Don't feel like dancing?
The sound of the untalented and drunk warbling vaguely to the tune of a song from their childhood while guzzling down Ouzo's and touching up waiters tends to come to mind when you think of karaoke. The restaurant just next to a package holiday hotel cashing in on the lonely. The kind of public humiliation you expect to see on an ITV "documentary" about the costa. This is Singstar though, a karaoke videogame based around essentially the same concept. Bad singing, drinking and fondling but this time in your own home.
This isn't really a bad thing though as with most embarrassing activities it can be applied casually to brighten up even the dullest of evenings. The 24-hour party people at Sony have had fun with the Singstar series on the Playstation 2 in the past, releasing more than enough expansions and nostalgic trips to provide them with money to bathe in for a good few years but unsatisfied with the height of the crisp notes and shiny coins they have decided to update it for the Playstation 3.
Named quite awkwardly "Singstar" with the PS3 tacked onto the end in an attempt to prevent the general public picking up a Playstation 2 copy while drooling excessively and asking where the nails are in a games store. The concept is to sing along to your selection with the correct pitch and timing in order to keep your performance inside the guidelines and score points using the microphones (That come packed in, or you can use the PS2 ones). This concept in itself could prove impossible for the more drunk members of your entourage but I guess they can live with that. The music is accompanied by its official music video complete with the decades camera recording quality (Or lack thereof) or if you have your Eyetoy or Playstation Eye inserted, your own mug jumping around in front of the screen. There are a variety of playstyles too. You can sing solo, co-operatively duet by selecting a part to play, go head-to-head in song battle mode or have an 8-way challenge skirmish in "Pass-the-mic".
All the small things
Singstar PS3 comes with thirty tracks on the disc but the selection isn't entirely awesome. Yes, this includes more Bono sadly. Notable others include Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, REM, Blur, Gorillaz, Scissor Sisters and Outkast. The music doesn't really have a wide enough scope to provide pure base appeal for everyone as they are mostly all relatively new or just a tad random. If you can't be arsed you can always play a "medley" of songs or adapted "Short versions" for the less adventurous. Where are the legendary rock songs? The classics? Theres not even an Elvis or Queen track. Though unlike the Playstation 2 editions, the user is not limited to what is on the disc.
This is where the Singstore comes in, which even so soon after release has quite a lavish and broad selection of songs (with more promised) from Petula Clark's "Downtown" to The Zuton's "You Will You Won't". You may deduct the reasoning behind the slightly underwhelming tracklist was to encourage use of the Singstore, which if you did you'd probably be betting on the right horse. This is the excuse the marketing is using to claim the user can create their dream tracklist, while at quite a fair pricepoint for a licensed video. The choice online will probably be massive given time granting a dregree of longevity to the proceedings and parties.
The Singstore is quite nicely laid out, sorted by artist alphabetically. You can preview the songs before you purchase them by hitting X and add them to your network wallet-draining basket with a tap of the Square button. Upon downloading you are greeted by a downloading progress bar in the lower left of the menu that remains until complete. You can still play while this is happening so it will convieniently never halt the flow, let's just hope your guests don't get too many requests. Though at £1 each you can't really complain too much.
Shopping isn't the only online feature though. For the more obsessive and brave amongst the Playstation Network there is the free "MySingstar" which draws the bulk of it's inspiration from social networking sites like Myspace, Youtube and Facebook which allows you to create a profile where you can declare your undying love for "The Clash" and "Don't Stop Me Now" while displaying your best scores on various difficulties. You can view other players profiles, make friends and rate content here. The main draw or indeed, repellant manifests itself in the recordings you can take of yourself in either sound or video varieties. What this translates to is probably more X-factor style situations wherein the players think they can sing but in reality sound akin to a cat being skinned with a sandwich toaster on a nuclear setting.
The game's menus are the only thing you can consider when you speak of graphical beauty. Many of the video's look nasty and blurry when blown up onto a big LCD, in fact most of the video's available aren't HD as they are too old. The menus are nice and customisable, with some lovely wallpapers available on the disc including animated scenes of space and snowy mountaintops. These are overlayed with the menu buttons which are easily navigatable and look nice enough.
The Singstar search system allows you to search alphabetically for players but sadly you still have to scroll through the entire section to find who you are seeking as there isn't a way to type a name and search within the game itself. When you find a friend you can bring up the XMB with START and add them manually the same way you always do.
Like most games, though. Singstar cannot call itself a perfect game but it is probably the best of it's genre we're going to see on the platform. The initial song selection and MySingstar's interface are sloppy, editing user content (If you're into that kind of thing) is under heavy limitations and of course, it has Bono.
Either way, the additions it has recieved in the transition from the last generation have been largely good. The Singstore is probably the most notable and useful but the social networking features while niggly to utilise will be a draw in themselves to some people. It's one of the few non-Wii party games that is actually fun to play and probably more advisable than attempting "Scene it?" while inebriated. Singstar is greatest with an ample supply of family and friends to embarrass alongside yourself, certainly worth getting in with the party supplies.
7 / 10