I’m afraid I must confess something to you dear readers. I cannot stand idly by and let a potential time bomb of ethics explode from this review when people discover the horrifying, sickening truth. You need to know this, full disclosure, all cards on the table, let me be frank, let me be Tiffany. Let me lay this on you.
I reviewed a karaoke game…and I cannot sing worth a damn. Yet, I still have opinions on it. Right, now you’ve recovered from that, let’s get down to why Now That’s What I Call Sing (Why wasn’t it called Now Singing?) has some neat twists on the karaoke game genre, but feels a little soulless.
The long-running musical compilation series ‘’Now That’s What I Call Music’’ has collected the biggest hits of any given six month period and shipped them as a double tape/CD/MP3 for so long that everyone included in the setlist for this Karaoke game wasn’t even born when it gained prominence. Well, apart from James Blunt. He’s clearly an immortal being made to suffer in the guise of a man called James Blunt for all eternity. Anyway, there have been some great tracklists over the years, full of now iconic hits from the likes of Wham! Nirvana, Oasis, Kajagoogoo, 2 Unlimited and Rednex. None of these make the cut for Now That’s What I Call Sing though.
The majority of the tunes available to belt out are from the last few years, and forgive me on this one, but I had next to no bloody clue who most of them were until I heard their songs and realised I’d heard the majority of them in various terrible adverts only this week. The ‘’standout’’ modern tracks are the aural syphilis known as ‘’Uptown Funk’ and the bane of parents and karaoke DJ’s since 2013; the ever popular Let it Go from that Ice Age spinoff. The rest of the recent stuff is just as vapid and throwaway, but somehow less tolerable. I was sure I’d make it to my deathbed without hearing the entirety of Sam Smith’s wailing down a toilet bowl hit Stay With Me. I have not died, but I have heard that warbling bollocks from start to finish.
This playlist clearly isn’t meant for the majority of people in their 30’s who’ve existed on a diet of Hip-Hop, Heavy Rock, Classical Scores and Electro ever since they reached their teens. No, this is a party game for ironic fun and/or young adults who like to have a sing-song before heading out into town. For that purpose, NTWiCS absolutely nails it, throwing in the odd easy sell like LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem and Maroon 5’s Moves Like Jagger to broaden the range a bit. The issue here is it’s still heavily balanced in favour of very modern songs. If you whip this out at Christmas, chances are your Uncle is only going to know one or two songs, Nan won’t know what any of it is, but will remark that that Olly Murs boy is quite handsome. Being that this game is based off a music series that captures the greatest popular hits of our time, it feels very much like it caters to a surprisingly small demographic if it wishes to compete in a market that is as fiercely contested in the holiday season as the DVD sales for sporting calamity clip compilations and autobiographies by celebs that you’d suspect would have trouble regaling you with a story about their breakfast let alone anything exciting. It makes the game stand out sure, but not for the right reasons.
Perhaps just as important as a good, varied tracklist is a good karaoke engine to play them on. Here is where you can see a distinct attempt to separate NTWiCS from its peers with a bevvy of modes designed to keep things fresh beyond a few goes at each song. The standard singing the song, duet and pass the mic options are there, but the addition of more extreme modes are a musical sadist’s dreamland, giving you the option to belt out the songs for an obscenely difficult to achieve amount of points and another that leaves you without any vocal backup or visual cues. These would be excellent features for a family gathering if, and I despise having to repeat this point, the tracklist was more varied. The way the game is presented and otherwise played is far less inspired. It would be gracious to say that NTWiCS owes Sony’s Singstar a huge debt. It would be more realistic to say the design choices are simply a lazy rehash of the Singstar set up. From the sparse menus to the points bars used for scoring your vocals – and even the final totaliser sound effect – the design of NTWiCS is eerily identical to Sony’s series. There’s flattery, then there’s just plain copying.
But surely the actual karaoke part is responsive and fun? Right? Well, yes. Apart from a few hiccups when trying to hit high notes on a third party mic, the game is as punishingly accurate as the better karaoke games out there tend to be. I’m a fan of Rock Band’s more forgiving tonal system, but that’s because when I try to sing properly I tend to upset the balance of the universe with my awfulness. Here, as with Singstar, the joy is supposed to be in the competitive nature of nailing notes perfectly, and there’s no denying that it works. It may seem a little dry for those just interested in having a laugh with it.
Personal musical tastes aside, there’s little to actually complain about with NTWiCS. It’s a solid karaoke title, it looks clean, and it works, but the general lack of ambition in design terms and the lack of variety in the tracklist are killers. The way I see it, most of the budget was spent on securing the songs, and then the majority of the other parts were shipped from rival titles. Even the newer ideas have a ‘’Friday Evening, home time’’ feel to them in that somebody was asked to throw in something, anything to prevent accusations of this being a very direct, if inferior, clone of Singstar. Your best bet is picking this up after Christmas when it’s going cheap. That way you can have some fun with it next year without forking out questionable amounts of money for it.