Having to buy your songs again later (thanks to the horrendous music industry) is of course stupid, but it's the norm for music games. The reason people do it is for things like the note charts and collaborative elements, in the cases of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and for the competitive and community elements - whether locally or online - for SingStar. The problem that Lips is going to have is that it has no community features worth talking about, and that the competitive elements are fundamentally flawed.
Play through a few songs, and it becomes clear that Lips is easier than any of the other singing games, and with no adjustable difficulty level. Play through a few dozen, and you encounter glitches and hilarious shortcuts to success that neuter the online challenge aspect as well. Beware people who challenge you to rap songs, for example, because they can simply hum a monotone to hit every single note perfectly. For singing, Lips seems to focus on when you're wrong rather than right, and sometimes just gives up and pretends you're wicked, like when you're dragging the mic head back and forth on the carpet during Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable" and it reckons you're hitting every note and doing vibrato on the long ones. At one point, player one's mic claimed to be receiving a brilliant but slightly imperfect rendition of every song we queued up, despite nobody making any noise and the TV having been muted. Only after we reset the 360 did it behave properly.
With such a wildly positive - if not simply wild - reward system, it's also debatable whether the gestures affect the outcome drastically. You may benefit from timing the use of Star Stream, but your opponent may simply score higher due to bugs or craftily rubbing the microphone against his leg. The motion sensitivity is hardly perfect, either, and this also spoils the tambourine, which lags behind your microphone shakes. As for tapping away with buttons on the regular 360 controllers, it's a fleeting novelty that allows you to earn additional medals and Achievements.
On a cost basis, at least, Lips ought to be ahead of SingStar, since they're both 40 quid and Lips has more songs and nicer microphones. But when you consider what else SingStar has over Lips, it's harder to make the argument. Thanks to DLC in particular, music games often defy what's-in-the-box reviewing; in the same way that World of Warcraft improves with Blizzard's ongoing support, music games become more attractive as their creators offer a broader range of downloadable music, and it's only fair to reward it once the potential has been realised. It has for SingStar, but it won't be for a while with Lips.
But the saddest thing about Lips is that it suffers in comparison to SingStar's gameplay. We've long moaned about legacy issues with SingStar - that it can't cope with vibrato, punishes you for tailing off at the right time, and has a bit of lag in audio playback - but despite Lips' fancy mics and superficial improvements, it's too easy, too isolated from other players, and too buggy. The irony is that SingStar has glitches as well, now and then, and casual gamers seem to put up with this, whereas Microsoft - architect of the Red Rings - has little goodwill left to cash in on that front. Casual or not, though, you should only buy this if you can't get SingStar.
Lips is due out exclusively for Xbox 360 on 21st November.