IGN Review of SingStar Pop
I'll put it out there now; I'm a karaoke fan. There's something about butchering the theme to "The Greatest American Hero" in front of drunken friends and strangers that warms my heart. If you can understand that sick feeling and share the unhealthy habit of listening to Top 40 radio stations, SingStar Pop is a game you'll be happy to add to your collection.
Let your lame taste in music flag fly!
Back for the franchise's second go in the states, SingStar Pop features 30 songs and six medleys from artists such as U2, Gorillaz, Alicia Keys, 3 Doors Down and more in the tried-and-true karaoke system that has invaded bars across the country. You choose a track, the lyrics appear at the bottom of a screen and you croon as the words become colored at the speed you should be singing.
If you've never seen SingStar before, the title adds to the traditional formula by tossing in pitch and timing indicators -- bars that are broken up to match how high or low lyrics should be sung as well as how long or short they should be. As you sing, your voice appears on screen as a color that you're trying to use to fill the bars in with. Sing too high, and your color will appear above the bar and you'll need to lower your pitch to get back on track. Hit the note right on, and you'll need to stick with it for as long as the bar is. When you reach the end of the line of lyrics, the game grades your rendition -- anywhere from awful to okay to cool -- and adds points to your score at the top of the screen while modifying your overall performance meter. When the performance is done, the game rates the vocal outing, and, if applicable, places you on the high score list.
It might sound like a lot, but once you pick up the mic, it comes naturally.
There are no career mode or single-player options beyond just singing your heart out and trying to best your high score, but according to Sony, that was a conscious choice. This game was designed to be played in packs, and thus has a trio of multiplayer modes to keep the party going. "Battle" has two players rock the same track back-to-back and see who comes out with the best score, "Duet" is a self-explanatory co-op mode and "Pass the Mic" opens the game up to as many as eight would-be lounge lizards.
In Pass the Mic, players divide into teams and face off in up to seven unique rounds. "Medley" and "Micro-Medley" have a player from each team sing a collection of song snippets and try for the highest score, "First to the Post" puts two players head-to-head in a race to score 5,000 points first, "Keep it Up" challenges a team member to keep the performance bar above a preset marker for as long as possible, "Pass the Mic" has players tossing the microphone back and forth between teammates in a high score shootout, and Battle and Duet round out the pack.
Now, being a karaoke loser, I don't mind singing alone, but after a few hours last night, even I found myself running out of gas. I had sung enough Hinder and didn't feel like learning the words to Rihanna's "SOS." Luckily, Micah Seff, IGN associate news and features editor, and a few friends came downstairs and picked up the second mic.
We tore down our South San Francisco home with stuff from a-ha, Avril Lavigne and the All-American Rejects. It was quickly clear that the bread-and-butter of this game is mocking your friends and family as they try to hit insanely high notes.
But it's not all sweet lullabies when it comes to Pop. To master the game, you'll need to at least know the song melodies, and that could be tough if bubblegum pop isn't your scene. With classics such as Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and U2's "Vertigo," it's not hard to turn a decent set in on your first time, but when more obscure pop tracks such as Ashlee Simpson's "Invisible" and "Honestly" by Cartel pop up, expect your decidedly anti-Seacrest friends to get annoyed, stick to the few songs they know and eventually contemplate walking away from the PS2.
Beyond that, the game isn't the best at picking up on correct pitches. If you're the type who's going to get crabby because the game said you did well when you really weren't nailing that last high note, you're going to want to crank the difficulty up to hard because if you're in the neighborhood, SingStar will let you pass with at least an "okay." Then again, if you're that into the song accuracy, take lessons and stop playing video games.
In November, SingStar Rocks! took it on the chin because of lame music videos, the abruptness of shortened tracks and the inability to isolate your own vocals. If you shared those complaints, it might be hard to sell you on Pop. Although the music videos still play during the songs, none are the Sony-created lemons like "Sweet Home Alabama" was in Rocks! Yes, they can get distracting, but I didn't have a problem with it. I liked seeing how bad the video for "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" was, and after I saw it once, I got back to focusing on the lyrics. There are still long and short versions of the songs, and the short versions still end somewhat abruptly. It's not like you're cut off mid-lyric, but most don't wind down either. As far as vocals, the original artist is still singing backup for you, but if you turn up your microphone's volume -- it's controlled by your controller's shoulder buttons -- and turn up your TV, you're not going to be drowned out.
If the videos and vocals still bother you, there is a semi-solution that I can't recommend enough -- even if you don't share those concerns. If you're going to buy SingStar, grab an EyeToy, too.
Adding the EyeToy to your SingStar experience eliminates the music videos that accompany songs and replaces the canned footage with a live feed of you and your buddies belting out tracks, and EyeToy Golden Moments, snippets of video that are taken when the EyeToy logo pops up on the SingStar screen, feature you singing without any accompaniment. The camera even lets you add your image to your profile.
SingStar Pop can be bought with two microphones for $50 and -- if you already have Rocks! -- without the mics for $30. The games work interchangeably, too. If you have both -- you can now pick Rocks! Up without mics for $30 -- you can use the "disc change" option to switch games at a party without having to restart the PS2. And, PS3 owners can rest easy, SingStar Pop and all of its peripherals worked on my PS3 this morning.
©2007, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved