Sony has announced a modest new SingStar game for PS4, called SingStar Celebration. It's due Wednesday, 25th October, a day after my birthday in case you're wondering, and is part of Sony's PlayLink push. There's no word on price but I'm checking.
PlayLink is Sony trying to broaden the PlayStation audience a bit, much like how Sony broadened the PS2 audience with games like SingStar and Buzz! in the first place. But these days there's no need for an additional microphone or buzzer peripheral because we have smartphones.
SingStar Celebration, then, uses your - and your friends and family's - phone as the microphone via a free app. Otherwise it's SingStar as normal: sing along to a load of music videos while trying to match the pitch indicated by the blobby bars on screen.
Sony is justifiably proud of SingStar. It's sold over 17 million units. Over 4 million songs have been bought and downloaded. It's also almost universally adored by critics. Everyone at Eurogamer plays SingStar, for example, often to the exclusion of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. SingStar's brilliant, and it's a success. So it's slightly bizarre that the highest score it's ever had on Metacritic, across 26 individual disc releases, is 82, with the majority languishing in the mid-70s, if not lower.
Sony is adding another meaty update to the PS3's SingStore this Friday.
Leading the 33-song influx has to be Toni Braxton with her ballad "Un-Break My Heart". [Rob is clearly too young to appreciate it is in fact Foreigner who top the list. Now this mountain I must climb feels like a world upon my shoulders. - Dep Ed]
Also on the list is "Step by Step" by New Kids on the Block, who were all ridiculous but we watched the cartoon about the band anyway. [In this order: Jordan, Joe, Jon, Donnie, Danny - Dep Ed] There's some Shakin' Stevens, Foreigner and Leonard Cohen too.
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.