Love it or loathe it, Sony’s flagship party game hardly needs an introduction. Having achieved a near perfect blend of affordability, simplicity and familiarity (everyone knows at least a couple of tracks on each disc), those trademark red and blue mics are often the star attraction at many a gathering. With two new SingStar titles released in quick succession this year and a couple more in the works, the classic karaoke franchise is obviously doing very well indeed. Here’s the low-down on the latest additions: SingStar Pop Hits, SingStar ‘90s and the soon to be released SingStar Rock Ballads.
Ease of use has always been one of SingStar’s strongest selling points; just plug in the mics, fire up the PS2, select your game type and track and you’re away – SingStar’s successful game play formula has changed little since the very first title. You can sing alone or with a friend - either co-operatively or competitively, and there are several fun party options for larger groups. While the mics are fairly robust, they don’t react well to rough handling. Loose wires seem to be the most common complaint; one that can often be remedied with a bit of judiciously applied duct tape. Voice recognition and analysis remains a bit iffy, and as always there’s a miniscule delay between the moment you let loose with the vocal chords and the moment your voice is detected. Canny players can use this quirk to their advantage and squeeze out a few more points.
All three titles feature a broad selection of tracks, many of which are squarely aimed at their target demographic of young, impressionable females. There is something on each disc for all karaoke enthusiasts, but by the same token you can’t please everyone all of the time. Inclusion of some tracks will have you scratching your head in puzzlement and as per usual there are several tracks of questionable suitability – especially for younger players. Granted, scantily clad, booty shaking women are part and parcel of many music videos these days, but would you really want your eight year-old daughter possibly emulating the Pussycat Dolls? The earlier SingStar titles were deemed suitable for all ages; lately however the PG censorship rating has placed the onus firmly on parents to use their discretion… which in my opinion amounts to all care but no responsibility on Sony’s part.
SingStar games are backwards compatible; at the main (carousel) screen you can swap out your disc for an earlier SingStar disc. This was quite an innovative feature with the first few titles because it allowed players to enjoy shiny new features with tracks from previous discs. However, there haven’t been any new features to speak of in the last few SingStar titles, so this feature has become a bit obsolete.
Unchanged since the first title, graphics consist of blue and red lines tracking each player’s progress in a song, with karaoke-style lyrics displayed at the bottom of the screen, basic scoring at the top and the relevant music video or stills playing in the background. You can also employ the EyeToy peripheral to take mug shots and provide a change of scenery by projecting your image onto the TV.
Sound quality for each track is as good as your TV or stereo can deliver, and you can adjust the volume of your voice to either drown out the original artist or (mercifully, perhaps) fade into the background vocals. For those lumbered with tone deaf status there are one or two tracks to rap along to… no singing required. Of course, if you’re lacking both talent and rhythm you’re in trouble!
With nothing new in the way of features your decision to buy (or not) will ultimately be influenced by the content, and whether there are enough of your favourite songs on the track lists to tempt you.