact, the first song I heard from Michael Jackson that I remembered was "Ghost", and I didn't know I've heard of it until recently. Admit it, in one point of your life, MJ's songs have made an impact in you, be it good or bad, big or small, whatever. MJ is a figure that will never be forgotten and to me, he's the perfect epitome of great music and a perfect example of a true talent with real passion for music.
So with that out of the way, are you ready for the experience? The Michael Jackson Experience?
Good, let's go.
Michael Jackson: The Experience HD is developed by Ubisoft for multiple consoles. The one I'll be talking about is the one for the PS Vita. From what I understand, the gameplay differs for different consoles. The Vita version utilises a lot of the front and rear touch screens. In fact, the whole gameplay uses only the touch screens. You'll find that the only button you press is the PlayStation button to go back to the main menu, as well as pressing it along with the Start button to take screenshots.
Honestly speaking, the gameplay feels a lot like Maimai to me, but a lot more watered down. Playing for the first 15 minutes, I also realised that the game registers your performance only when you take your finger off the screen, so that very aspect feels a little like AuditionSEA, where you input all the arrows and press the Spacebar in rhythm.
There is a Freestyle section where you can "draw any shape to create your own choreography and make Michael Jackson do his signature Music Video dance move". Although this sounds like an interesting idea on paper, I can't get MJ to do anything interesting at all due to its largely unresponsive controls. I also feel that the freestyle time is too little, which makes things worse.
Another thing they made you do is to start the game with the easiest difficulty (called Rookie) with very limited options and slowly work your way up from there. For beginners, this is great practice as you'll gradually get better to take on the more difficult settings. However, being a rhythm game enthusiast, I found myself getting bored of the game rather quickly because of the enforced Rookie difficulty. Also, you can't get a "Perfect" game until you hit a certain level where you unlock Perfect Timing.
I would also like to point out that the controls can be rather frustrating at times. If you find a speck of dust on your screen while playing the game, it's best that you either put your Vita on Standby before you wipe it off or don't wipe off at all. If you try to do so during the game, it'll register as a "Miss" and will break your combo altogether, which is frustrating if you wanna go for a Full Combo.
What can I say, it's Michael Jackson. Most of his smash hits are in this game. Classics like Thriller, Billie Jean and Smooth Criminal are present. However, I'm sad to say that Stranger in Moscow and Earth Song (one of my favourite MJ songs) are not available in the Vita version of the game. In addition to that, if you complete a challenge during the game, a note will pop up along with a loud disorienting sound effect. This sound effect may throw your focus off, causing you to make a mistake and lose your chance in getting a Full Combo.
For a Vita game, the graphics are not bad. Although some parts of the game features movie sequences which seem to have been taken from the higher end versions of the game instead (you can actually see the drop in frame rate and the quality of these sequences), the parts where you actually play the game is where the graphics shine. Except for the fact that it gets painfully boring to look at after a while and you start wishing for some real MJ action instead. Just adding the word "HD" at the back of the title doesn't necessary mean that the graphics are better.
Overall, Michael Jackson: The Experience HD is a game that's really heavily based on your personal opinions. If you like MJ's songs, then this game is for you. If you're a rhythm game enthusiast like me, you might wanna try something else. If you're just a casual gamer, I suggest you borrow this game from someone else instead of buying it.
To me, other than it being the novelty of Michael Jackson, it doesn't have much special features that other music games don't have. I do love his songs, but not if I have to play through every song and complete the challenges just so that I can listen to the songs without any disturbance of "Challenge Complete" sound effects.
Thanks for reading my review, and may you Get Inspired Now!