Everybody loves a bit of karaoke now and again; it brings out the best and worst of people. From the annoying people who can sing, and know they can, to the people who can’t sing, but think they can. It’s these people that have made Simon Cowell as rich as he is with shows like X-Factor & Pop Idol. So wouldn’t it be great if all the fun of karaoke could be had in the home, or even better on a console? The fact is that it has been possible to do this for years. There are a number of games available, but the most well known is the SingStar franchise.
The SingStar series boasts an astonishing 13 titles in the UK alone, and over 25 worldwide, including the most recent SingStar. This is the first in the series to grace the PlayStation 3 and is available either with or without microphones, as the mics from previous titles will still work.
The premise of the game is the same as always. Players are tasked with singing songs in time and at the right pitch, but it also helps to sing the right words as well, although astoundingly this is not needed. To help improve the performance the words and pitch of the original song are shown. With the performers pitch and timing represented by a blue or red line on the screen depending on the microphone being used, with the aim to get the performer’s line as near as possible to the original. At the end of each line a rating from awful to cool is given. The closer the performance is to the original, the higher the final score will be. It’s all pretty straightforward and easy to understand once playing. There is one problem with the system however, and that is the fact that as mentioned above, there is no need to sing the right words, or even any words to score high. Just make a noise at the right pitch and time to score points. Having said that, it’ll only work in single player as any other players will cotton on pretty quickly.
Hook up either a PlayStation Eye or an EyeToy camera to the PS3 and it’ll record the performance as well as take snapshots throughout. These can be viewed once the song is finished along with the audio, which can be edited in a basic manner. If happy with these mementos then they can be saved, and viewed at a later time (i.e. when sober). These can then be uploaded to the users SingStar Gallery, which acts as a homepage along the lines of a social networking site, and Youtube. The gallery also enables users to peruse through other gamers’ performances, either searching for them though the user list, or taking a look at the highest rated or most recently uploaded. It’s well worth taking a look at these, as there are some interesting performances. Notable mentions go to a guy dressed as Chewbacca, and someone dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow, singing Park Life by Blur.
The game is broken down into five main sections. “Solo Sing” is where a performer tries to score as high as they can. “Duet” has two singers working together to get a high a score as possible. “Battle” pits two singers against each other, trying to score the highest and “Practice” is self-explanatory. There is also a “Pass The Mic” mode that puts two teams of up to four players against each other. This mode is itself broken down into a series of events including the ones previously mentioned as well as “First To The Post” which is a battle to see which singer gets to a specified score first. “Keep It Up”, where performers try to keep their score from falling below a certain marker, and “Pass The Mic”, which sees the team sing whilst passing the mic around.
SingStar features 30 songs covering a range of genres from U2’s Beautiful Day to Britney Spears’ Toxic, so there’s something for everybody. Once fed up of these songs simply navigate to the SingStore where wider ranges of songs are available, from Lighting Seeds’ Three Lions, to The Weather Girls’ It’s Raining Men. These songs are downloaded from the store onto the PlayStation’s hard drive and once downloaded appear with the rest of the tracks in the menu. The cost of each song is just 99p ($2) which when considering iTunes songs cost 79p ($1.60) just for the audio, and videos costing roughly £1.50 ($3), it seems like a bargain. What’s also good is that new songs are made available to download once a month, so the catalogue will always be expanding. The store also does away with the need to go out a buy a disc for extra songs, which will probably contain tracks not really wanted.
All in all SingStar is a great game, instantly accessible with nothing to unlock, but plenty of downloadable content available online. The premise is a little simple, and it may get tiresome after a while without updating songs. The presentation is all on top form with official music videos, nice clean backgrounds and themes to choose from. The best thing about this game however is that it appeals to everybody, regardless of age or skill. Although some of the music videos and content online may be unsuitable for younger gamers. In terms of improvements the game may have benefited from a story/career mode to help extend the single player experience, but the main draw of the game will always be to play with friends and family. It’s a wonderful game to add a collection, and it exactly this sort of game that can give the PlayStation a lead over its rivals.