Tuesday, October 2, 2007

“Sing out Louise!” SingStar: Pop, Rocks!, Amped & ‘80s Reviewed

By Jody Worthington


Console: Sony PlayStation 2 | Rating: E10+ | Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe

It was about 10 o’clock on a Friday night when the pizza guy showed up. Only - we didn’t hear him. His feeble knocks were completely inaudible over the thumping bass of “I’m a Survivor” by Destiny’s Child, the spastic jumping-slash-booty-dancing and the piercing, sporadic shrieks we tried to pass off as “singing.” For singers, non-singers, gamers and non-gamers, SingStar karaoke for the PlayStation 2 brings about a revolution within two venerated, cult-ish pasttimes: videogames and karaoke.

First, forget that it’s a videogame. I did. I’m your typical non-gamer, the type who twiddles aimlessly with analog sticks and is confounded when my boyfriend tells me that “up means down.” Yet, the first time I hooked up the PS2 and popped in a DVD, I found the SingStar control scheme and menu panels to be pretty visceral. The clean, white background and simple colored icons are refreshing. The complete lack of a daunting learning curve allowed me to concentrate on the most important part - picking a song.


The song selection is, surprisingly, quite awesome. Now, I’ve done a lot of karaoke - I even own an old-school clunker of a karaoke machine and a ton of CDs to go with it. I’ve always lamented about the lame-ness of most karaoke compilation discs. They usually consist of two or three good, solid hits, while the other 20-odd tracks are pure duds that no one has heard of. Not so with SingStar. Every DVD is bulging with hits that people actually get excited about. So far, there are four compilations: Amped, Rocks!, Pop and ‘80s. You can buy each game on its own for $30, or with the two obligatory microphones included for around $50. There is also a bundle package with an exclusive white PS2, SingStar Pop, and both microphones.

The dual mic setup is crucial - I’d say the duet and battle mode are 100 times more fun than the traditional solo approach. Duet lets you share the burden of embarrassment during the high warbles of Europe’s “The Final Countdown,” while battle mode ups the ante a bit. Competitors (red team vs. blue team) will take turns screeching/rapping/grunting the versus and choruses, while striving to get the most pitch-accuracy points. Some songs are great for battle mode (usually the ones that have rapid-fire back-and-forth cadences, notably Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky”).

The makers of SingStar know that a great song is enhanced tri-fold by a great music video. Until now, I had never seen such a large crowd gather ‘round the TV for karaoke. If you don’t care to sing, or don’t care about watching people sing, you can just catch the original recordings and their accompanying music videos.

Quite the opposite of the geek-in-basement-for-days stereotypical gaming experience, SingStar, with its ADD-proof music videos and easy learning curve, creates an impromptu party atmosphere - whether you have two or 20 people.

Final Grade: B+

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