SingStar Vol. 2 Review
With a rapidly growing number of American releases under its belt, the Singstar franchise is trying to penetrate the American gaming market the same way it has the European gaming market. But where as back in May SingStar was more than a welcome addition, today, with franchises offering expansive tracklists and a variety of ways to play, is Singstar still worth coming back to? It all depends on if instruments are your thing or not.
The one aspect I've always enjoyed in SingStar games was the authenticity. I've always preferred games with legitimate, licensed tracks, as opposed to covers - one of the reasons why I couldn't appreciate Guitar Hero for a while, as well as Konami's Karaoke Revolution games. So naturally, I've taken a liking to the series because not only does it feature licensed music, but also their music video playing in the background to go along with it.
Singstar uses a very clean user interface, one than even a five year old can navigate. You can either play a practice session, or play for points and attempt to score the best record. Because, karaoking is an activity that you don't normally do alone, feel free to call over another seven friends and compete in an eight-player Pass-the-Mic mode, or a two-player Duet mode. If you're wondering how Singstar games work, the game's superb voice recognition system will measure the tone and pitch of your voice, and instantly display your performance on the screen, as the vocal bars scroll along.
The object is to fill the bars on screen with pitch precision by singing as accurately as possible. If you go flat, you'll get color below the bar; likewise, if you go sharp, you'll get color above the bar. It's a very intuitive system, and figuring out how it works doesn't take any longer than 10 seconds. It must be said that the American version of Singstar Vol. 2 for PS3 boasts a much different soundtrack as opposed to the U.K. version. But unfortunately for me, this particular Singstar game doesn't offer much for me. Where as I found myself loving practically every single song in the first SingStar PS3 game, I dislike a majority of this follow-up.
The entire soundtrack looks like this:
Aerosmith - Dude Looks Like a Lady
Bad English - When I See You Smile
Bobby Brown - My Perogative
Boys Like Girls - Hero/Heroine
Elton John & Kiki Dee - Don't Go Breaking My Heart
Eminem - Without Me
Gavin DeGraw - In Love With a Girl
Gnarls Barkley - Run
Goldfrapp - Happiness
Lit - Miserable
Natasha Bedingfield - Unwritten
Panic! At The Disco - Nine In the Afternoon
Paramore - CrushCrushCrush
Phantom Planet - California
P!nk - Just Like a Pill
Radiohead - Street Spirit (Fade Out)
Sara Bareilles - Love Song
Spandau Ballet - TRUE
The Bravery - Believe
The Cure - Pictures of You
The Killers - When You Were Young
The Mamas and The Papas - California Dreamin'
The Offspring - Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)
The Police - Don't Stand So Close To Me
The Proclaimers - I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)
The Shins - New Slang
Tone Loc - Funky Cold Medina
Weezer - Beverly Hills
Yael Naim - New Soul
Young MC - Bust A Move
Just about the only notables for me are The Bravery, The Offspring, Weezer, Radiohead, The Killers, and The Police. It's ironic, because in the first game, there were six artists that I didn't like out of 30. In this game, there are only six that I actually do like out of the 30. ng Britney Spears' "Toxic" or The Cardigans' "Lovefool", both are great songs in their own right. Quite honestly, I could've dealt without Bobby Brown, P!nk, Paramore (ugh), Gavin DeGraw, Panic at the Disco, Sara Bareilles, Eminem, and others. Performing a duet of Elton John & Kiki Dee with my girlfriend was fun, but that was about it.
Even though I love what the game has to offer, ultimately, I am not the decider of what's right and wrong, so take a look at the list of songs above and decide for yourself if SingStar's assortment of tracks is worth your dollar. The bottom line here is that if you like what you see, this is a very well done and fun game with a solid voice recognition system. But what I should point out is that for $40, $60 if you need the mic bundle, SingStar may be becoming thin on value, featuring only 30 songs and a lack of additional instruments. The genre is changing and for the time being, it doesn't look like Sony wants to change the franchise's direction. But who knows, maybe we'll be seeing SingStar turn into RockStar.
Moving on, there's still the entire online community behind the franchise, which serves to heighten the entire experience considerably. First, there's the My Singstar Online social network that allows user generated content to be uploaded, such as video, audio, and pictures of your performances. For the visual uploads, you'll need an EyeToy or PlayStation Eye to capture with - unfortunately I'm not sure if other USB cameras are compatible. When you aren't watching others, or uploading your own performances, you can go to the SingStore and buy additional tracks to play. Each song comes complete with a video, as well. And Sony will be adding 15-25 songs every month, keeping the experience everlasting.
Visually, SingStar Vol. 2 features a very simple interface. Everything is neatly laid out, and the music bars scroll across the screen horizontally and smoothly. Unlike, say, Rock Band or Guitar Hero, you won't experience dizziness from following the scrolling notes, and that's a plus. Additionally, the colors are easy on the eyes, too. Lastly, most of the songs were also given their respective music videos, which are played in the background - a definite plus over SingStar's competition. My only complaint is the resolution of the music videos, they appear to be standard interlaced definition, which was forgivable on the PS2, but unusual for a PS3 game. Perhaps using HD videos in the game would mean Sony would have to use HD videos for the downloadable tracks, thus making each extra song a much larger file in size. But I'm not asking for 720p videos here, 480p would've done fine.
Other than visual quality, the audio is crystal clean, as you'd expect. Naturally, because size limitation isn't a concern, the songs are all well represented and come through the speakers with pristine clarity. But it is the pitch recognition that really shines here, as the system does a solid job of recognizing every little change in pitch, even the slightest bit of vibrato. Definitely a solid effort by Sony London.
All in all, the list of songs tells the tale. If you like what you see, Vol. 2 for the PS3 is worth your money, if not I suggest taking a look at the first PS3 SingStar, it should be more in line with the readers. With a dedicated storefront and social community, there is still some decent value to be had out of SingStar, assuming that you're getting it for only $40. Unfortunately, fans of one particular genre should look elsewhere, as the track listing is really mixed. If either SingStar's are not your cup of tea, you're free to consider the PlayStation 2 Singstar alternatives, such as Singstar Pop, Singstar Rocks, Singstar Amped (more rock), Singstar 80s, SingStar Legends, and SingStar Country. If you're in Europe, you've got a plethora of other Singstar choices that us Americans haven't seen. The bottom line is that the music genre is getting very competitive, and Sony should consider reinventing the franchise soon.
10/30/2008 Arnold Katayev