One of my earliest memories is dancing along to a cassette of Dirty Diana (one of MJ's most underrated songs, I'll have you know), bopping about on the sofa and trying to sing along to lyrics I could neither understand nor verbalise. You can say what you want about 'Wacko Jacko', but his influence on both music and dance transcends age, gender and musical taste. Michael Jackson The Experience, then, has an incredibly wide audience; a dancing game that puts players in the moonwalking shoes of the King of Pop, allowing them to recreate (or even create for the first time) these childhood dance routines. On show at gamescom was the Wii version, which focuses exclusively on the dancing side of the experience. While the 360 and PS3 versions will allow players to sing and dance (via Kinect and Move respectively), the Wii version plays out similarly to Ubisoft's own Just Dance games.
Kenny, the dancer demonstrating Michael Jackson The Experience was a bit of a pro. The way he glided about the pseudo dance floor was a sight to behold. If Michael Jackson (when he was alive) ever needed a dance-double, Kenny would have done an admirable job. As the sound of MJ's immortal classic Billy Jean filled the room, Kenny rolled his shoulders as he moved from left to right, thrusting the Wii-mote into the air when he reached the furthest point of each side. On screen, the stylish, silhouetted MJ (appeared to) copy his moves faithfully, with his gloved right hand effervescing sparks and stars to indicate the position of the Wii Remote.
In the top right hand corner of the screen, simple diagrams scrolled up, showing what move Kenny needed to pull off next. He was scored according to how in time he was with each move. Being the slick mover that he was, Kenny failed to score anything below a 'Great' (the majority were 'Perfect', in fact). Although the game won't be able to hear you, there are also lyrics running along the bottom of the screen if you fancy belting out a few vocals. The full track-list has yet to be revealed, but we know that Billy Jean, Beat It, Bad, Earth Song, Working Day and Night and The Girl Is Mine will all be somewhere on the disc.
Kenny made the game look good - that was his job after all - but this is essentially a Michael Jackson branded version of Just Dance. This isn't a bad thing from a sales perspective - Just Dance has sold about four thousand trillion copies after all - but the fact remains that it's not a great dancing game. Of course the PS3 and 360 versions are likely to be very different, but the Wii version on show here looked just as shallow as the Just Dance games before it.
Unlike Kinect or Move, the game only tracks the position of the Wii-mote itself, meaning you could easily cheat your way through certain dance moves. I doubt anybody would do this intentionally, but it means that the game won't be able to reward players that can actually dance well. For those that can't and would like to learn, the game will also feature a tutorial mode, which will teach players how to pull off the moonwalk and more of MJ's trickier moves.
Like the vast majority of people, I'm a huge fan of Jacko's music. A game that collates his extensive catalogue of work and allows people to dance (and sing) along will undoubtedly pull in a huge audience. Technically speaking, however, the Wii version of the game didn't look great, but with four-player support and a selection of songs as good as this - you'll probably still have a good time with it.
Michael Jackson The Experience is available for Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PSP and DS in November