SingStar Take That
I’m not really interested in Take That. Being both under thirty five years of age and male, that’s understandable. My mother, however, being some undisclosed number north of thirty five (as well as female, obviously) is very interested in Take That. Upon receiving the review copy of their licensed SingStar outing, I lugged the PlayStation through to the living room and tried to hook it up. It didn’t output video or sound. Fifteen minutes of faffery and several room-to-room lugs later, we were up and running.
If I’d had my own way I wouldn’t even be writing this. Despite a failure to coerce my mum into actually reviewing the game for me, she was more than opinionated enough for this to stretch into a reasonable assessment of the title. Granted, it’s hardly the most scientific of methods being based on not at all rigorous tests and very limited empirical evidence, but Mrs McMillan is about as far from “hardcore” as it’s possible to be.
We dug out the old PS2 microphones and fired up the Blu-ray. At first I maintained a firm grip on the controller. As the disc loaded, though, it became increasingly clear that Sony had gone out of their way to to accommodate non-gamers and help them wrap their heads around both the interface and the rather alien DualShock. It never ceases to amaze me how inept most people are when plonked in front of a screen with any input device that isn’t a TV remote, and Studio London evidently feel the same way. The UI is very neatly laid out, with the simple but effective menu screen accompanied by button commands and a help prompt at all times. Indeed, the first thing the player is presented with following the PlayStation 3 logo is a handy guide to what each button does.
I tentatively handed the pad to my mother, explaining how to pick songs and which mode to select. She just about got it, but occasionally tapped the wrong thing and ended up getting horribly lost in the bowels of the options menu. Good effort, Sony, but it’s not quite perfect. What further confused her was a screen that popped up each time we entered song-selection. If we chose “yes”, we were told, a mode would be enabled whereby our voices would be used to pick songs. It was explained thoroughly, but mum – by this time eager to belt out a few ballads – didn’t quite understand. She mashed X in a panic and was prompted to say “Relight My Fire” as a practice.
“I don’t want to sing that yet”, she complained, now getting frustrated that she hadn’t already heard at least one epic key change. Attempting to explain didn’t yield much, so I grabbed the controller and cancelled it all, dismissing the fancy-pants voice recognition and reverting to the old-fashioned way. We went for the first song available; one of the singles from the group’s comeback album. Mum is a good singer, and I like to think I’m a reasonably competent one, and we fared pretty well. We rotated modes and vocal parts frequently, she relishing the chance to do harmonies far more than I.
One exhaustive, career-spanning session later, I asked Mum what she thought. She hadn’t enjoyed the practice mode because it didn’t include the blue and red pitch markers, or, as she described them, “those blobby bits”. Otherwise, apparently, she had a great time. I’m not ashamed to admit that it was surprisingly fun. They may not be the most exciting quartet in British music, but they certainly know what makes a bloody great pop tune. The novelty of playing a video game with my mother of all people only served to amplify the enjoyment, though the activity was so stereotypically family friendly and wholesome that I felt compelled immediately afterwards to play something horribly violent and offensive.
So, how to sum up? It’s SingStar, featuring Take That. The interface and general friendliness of the presentation as a whole is a marked improvement over that of the series’ last generation, and this edition’s track listing doesn’t appear to have any gaping holes. Were we to want to play more but became tired of Gary Barlow and those other blokes, the download store is only a few taps away, and the presence of a wider SingStar platform felt firmly in place despite the focus on a single group.
“What score would you give it, Mum?”
“Oooh, ten out of ten!”