I've got a bone to pick
I’ve only sparingly heard of this before. But apparently, there are Singstar parties happening all around the nation. People from far and wide gather in groups to huddle around their Playstation to sing, dance, remember that they’re not scored on dancing and get back to singing. I’ve only known one Singstarian in the past and she was from the Land Down Under, so I dismissed this as an international fad in a country known for backwards delays withholding them from the true thrill of the Rock Band party.
Singstar: Queen piqued my interest in this series. As I’ve explained many times over in the past, everybody knows the words to Bohemian Rhapsody, even if they think they don’t know them. So I procured a copy from my online rental service, only to find that ordinary USB and Bluetooth microphones, including the Rock Band mic, are incompatible. Thus I had to purchase the official Sony-approved Singstar microphone, which came bundled with regular Playstation 3 Singstar. So here I am, reviewing a game I never wanted and already laying out my negative bias to the world. I am so trading this game in.
Singstar is a karaoke game. You sing, trying to match your voice’s pitch with the blue pitch-meter thingy on the board while stumbling through the lyrics. Just like Rock Band, the game measures pitch, so you can just as effectively hum your way through songs if you care more about scores than having a good time, you fool. If this specialized Singstar Microphone is supposed to be more accurate than the Rock Band mic, I couldn’t tell. The one notable in-game difference between Singstar singing and Rock Band singing is that, for certain songs, a “Rap Meter” will appear, wherein you are expected to yell parts of the songs. Here, the game seems to measure volume instead of pitch to judge your score. It comes in handy when you play through such iconic rap songs as “Loser” by Beck and “Epic” from Faith No More.
If the game has a crippling flaw, it’s that 30 songs is pretty lousy as a track count. Most of it seems to be alternative rock, with only a couple of pop and R’n B to the dismay of Ryan Seacrest. Even then, all genres feel underrepresented, and I can’t help but feel that a pro-Britney crowd will burn through all of the tracks well before people start passing out at a party.
Though a few nice gameplay decisions help give the game a more unique identity than their more Rock-friendly rivals. You can elect to sing either entire songs or 90 second segments. There’s no damned “tambourine” segments like there are in Rock Band. You can sing competitively or duetically with the included second microphone, and a nice party mode encourages 8 players to throw those two mics around and ensure everyone gets humiliated. It’s also kind of is a nice twist to have the real song’s music video play in the background instead of Rock Band and Guitar Hero’s robotic caricatures of musicians. Finally, you can record your audio embarrassments, and even video if you have the Eyetoy. The problem with the Eyetoy adaptor is simply that I haven’t forgiven Sony yet for making me buy this game and its danged microphones.
The game often feels more like a portal for Sony’s online community than an actual game. Having a great online system is dandy and all, but I can’t help but feel that if it comes at neglecting the main game’s content (as in “NEEDS MORE SONGS!”) then you’re short-changing the surprisingly large number of people that’ll never log in to PSN or any console’s online system. As for this game’s online service, you can join the Singstar Community and watch videos of other amateurs, thus bypassing the process of logging onto Youtube for the exact same purpose.
Also, the reason for my largest complaint becomes apparent when you log on to the Singstore! Yes, there’s an online store for which you can buy more songs. A hearty 700 songs are available from the onset, so the potential for fleshing out your playlist is there. But again, there seems to be more of a slant towards alternative rock, which begs the question of “why would they attempt to compete with the big dog?” A nagging thought in the back of my head that wouldn’t go away; why would your only-vocals game attempt to outperform the full band-based rock games? If you want a laugh, check out the Rap section of the store, and purchase songs from esteemed hip hop acts as The Offspring and Blondie.
Fundamentally, Singstar has the tools required to drive a karaoke-craving party. But to truly turn this hunk of plastic and wiring into the life of the party, you need to go to the online store and invest in some more songs. In its current state, the regular Singstar disc isn’t enough to replace Rock Band as the drinking and singing game of the day. As for me, I got my Rhapsody on, and now I’m ready to trade this whole package in.