A fortnight ago, Sony used the London PlayStation Day to shout about the success of party games such as Buzz, EyeToy, and SingStar. It was no surprise to see SingStar lead the way in terms of sales--notching up over 12 million units since launching on PlayStation 2 in 2004. The PlayStation 3 version of the game suffered some hiccups when it came to downloadable content, but Sony now has a consistent release schedule, and has gone on to sell over a million songs online. That said, there are many people without internet access, or those who prefer to buy their karaoke anthems in packs, for whom SingStar: Vol. 2 should prove a timely release. We dusted off our mics to find out what fans can expect when the game launches next month.
In essence, Vol. 2 is exactly the same SingStar that you've played before. Your singing is still judged on pitch and timing, and there are another 30 brand new songs to croon your way through. It also supports two mics--still wired, unfortunately--but up to eight players can join together in groups for Pass The Mic mode. The new tracklist follows SingStar tradition by mixing genres, and covering both old and new tracks, to create a compelling mix of songs to work your way through. Top-billing tracks come from Kaiser Chiefs and The Killers, but there are also dependable classics from the likes of Aerosmith and Spandau Ballet. Overall, the game provides an excellent range of tracks, from easy to hard--only the most tone deaf of singers will struggle with Shaun Rider's part in "Dare" by Gorillaz, while you'll need all your spitting skills to keep up with "Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)" by The Offspring.
As well as a new song list, SingStar: Vol. 2 packs two notable new features onto the Blu-ray disc. First up is the ability to harmonise--with two people singing different lines of a song at the same time. There are three songs that support this new Harmony mode, with "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang, and "California Dreamin'" by The Mamas and The Papas being two highlights alongside the rather strange inclusion of "We all Stand Together" by Paul McCartney and the Frog Chorus. That said, we really like Harmony mode as it feels like a fresh new way to play the game--it's just a shame you don't get a harmony score based on your ability to sing with your partner. We're also glad to hear that owners of the original PS3 SingStar will be able to activate harmonies as part of a new download to be made available, with compatible songs to be announced at a later date.
The other new feature is Remote Play, allowing you to access the game from your PSP as long as the disc is in the PS3's drive. You can do this from within your own home network or wherever you have access to a Wi-Fi internet connection, and while contrary to its namesake you can't actually play the game, Remote Play does allow you to download new songs and visit the My SingStar Online portal straight from the portable. As our code was running on a debug unit, we were unable to connect to the online SingStore, but we're nonetheless excited about being able to buy new songs whilst at the office, and have them ready and waiting on our PS3 when we get home. You can't, however, use the service to buy songs mid-party, as the remote access is locked down while the game is actually in use. We contacted Sony to see whether the Vol. 2 tracks will make it onto the SingStore to buy--Sony's response is that, "Licensing music for digital distribution is a different process to that of the disc-based product...when Vol. 2 is released, a number of tracks from the disc-based product will also be available to buy in the SingStore."
The presentation in Vol. 2 is just as slick as before, with a really nice menu system and great quality videos--some of which are in HD. Sadly, Rock Band mics aren't recognised by SingStar--a lost opportunity for owners of Harmonix's music game to have saved some money. That said, we forgot just how much fun it was to use a PlayStation Eye camera and have it record our performances, particularly when it isolates clips of you screaming out the high notes. Video isn't something that's offered in the other big-name music games out there at the moment, and yet it definitely adds to the party atmosphere. Speaking of which, there are some great party tunes in the lineup, especially "Don't Stand So Close To Me" by The Police and "Sexbomb" by Tom Jones with Mousse T.
It's a shame to see PS3 SingStar already starting to fall into the same regular disc-based update routine as its PS2 predecessors, but Vol. 2 houses some great new tunes and a couple of choice new features. There are still plenty of startling feature omissions--the lack of wireless microphones, Rock Band mic compatibility, and online competitive multiplayer--but these are things the vocal community can continue to badger Sony for in the future. In the meantime, fans of the series without access to the internet should find that SingStar Vol. 2 is a solid addition to the collection. The game launches in Europe on June 5, but there's no news on a release in other territories such as the US, which has yet to even see the original.