Medium: Vita Card/Digital Download
Have you played Elite Beat Agents? Maybe Parappa the Rapper if you’re a little old school? Then you’ll be right at home with Michael Jackson: The Experience HD on the PlayStation Vita. This feels like any other rhythm based game prior to Kinect sensors, Guitar Hero controllers, and other devices that have changed the way we think about rhythm games. Just replace the standard face button controls found in Parappa the Rapper or Umjammer Lammy, and put them on the touch screen instead.
The Experience contains just a little over a dozen of some of the most well-known Michael Jackson songs around. You’ve got Thriller, Beat It, Billie Jean and a lot more. There are some notable absences, no Man in the Mirror for instance, and some odd inclusions that even I wasn’t very familiar with. But overall it’s a decent track list, but at 15 or so tracks, you’ll buzz through what the game has to offer quickly.
The tracks are designed to be played multiple times, with a number of challenges for each track. Some challenges have completion requirements that involve varying difficulty settings, so you might need to get 50 perfect swipes in Billie Jean on Medium, or hit a 100 string combo on Expert in Thriller, and so on.
Because of the need to replay these songs over and over again, this is definitely a game that I can only recommend to big fans of Michael’s back catalogue. You probably could’ve guessed that, but as a fairly casual fan, I found myself growing bored with replaying a handful of the tracks over and over again, so the appeal is definitely limited.
The only positive thing about tackling the challenges is that for every completion you’ll typically unlock something. Sometimes the unlockables are song specific, and add effects to the music video that plays in the background while you tap along on-screen. Other unlocks involve skins for Michael’s avatar, new gloves, and a few other cosmetic items. The unfortunate side is that the unlockables are rarely exciting additions to the game.
As far as the touch screen controls, the game is remarkably responsive, and picks up on your actions pretty well. The movements you’ll use are simple swipes in 8 different directions, small taps, half circles, and full circles. The direction of these movements is dictated by where they appear on screen, and occasionally you’ll need to double up with your movements, which does take some adjusting depending on how you hold the Vita.
I was genuinely impressed with how responsive the game was with my movements, and while it’s hard to deny that button presses might end up being more accurate, I had no issues nailing multiple perfect swipes in every song. Even on the hardest difficult I could still hold my own, and never really felt like it was the fault of the game if I missed a movement.
But again, this is a game with limited appeal. You’ve got to be an M.J. fan going in to really get much enjoyment out of this, and on top of that you’ve got to be O.K. with some really repetitive gameplay. It would have been really nice to at least see his catalogue of music blown out a little more here, as it stands there’s very little content for the asking price. If you enjoy older style rhythm games, you’ll probably get a little bit of fun out of this, but I highly urge you to wait for a discount or price drop before taking the plunge.