Experiencing Michael Jackson

My rhythm is off, and I am completely out of step. This is the easiest song on the Wii version of Michael Jackson: The Experience. And the experience so far is difficult.

Later this year, Ubisoft is bringing Michael Jackson's dance moves to the Wii with Michael Jackson: The Experience. Next year, singing and dancing will arrive for the PlayStation Move and the Xbox 360 Kinect with the Move version getting a singing-only karaoke version. The Wii version does have song subtitles, but it is not a singing game.

As a child of the 1980s, I am a huge Jackson fan. His music videos weren't simply videos but were something the world had never seen. I had a white glove, penny loafers and even some sort of Jackson Sgt Peppers-type jacket. By the end of the '80s, Jackson had become increasingly peculiar and his eccentricities (and image) continued to worsen during the following decade.

But something that did not change was his gift for both music and dancing.

Ubisoft is asking a lot of players with Michael Jackson: The Experience. His dance moves - even the easier ones - are no cake walk. Fans of Jackson should be excited that they can learn Jackson's trademark moves. Yet at the same time, there is a sense of "Oh crap, this game has Jackson's trademark moves."

Michael Jackson: The Experience does not simply replicate Jackson's dancing but has players get up off their duff to do the moves. There are on-screen cues that clue in players for each move. On the Wii version, the game tracks the where the player starts each move while holding the Wii Remote, where the player ends each move and the degree of force which the Wii Remote is swung through space. Meaning? You apparently can't cheat the game like with, say, Wii Sports. (The Kinect and the Move versions will use more in-depth tracking.)

The Wii version ranks each song by difficulty, but the Move and Kinect versions allow players to change the difficulty of each tune. And if Jackson's moves prove too challenging, players can select the backup dancers. "They Don't Care About Us" is one of the less challenging tunes on the Wii version. When originally released, the song was one of the most controversial Jackson song with critics saying the lyrics were racist. The lyrics featured in the game have been edited so that the controversial lyrics are not included. According to Ubisoft, the song edit is Sony Music-approved.

After fumbling both my left feet through "They Don't Care About Us", I found "Smooth Criminal" nearly impossible. One thing that Ubisoft has done is repeat certain dance patterns over and over again in Michael Jackson: The Experience. It is possible to get the hang of the moves, and if you are a good dancer, you'll pick them up pretty fast.

"Smooth Criminal" does have the famous "lean move", but players shouldn't expect to learn how to do it. Jackson wore specially designed shoes to pull it off. And no, Ubisoft is not planning on releasing a Smooth Criminal lean shoes peripheral.

One or two playthroughs with Michael Jackson: The Experience is not enough time. Weeks, months (and maybe even years) would be required to get me halfway decent at the moves. You might pick it up in an afternoon. (Good for you!) In the privacy of my own home, the experience might be different. No, it would be different. It definitely would be different. And repeated play would help diffuse any feelings of being overwhelmed. I just tried to imagine keeping up with Jackson's moves and singing.

Fans of Jackson's who want to learn his moves and sing his songs will love this game. This is for you. This is what the game promises, and from what I saw of the dancing, it seems to deliver. But for now, I'll stick with Moonwalker.


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