iPad users have had the pleasure of checking out Michael Jackson: The Experience [$0.99 / $0.99 (HD)] for a few months, but it wasn’t until last week that iPhone/touch users were finally able to jam with the King of Pop. Now that both versions are available, we thought we’d see how it plays out on iOS. Unfortunately, the excellent presentation and fan service that it offers aren’t enough to overcome a variety of issues concerning controls, song selection and visuals.

If you’ve never played one of the many iterations of Michael Jackson: The Experience, you’re in for a treat from a fan service perspective. Songs take place in environments from their music videos, with backup dancers and scene changes as appropriate. Cutscenes and familiar choreography set the stage and do a great job helping you remember the time of classic (and dare I say, better) music videos. You can also change Michael’s costumes between songs (for a price), adding to the nostalgia. There’s a lot here in terms of presentation and production values. Unfortunately, the game goes downhill from there.

Being based off the Vita version of Experience, you’d expect this iOS port to have decent visuals and to a certain extent you’d be correct. The game looks nice enough, but behind the mask you’ll find stunted (and repetitive) movement. In addition, I encountered slowdown spikes at random intervals during some song runs, which can be really dangerous and mess up timing (particularly in a rhythm game). Still, outside the slowdown the visuals work well enough for a rhythm game, until you get to the controls.

Experience’s gameplay centers on swipes and taps that must be done to the beat of the music. Prompts will appear on the screen indicating the direction and timing of the move, with two indicators slowly coming together until they merge (indicating the right time to swipe/tap). Harder difficulty levels add in curve and circle-swipes, as well as moves requiring both hands.

There are several issues with the rhythm controls in Experience. First, the timing mechanism just feels off. There are not enough visual cues to really differentiate between a ‘Perfect’ and a ‘Great,’ leaving you guessing a lot. In addition, there aren’t any auditory cues if you miss notes. Finally, while I understand hard difficulties are supposed to be, well, difficult, but Experience’s difficulty seems to stem more from a confusing mess of control prompts rather than actual difficulty. Other silly issues, such as the inability to see which difficulties you’ve beaten, and the lack of a song progress meter, keep the game behind the curve.

One area that is really disappointing in Experience is the song selection. For the price of the game you get four full songs to play, with 9 others available as IAP (separate purchases, no packs). Strangely enough, the IAP selection seems to vary between the iPhone version and the iPad version. For example, Thriller is available as IAP for iPad, while it’s not for iPhone (which makes no sense to me). I’m not sure of the reason for this fragmentation (besides monetary reasons), but I don’t like it. Adding insult to injury is the fact that all the IAP is pre-downloaded, with purchases simply “unlocking” the songs vice downloading. Maybe it doesn’t make much of a difference but it just feels wrong.

Unfortunately, offering a recommendation for Experience isn’t as black or white as one would hope. The imprecise controls, and surprisingly small song selection hold the game back. Of course, that’s not to say that the game is necessarily bad – it just isn’t as good as the better iOS rhythm titles. Regardless, if you’re a fan of Jackson songs and you’re willing to put up with the above issues, you can do a lot worse than Michael Jackson: The Experience. Just don’t expect much more than the fan service if you get it.

TouchArcade Rating

  • ratsinheat


  • http://www.uplayblog.com/ Bianca Mól

    the graphics of this game are awesome, but I bought it before reading the reviews.. what a bad thing to do.

    I got it on my iPad for 4.99 and I really thought I'd have all the songs unlocked. It shocked me when I realized I had to buy (for such a high price, in my opinion) songs that I really wanted to play. having only 4 songs for almost 5 dollars is pretty unfair... but, still, as I said before, its graphics are fantastic and I didn't dislike the gameplay.

  • Vincent Farrand

    Is it just me, or is it funny that a screen cap for a Micheal Jackson games has children in it...

    • Benegesserit

      MJ always wanted to be portrayed with children even down to his dying day. He didn't let the accusations of illicit activity stop him from expressing how much he loved children. Doesn't matter what era of MJ's life it is, children imitate his moves all the time. It's fitting despite the unfair pedo reputation that stuck on him (outside of being loony in general with regards to his appearance).

      • andyt7l

        Michael Jackson has not any "pedo reputation", only for the pedos around the world who does love talking about having sex with children, like you. Never heard of him being loony, if not from tabloid trash and pedos like you.

    • JCat_NY

      I bet you were loving his music at one time. Michael Jackson + children jokes = played out to death. 

  • Benegesserit

    Jam, Dangerous (tour), Black or White. Nice reference slips in the article. Nothing beats the Sega Moonwalker game, though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Samuel-Johnson/100002761400995 Samuel Johnson

    All the pedos around the web do not lose occasion to speak - and not only - about having sex with children. 

  • ratsinheat

    Michael Jackson was probably the most famous of all Seers, as we call ourselves. We can communicated on an intangible level which has yet to be deciphered by science. Simply feeling the thoughts and lives of other Seers feeds us. During he trial we all experienced dark days. It was his cries and tears we felt throughout that time. Utter disgust for humanity was also felt from a very different celebrity but I dont need to go into that, I'm sure you know who I am referring to. One casual Seer is upset with my saying these things but most rest well at the thought, or sight, of it.

  • Mandy Brown

    Fuck all the hater you re the best

Michael Jackson The Experience HD Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 3