Version tested: PlayStation 3
SingStore is horribly brilliant. Brilliant because it gives us a sexy, increasingly well-stocked catalogue of songs to download when we get bored of "Valerie" by The Zutons. Horrible because we make poor enough decisions when we're sober, and SingStar is indivisible from alcohol. With money stacked in the PS3 wallet, Pinot and Grigio stacked in our tummies and Bowie and Erasure gliding across our eye-line draped in 99p signs, it's easy to click yes a few times and then watch the progress bar silently shame us in the corner. All of which begs the question: why do we need another Blu-ray version?
We can only think of two possible answers: either the core game has evolved in some critical way that requires a new software platform, or Sony is worried that Internet-deprived Eurogamers outside broadband comfort zones like the UK are desperate for more songs and can't access the PlayStation Store (losers, eh? it's fine, they can't hear us).
Booting up SingStar Vol. 2, it turns out the first part is half-right: as well as the usual 30 new songs, Vol. 2 lets you do harmonies during duets. Say you're singing "California Dreamin'" by The Mamas & The Papas: as the first player does the Papas singing "All the leaves are brown", the second player does the Mamas singing the same line, off-set by a second or so and at a different level. Scrolling lyric tickers appear at the top and bottom of the screen with the pitch meters in the centre, so no one gets confused about who sings from what and which prompts to follow. In some songs, players sing different lines, and then culminate on a shared note, holding it at different levels.
The other big new feature is being able to use Remote Play to access the SingStore and My SingStar Online using the PSP to remotely control the PS3. Our review code wouldn't allow us to do this (and not just because Remote Play is brain surgery to set up), but Sony talked us through what happens and effectively it's the ability to load the game and view the My SingStore Online and SingStore areas remotely, as you would with any other Remote Play application. That's likely to be a boon to players accessing their home console during lunch-breaks at work, or at the pub before heading home, although we're not sure the Internet needs more ways for you to post horrific comments on other people's hard work. Just kidding: bring it on.
In general though, that's it for content changes. The karaoke mechanic is as good as ever, tracking your pitch rather than asking you to sing in key. The interface is as slick as ever, but unchanged (apart from an attractive new purple background by default - and this can be swapped out for waterfalls and kiwi fruit and so on), and the core modes remain: solo, battle, duet, etc, and "pass the mic", the team game where you duke it out with random human opponents at medleys, battles, duet score attacks and trying to keep the performance bar above a certain level. Plus the actual pass-the-mic bits.
You can still record scores for each performance and save them on a chart populated by achingly lifestyle defaults like "Nigal". The carousel selection mechanism for songs is still lovely, and like the PS2 SingStars you can press the Select button to swap discs for the old SingStar PS3 if you want access to those songs, without having to dip back to the XMB. And you can still take snapshots with the EyeToy, and record and upload short videos and audio files for other people to rate on the excellent My SingStar Online.