Michael Jackson: The Experience is due for release on Kinect this April 14th, and Game Rant got another chance today to test out the hardware, dance to the music and moonwalk away with some contestants from So You Think You Can Dance Canada.
We had previously experienced Michael Jackson: The Experience at E3 (on the Wii) and PAX (for Kinect) but this was our most in-depth and lengthy hands-on (Or, hand-off on Kinect) opportunity with the updated Ubisoft title yet.
The first thing you'll notice about the Michael Jackson dance game is that instead of using a pre-made avatar for your character, the game utilizes Kinect to project an image of you, and subsequently, whatever you're wearing. The feedback from Kinect on this was one-to-one all the way with no lag, though the backup dancers were generic, well-suited men in hats.
What was really is impressive is when a girl twirled her sweater over her head while dancing, Kinect tracked it above her and didn't get confused as to which part was the human dancing and what was clothing. Ubisoft has done a fantastic job coding the visual interpretation for the game, and it adds a really nice immersion factor when you see sparks and fireworks exploding from your fingertips onscreen. In the menu, if you stand up, sit down, crouch or move from side to side, the menu is going to follow your projection around - it's a neat, Minority Report-esque introduction to how the motion tracking works, and Ubisoft definitely learned a few tricks from their work on Your Shape: Fitness Evolved.
Once you decide whether you want to go solo or have a party (in which many can dance, but only you and the two backups are tracked) you must choose playing style - and I'm not talking about difficulty. You can choose to either Dance or Perform. In Performing, the player sings and dances at the same time, or they have it broken up into sections. From there on, the player can pick the difficulty and moonwalk their way to stardom.
For those of you who may not have the space to moonwalk, have no fear - the actual dance move has you mimicking a moonwalk in a single position, but Kinect moves the onscreen version of you smoothly across the virtual stage. There are occasions when the 'Kinect Rotoscoping Feature,' as I'll call it, will cut off parts of your head but for the most part it's a smooth playback. The Dance Mechanics are similar to that of Dance Central, so users who have put some time into it will be able to jump into Michael Jackson: The Experience a little more easily. That said, for beginners like me, even the moves of Michael Jackson let me off lightly, though I was certainly no pop virtuoso.
If you're wondering if the game is just a tie-in due to his untimely death, Ubisoft International Brand Manager Felicia Williams was quick to say that they worked closely with the Jackson Estate for the game, and they had their own reasoning as to why the game is coming out now:
"Why didn't we have a Michael Jackson game years ago? The reality is that for the first time ever, videogames have actually been able to step up to being able to provide an experience like the one Michael Jackson did to the fans. For the first time ever we actually have true motion gaming. We can live up to, hopefully, his greatness."
The Kinect version is looking to be a massive improvement over the lacking Wii variant released in November, but you'll have to be a fan of Michael Jackson and his stylized, unique dancing to really enjoy the game. If you don't like snappy movements, sham-ons and moonwalks, I'd recommend you stay with Dance Central - but if you want to go for a thriller, Michael Jackson: The Experience should deliver a solid series of pop dances.