When the shipment of Ubisoft's Vita launch day games arrived, Michael Jackson: The Experience was set aside, along with Asphalt: Injection and Dungeon Hunter Alliance, three unfortunate side-effects of getting my hands on Rayman and Lumines.
Indeed I might not have ever gotten around to playing it if not for a random bout of OCD earlier this week, during which I realised I had X amount of game cases but not X amount of colourful circles on my Vita home screen and decided this would not stand.
So I tore open Dungeon Hunter Alliance, played it for five minutes and slipped it into the large 15 game-holding case I picked up (note to self: must always have 15 games, no more, no less). Next came Asphalt, which I played for another five minutes. That one went back in the case with a note to come back to it once I was done with Wipeout. Finally it was Michael Jackson's turn. I split open the case with my freakishly long fingernails and popped it in.
An hour later my wife-figure came home and I was only the slightest bit embarrassed to be holding a device blaring "Smooth Criminal". Thanks, Alien Ant Farm!
Where the console version of Michael Jackson: The Experience ask players to dance like Jackson, an impossible feat, the Vita version only requires you to run your fingers over Jackson while his music plays. Rhythmic finger swipes (not something I expected to write today) are the order of the day. It's like you're tapping along to the tunes, only with a bit more style and grace.
15 of Jackson's most popular songs are represented here in CG video form, presenting the star as he looked during the time each song was released, neatly side-stepping the whole creepy dead guy issue. Michael dances along to your swipes as the music plays, each movement across the screen mapped perfectly to the song and corresponding dance moves. It all comes together quite brilliantly.
I'm not a Michael Jackson fan, mind you. My music collection doesn't contain one song from the deceased pop star, not even ironically. Even so, his music has followed the course of my life. Every time I turned around there was a new hit. "Billie Jean", "Thriller", "Black and White", the song Alien Ant Farm briefly made cool again until they overplayed the hell out of it; this is some of the definitive music of the age, and getting to interact with it in this strange new way is just amazing.
So yes, I had a wonderful time playing with the Vita version of Michael Jackson: The Experience. I still wouldn't recommend anyone buy it, but it's lovely.
Why no recommendation? Well it's short, there's only one real game mode and a couple of difficulty levels. You only get 15 songs, and some of those are latter "hits" I just don't care for, and the overall production is a bit "meh".
Plus hey, it's available on the iPad for $5.49. You only get four songs with the core game, but additional tunes are available for purchase, letting you pick-and-choose the songs you like.
And if you don't have an iPad? Close the blinds, grab some MP3s and dance the night away. No one has to know.