Let’s face it; we all love to sing. If that isn’t true, we all know at least one person who is able to shatter eardrums worldwide with their cringe-worthy confidence and note-destroying range capabilities. At this time of the year, the opportunity for this kind of torture increases like the right to unleash Cliff Richard’s unsavoury catalogue of hits on the entire family. Seizing the moment, Microsoft have employed developers iNiS Corp to ramp up their ploy to dismantle Sony’s popular SingStar franchise. With more than a few tricks up its sleeve, Lips steps onto stage holding great potential over the approaching festive period.
As with all rhythm and singing games, the track listing needs to be of a high and diverse standard to ensure gamers are going to want to bop along to each beat. Thankfully, Lips includes over forty songs from a whole variety of superstars. From ‘50s legend Johnny Cash to modern day icons such as Kaiser Chiefs, Lupe Fiasco and Rihanna, there is an excellent sweep that covers enough genres to get most people warming up their tracheas without much hesitation. Every song features the original video and a number of graphically enhanced alternatives, allowing the player to pick and choose from their favourite graphical appearances. The karaoke style gameplay will be familiar to most, as Lips makes a weak effort at judging different pitches and tones that your voice inevitably spurts out in order to produce a final score. Although it sounds judging and technically brilliant, it doesn’t actually matter what words you say, as long as you say something. The points for each note can be accumulated in an extraordinarily easy manner, meaning the challenge of competition may become hindered and extremely unrealistic.
More often than not, even a well-established and varied set of songs can become tiring. Excellently, the Lips set-list is already growing via downloadable content from Live Marketplace. Including a free download of A-ha’s “Take On Me,” it’s great to see that Microsoft are producing entertaining material early on. In order to succeed, it will be interesting to see if these downloads continue into the New Year, something that would see Lips overtake the hideously unused SingStar shop service. Still, if you are notoriously hard to cater for when it comes to selecting a track to sing, Lips holds a neat surprise in store.
If, like many budding recording artists, you have ever wanted to sing your favourite songs to the world (or at least, your family), then you’ll find even more value in Lips. With MP3 player support, iNiS have ensured that many of the major companies’ models can be connected to your 360, and quickly shattered. Unfortunately, singing to your own MP3s begins to hold a limited appeal after a quick burst of play, as the Lips formula begins to undo itself. As the game tries to calculate your result, you’ll soon realise that you can make any noise, at any time, to grab those ego-building high scores. This is really disappointing, as the fun of singing to your own library on Lips is as relevant and entertaining as shouting them out in the shower. With that said, iNiS are definitely onto a formula that can be built on in future editions of this game.
Progressing the genre into the current generation, the decision to ensure two wireless microphones are bundled in with every copy of the game is a massive boost for eager multiplayer duos. Not only are they lightweight, pulse in time with each individual song, and hugely stylish, they are motion sensitive. During songs, both players can tap in time with the beat, adding a range of percussionist noises by waving the microphone rhythmically through the air. As there is a lack of voice-playback after a track has finished, this kind of extra gameplay element should aim to provide an extended thrill. Unfortunately, there isn’t much appeal in the motion sensor as of yet, but once again it seems that iNiS have lied down the woodwork for a much bigger and better concert at a later date.
Of course, running alongside the friendly multiplayer available in Lips, there are also some interesting competitive modes to get in tune for. Many players will start with the “Time Bomb” mode, an instantly accessible and entertaining formula. Taking it in turns to sing, gamers have to hit the correct notes in order to fill their glass up with water and pour it onto a ticking bomb. This is hugely similar to the “Vocal Fighters” game, where players try to out sing one another at the same time as they tussle for the limelight on stage. Most interestingly, the best competitive game of all three is the “Kiss” variation. This is where players must consistently sing well together in order to bring their characters towards each other in a final embrace. Using the motion sensor, each singer must activate a similar pose in unison to ensure success. Although all three a largely uninventive and aren’t exactly groundbreaking, they do amount to a good sense of fun, especially with a group of humorously awful friends.
When the winter holidays finally fall and the parties begin, Lips certainly is a decent addition to the ever-growing family genre. At the forefront of Microsoft’s push for Christmas number one, there will be many families around the world limbering up to sing their hearts out right up into 2009. With an excellent song choice and potentially limitless library, Lips is a well-produced and entertaining title. It’s clear that iNiS are only testing the water for future, more ambitious projects, as the odd bland idea or misfired inclusion can be found. With that said, Lips is sure to work its way up the chart, no matter how badly you want Auntie Glenda to put down the whisky and stop bellowing out “Another One Bites the Dust.”