While karaoke games have come and gone on home consoles, only one has truly dominated the market — SingStar. With the release of SingStar onto the PlayStation 3, the world was subjected to experiencing some of the worst vocal talents it has to offer – some of the best as well. This is London Studios first attempt at bringing the singing sensation to next-generation consoles, and fortunately it doesn’t fall short of expectations.
For those of you that have yet to experience what SingStar has to offer, the concept is decidedly simple. First, you’ll be treated to music videos from some of your favorite artists, and will then be required to sing-a-long with the songs in rudimentary karaoke fashion. You’ll be able to do this through a handful of modes including: Solo, Duet, Practice, Pass the Mic and Battle. Each mode offers up its own enjoyment but ultimately brings nothing new to the franchise. SingStar’s in-game pitch recognition technology will read your voice as you sing and give you pitch levels displayed on-screen, which you must align accurately with the pitch of the singers you’re replicating.
This may sound like an effortless task, and on easy mode that’s certainly no exaggeration. However, once you work your way up to the medium and hard difficulties, things take a drastic turn in humiliation. Being the self-proclaimed elite gamer that I am, I jumped straight into the hard difficulty setting like I would with most games. Unfortunately, my stick skills weren’t going to save me from what was to come, as I watched my ranking of “Tone Deaf” popup on the screen once the song had finished.
Like an American Idol contestant that lacks all self-awareness, I threw the song back up, figuring that the game must have made a mistake. On the second run through, it labeled me as a “Wannabe” and the humiliation began from there. Taking advantage of one of the best features the game has to offer – audio playback – I called a roommate in so he could sit through my performance. About 35 seconds in, I was left with the comment, “Well, you’re no Ne-Yo.” No kidding, I’m white.
Despite that, I chose to save the audio playback to My Media Gallery. The media gallery is something new in SingStar and will give users the opportunity to not only save audio playback, but the option to save snapshots or actual video taken with the PlayStation Eye or any USB webcam. You’ll be able to save up to 60 videos, 100 pictures and 60 audio playbacks that can be relived at any moment you’d like.
If that wasn’t enough to set this installment of the franchise apart from its predecessors, London Studios took it one step further by implementing not only the SingStore, but My SingStar Online as well. The SingStore seems like it is long overdue as it allows you to download more tracks to your playlist. With the game boasting over 200 titles for download upon release, Sony has said you can expect around 50 more songs to be added each month after.
The SingStore provides a very user-friendly interface that will break down the newly released tracks into several different categories. In lieu of this, it becomes very easy to navigate from genre to genre in order to find the songs you’re looking for. On top of that, you’ll be given the chance to preview each song’s video and music bars before you purchase, making decisions that much easier.
Once you’re ready to purchase your new tracks (USD 1.49), you’ll be brought to a cart similar to that of the PlayStation Store. From here, SingStar allows you to download in the background while you can return to the main menu of the game and continue your playing experience uninterrupted.
Sadly, this welcome addition also comes with a significant downfall in the fact that the songs you download register to your console and yours alone. This quickly becomes an issue if you’re ever forced to send your PS3 in for repair and they send you a different model in return. There is no telling if this will lead to having to repay for these songs or if Sony will be kind enough to give you a promotional code to retrieve them; either way, there should have been a different method taken regarding this side of the store.
My SingStar Online is the equivalent of a music-based MySpace. Through this new addition, you’ll be given the chance to setup a profile with your name, country, favorite artists, and your highest scores. As expected, you’ll also be able to add video and audio playback from your Media Gallery and even snapshots to your user page. Much like all other social networking sites, you’ll be given the chance to comment on other’s work and even send them friend requests from the in-game XMB option included (great idea). Much like the SingStore, MSO is easy to navigate and the developers have done a great job in supporting their online services with solid menu presentation.
Humorously, if you’ve ever wanted to watch a Storm Trooper get his groove on to some Toxic by Britney Spears, then this is undoubtedly the place to do it. Hundreds of people have already begun uploading videos of their greatest and weakest efforts for you to indulge yourself in, where you’ll be rendered either in awe or hysterics depending on the quality (and indeed, absurdity) of the performances, respectively.
Ultimately, the one aspect that baffled me about SingStar was the reasoning behind the decision not to include online multiplayer functionality. Sony has always boasted that SingStar was the ultimate multiplayer game, and with other music-based titles such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero offering up an online multiplayer experience, it seems odd that SingStar does not. Perhaps London Studios will take that into account when they release one of the many spinoff titles in the future.
Regardless of its downfalls, SingStar offers a completely revamped track list featuring a plethora of artists both old and new, which gives a variety of choices to both gamers young and old. Though the generational gap between those songs is vast, it won’t prevent the youth of today from enjoying the classics of yesteryear and vice versa.