SingStar Review

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Graphics: 8.5
Sound : 9.5
Gameplay : 8.5
Multiplayer : 8.5
Overall : 8.5
Review by Chris Matel
Singing to a screen has never been this refined…

There many things which match with a drink, almost organically: pizza and beer, steak and red wine, and canoeing and vodka—okay, the last one may be more of a personal thing, but nonetheless, you can’t argue with the previous two. However, there may be no greater partnership than karaoke and alcohol (in general). Where a person may otherwise be too meek to open up their vocal chords, with the help of some liquid courage, such an individual will ditch any apprehensive forethought to publicly singing, and embrace their inner popstar. Either way to go about it, those who pick up Sony’s first SingStar title on the PS3 will discover that the game melds tried success with new features for a solid karaoke experience.

No matter what you do to it, it’s still karaoke…

If you’re a fan of singing popular songs in front of complete strangers, or even by yourself, in-time with on-screen cues, and you owned a Playstation 2, chances are you already know of the SingStar games. However, if you’re uninitiated to the franchise, there’s not much to get caught up on. Like any good karaoke, the goal is to sing, and if you don’t know the words, they’re provided for you on the screen with some sort of mechanic to show you when to actually produce the lyrics.

SingStar games differ from simple karaoke machines, however, in the implementation of pitch-scoring. While singing along to a solid mix of 30 prepackaged songs, varying from artists such as Brittany Spears and The Ramones, you’ll find yourself trying to match pitches across three difficulty levels, to hopefully achieve the rating of Sing Star. Also, for the PS3 iteration, new Playstation Eye functions have been instituted to go along with the franchise’s first-ever foray online.

Just because we’re in the wireless generation, doesn’t mean you can rock out like RHCP…

There are two ways to start out your PS3 SingStar experience: game-only ($40), or bundle with two microphones included ($60). It’s from this point where the synthesis of old and new makes its appearance. While Sony’s hardware has changed things up by going wireless and instituting BLUETOOTH technology, there hasn’t been any innovation for the microphones bundled with the more expensive option. There’s nothing special about the mics packaged for the PS3 version of the game, so using your PS2 mics, and choosing for the less expensive option, will save you cash for the extra things you’ll be wanting…or, rather…needing.

If using PS2 mics and playing essentially the same game as past titles counts as the repackaged portion of the game’s PS3 debut, then online networking with photos, video and vocal recordings, and downloadable content denotes the new features. Although it’s a major bummer to still be tethered to your expensive hardware—a setup that can have untimely consequences if certain criteria foster a hazardous environment—the new functionalities of this generation’s first SingStar more than make up for it.
Forget what happened the night before? No problem, watch it the next day…

While there are two ways to get the game home, there’s only one true way to play/sing, and that’s with the Playstation Eye. Like the past games which utilized the EyeToy, you’re able to watch yourself (and others if playing with multiple people) with the Playstation Eye, as you sing your way through solo numbers, battles, pass the mic team games or duets. The difference this time is the ability to save pictures, videos and audio from your session. While there’s no way to control when the different recordings are initiated, the game automatically records: a 25 second video clip, 10 pictures, 10 shorter videos (“Golden Moments”) and a full audio recording of your crooning.

…or share it with the world…

But keeping such impressive feats of lyrical mastery to yourself isn’t anything special or fun, and that’s where the PS3 version of the game blows by its forerunners. By connecting online, you have access to My SingStar. Similar to Facebook or MySpace, My SingStar acts as a social networking site that allows you to upload your favorite videos, pictures and audio samples for all the world to see and hear (literally, since both PAL and NTSC regions have access to one another). The lack of online multiplayer, a la Guitar Hero, is a bit disappointing, but the networking feature fits in perfectly with the nature of the game. Not everyone is a dedicated participant, but there is some great content to find.

Also new are micro-transactions which pop up in the way of downloadable songs. It’s a logical step for this generation, with other musically-themed games offering similar services. With SingStar, you’re able to watch a short sample of the video and song before you purchase, which a great feature if you’re a bit hazy on remembering song names, or if you’re looking for new favorites. The songs are priced at $1.49, and considering you’re getting a video along with the music, it’s not at all unreasonable, especially when compared with iTunes’ similar benchmark.

No loading screen, just a pleasant “whoosh”…

One of the greatest assets that the game has, surprisingly, is its presentation. Instead of loading different screens to start a song, we’re treated to a fluid menu system that you flip through, much like a flash site. Unfortunately you’ll have to buy the backgrounds, which is frustrating with such great Eye functionality, but the default option pops and fits beautifully with the seamless transition between menus as they flow in and out of the screen.

To along with an effective menu system, Sony has finally implemented a useful, integrated Friend’s List option. Any time you’re flipping through menus, just hit the Start button to see a few quick link options to single and multiplayer games. However, the star attraction of quick link system is definitely found in the ability to see you’re friends’ current status while still in-game, as well as add people to your list while checking out their SingStar profiles online.

About. Damn. Time.

If you’re a star, and you need to sing…

There’s not a lot to find at fault with SingStar on the PS3. True, keeping with wired mics is still a bother, and there isn’t any online play to be found. However, the facelift, Eye compatibilities and new social networking elements sets the game above other karaoke solutions on the Sony’s system; nay, any platform to-date. Playing on your own may be a bit underwhelming, but if gather up some friends, and download a few extra songs, you’re set for some entertaining action.

Hell yeah:
+ My SingStar networking, and all that it entails
+ In-game Friends List (finally)
+ Fluid, flowing menus and presentation

Oh, hell no:
- Wired mics connected to $400+ machine?
- Still online play
- Apparently, the computer is a better photographer than you: no choosing when you record content
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