Karaoke. Perhaps the single most effective means of enjoying whilst simultaneously humiliating yourself in public. It’s one of those pastimes which, although mildly enjoyable on your own, is exponentially more pleasurable with one or more friends, much like paintball or orgies. SingStar, along with the EyeToy was one of Sony’s first attempts to tap into the casual market back in 2004, and since its first release there has been approximately eighteen hundred differing versions, catering for all sorts of genres from Death Metal, Punk Rock and Classical Opera.
SingStar ’80s is an ideal guilty pleasure for those who grew up wearing silver mascara, quoting The Goonies whenever possible (“Pinchers of Peril! You guys… I’ve been saved by my Pinchers of Peril!”) and wishing for a black Pontiac Trans Am T-top with a red LED display at the front and its own voice and personality. The game comes with two USB microphones or, if you already have some PS2 mics, standalone, and the mics themselves are fairly weighty, have fairly long wires and seem tough and durable enough (although I wouldn’t recommend excessive swinging around by the wire, for the budding Mick Jaggers out there). Ideally it would be perfect if they were wireless, but apparently this is something Sony is working on for the PS3 edition.
Continental differencesThe UK and US versions of the game have a handful of differences in the song line-up, some with an alternate song by the same artists, and some totally different. Those changes include our US friends getting Blondie’s Heart of Glass as oppose to Atomic, likewise Culture Club’s Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? instead of Karma Chameleon, and R.E.M. with Stand replacing The Cure and Just Like Heaven. It’s the Dutch version which really excites though; who can forget such timeless classics as Clouseau’s Daar Gaat Ze?!
A full track-list for all versions can be found on Wikipedia
There’s enough variety to cater for almost everyone, with tracks like Alice Cooper’s Poison, Run DMC’s It’s Tricky and Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger – or better known as that song from Rocky III – for the masculine among us, and the likes of Madonna’s Material Girl and Katrina and the Waves’ Walking on Sunshine catering for the more effeminate out there. There are also some great androgynous tracks that everyone can enjoy, such as Europe’s The Final Countdown, Madness’ Our House and Blondie with Atomic. All songs featured (with the exception of Eye of the Tiger, strangely) have the full music videos (perfect for chuckling at awful ’80s styles), and you can also sing along with a few medleys, pushing the song total up to 35. However, given this should be a definitive ’80s sing-along anthems compilation, there has surely been a few questionable omissions – where, pray tell, is anything by Michael Jackson? How about some Prince? Or even the definitive 80s hair-metal rockers, Bon Jovi?! Understandably this is probably down to licensing issues, but the lack of these artists seems a little odd in an ’80s compilation.
The style and presentation is slick, stylish and minimal, sporting a retro ’80s look, and the game has little by way of disruptive loading. Menus are easy to navigate (although you will need the standard PS2 controller for this) and the game has a fair few options, given the comparative limitations of the karaoke genre. The up-to-eight-player Pass The Mic and two player modes (Collaborative Duet and Battle Mode) are best, as I must re-iterate this is definitely a title which is at its best when played with friends. You can also play a mode called Sing-Song, which emulates the gameplay from the classic Pong, but you must raise or lower your pitch to move the paddles up and down. This is a lot harder than it sounds, and takes a little while to get used to. Lastly, you can sing alone, if you want to get in some practice or just generally prefer not looking like an idiot around others. When songs are finished you can listen to yourself singing, and you can also record and save performances with the EyeToy USB camera, which is a nice feature for those who can take advantage.
The score at the bottom is almost irrelevant, because I expect almost anyone reading this will already know whether they will enjoy this game or not. Essentially a PS2 karaoke game, it’s really not worth an investment unless you can and will play it with others (possibly in a situation involving alcohol consumption…), and you obviously enjoy some of the songs featured. Sony London Studio have crafted a competent title which should appeal to fans of the music, but is ultimately constrained by the limitations of the genre and the hardware.