Sony's hugely popular SingStar franchise is about as critic-proof as a game can possibly get. If you're into singing karaoke and love the bands on this disc, then there's absolutely nothing I can say that will sway you either for or against it. This isn't an ambitious sequel or some much-hyped remake, this is exactly the game you think it is, complete with the same interface, modes, graphics and sound quality. If that's what you're looking for and you know that you love the music it offers, then that should be all the information you need to pick up the game. If you're not into the music, then maybe one of the dozen other SingStar games is more your speed. Either way, my job here is done.
But maybe I shouldn't get too far ahead of myself. Maybe there are a few people who still have no idea what SingStar is. If that explains you, then where have you been the last few years? SingStar is Sony's attempt at the karaoke genre, a sub-genre that is getting more crowded with each passing day. The concept is simple; the game gives you a couple dozen songs to sing and grades you on how well you do.
Thankfully the game is more than just words on a blank screen, SingStar also offers you the song's music video in the background ... which is fun for those sitting back and watching and often annoying for those trying to pay attention to the words. Outside of the interface, there really isn't much more to this game. You can either play it by yourself (which is boring) or with a group of friends. In fact, if you buy the SingStar Pop Vol. 2 bundle then you will get two microphones and the game for the same price as a standard PlayStation 2 title.
Of course, it's the music that makes or breaks this kind of game. While I'm familiar with a lot of these songs, they aren't exactly what I would consider my cup of tea. Then again, what are the chances that Sony would release a SingStar game based on Sonic Youth, Pavement and the rest of the No Wave movement from the 1980s? So instead I get 30 tracks that I either don't like or don't know. Apparently this is not the SingStar release for me.
The good news is that the track list is surprisingly diverse, including few band I wouldn't consider "pop". Basically the song list looks a little bit like this: 3 Doors Down - "When I'm Gone," Ashlee Simpson - "Boyfriend," Avril Lavigne - "My Happy Ending," Boys Like Girls - "The Great Escape," Cartel - "Lose It," Colbie Caillat - "Bubbly," Dixie Chicks - Not Ready to Make Nice," Duran Duran - "Ordinary World," Evanescence - "Bring Me to Life," Fall Out Boy - "Thnks Fr Th Mmrs," Fergie - "Big Girls Don't Cry," Gwen Stefani - "The Sweet Escape," Jennifer Lopez - "Jenny From the Block," Lifehouse - "First Time," Lily Allen - "Littlest Things," Lloyd - "Get It Shawty," Maroon 5 - "Makes Me Wonder," Matchbox Twenty - "How Far We've Come," Michelle Branch - "Breathe," Nelly Furtado - "Promiscuous," Norah Jones - "Don't Know Why," Pink - "Who Knew," Peter Bjorn & John - "Young Folks," Plain White T's - "Hey There Delilah," Rihanna - "Umbrella," Santana - "Into the Night," Steriogram - "Walkie Talkie Man," Sum 41 - "Fat Lip," The Hives - "Tick Tick Boom," and The Outfield - "Your Love."
While I might not like all of these songs, there should be enough good songs here to warrant pulling it out at a party. I personally had fun singing along with Peter Bjorn & John, Duran Duran and (surprising even me) Rihanna. The problem I had with this collection is that I didn't know a lot of the songs, so I had to listen to them a few times before I could even begin to sing them. Obviously this isn't going to be the case with all SingStar fans, I am fully prepared to admit that when it comes to the state of pop music I am woefully out of tune. What it really comes down to is whether or not you like the music. If you do then you should probably run out and buy this disc, if not then this game will probably just sit on your shelf collecting dust.
The reason that this franchise is so successful is because it's a perfect party game. All you need are a couple of microphones and the control and you're off and running. Thankfully the game does give you a couple of different two-player options. For example, you will be able to set it up so that both players are singing the same parts (being scored accordingly) or where each person has a different part they need to sing. You can also set it up so that you only sing a short segment of the song (as opposed to having to sing the full song). And if that's not fast paced enough for you, then you should try your hand at the medley, which throws songs at you one after another until you're ready to take a rock and roll time out.
The problem I had is that what I just explained is basically all there is to do. This is not the kind of game you buy and expect to play every day for weeks or months, instead it's the kind of thing you pull out once and awhile ... generally only when you have friends over. I'm not sure what they could have done to give this game more replay value, but it's disappointing that there's almost nothing for a solo singer to do. It's also frustrating that this is nothing more than an expansion pack. While I certainly understand the idea of making all of the various games exactly the same, at the same time I find it somewhat limiting. There is a mode that allows you to record your performance (with the EyeToy USB Camera) and play it back later, but I have a hunch that not even my best friends want to hear me sing Umbrella by Rihanna.
All in all this is yet another strong expansion pack to SingStar, even if it doesn't add anything particularly new or original. I personally didn't care much for the songs, but I have a hunch that your decision isn't going to come down to whether or not I like Promiscuous by Nelly Furtado. If you have all the other SingStar games and you're looking for another 30 tracks, then this is probably the right game for you. I personally prefer what the PlayStation 3 SingStar is doing, which is allowing you to buy the individual tracks for a small fee. This isn't a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, but it's also not going to make me stop playing Rock Band 2.
The truth that it really doesn't matter what I have to say about SingStar Pop Vol. 2. If you like the music and are already a SingStar fan, then chances are you're going to get a kick out of this expansion pack. If you don't like the music then maybe another one of the dozen or so SingStar games is better suited for you!