April 20th is a date that John and I have agreed never to talk about. A day that we've agreed should be kept secret. It's the night that we killed Britney Spears, murdered A-Ha, and butchered Avril Lavinge...it was the night we played SingStar Pop with our significant others. The night was the brainchild of my girlfriend who thought it would be enjoyable to get together with John's wife and humiliate both of us. She had already grown bored with playing the game by herself and wanted to "share the love" with some other people.
I had received the game earlier in the week and my original plan was to secret the game out to John as he had reviewed some karaoke games in the past. It was my bad luck that the game came out during spring break for the school system my girlfriend teaches in. This mean that instead of coming home to my usual peace and quiet I came home to the sounds of off-key karaoke. I care deeply about my girlfriend but it's safe to say that she won't be going on the Vegas circuit any time soon. As you might have gathered by now I'm not the biggest karaoke fan in the world. I realize that there are people out there who love to sing along with songs but I'm not that person, not even close. That said, after spending some time with the game I think it's actually a decent product if you're into that kind of thing.
The SingStar package includes everything you need to inflict aural damage on yourself and others. The game comes with two microphones which hook up to a USB connector that plugs into your PlayStation. Sony didn't cheap out on the microphones as they fairly sturdy and come with nice long cables. The only thing missing are the two to three cases of beer that you will need to fully enjoy the game.
SingStar Pop is something you'll want to play with friends. The game has a passable single player mode where you can sing all of the tracks and record your high scores for each song. All of the songs are unlocked at the start of the game so unlike Guitar Hero 2 you don't have to work to unlock songs. The game does come with a decent selection of songs with with everything from Britney to the Raconteurs with stops for Hoobastank and Cyndi Lauper thrown in for kicks.
Like every other music game knowing the songs is critical and in this case you have to know the words which is where I got into trouble. As some one who is more of a beat follower than a word follower this presented a fairly large challenge. You can try to hum your way through the songs (matching the pitch to the bars on the screen) but you're not going to score big points with it (although it is rather amusing). Thankfully the game's interface does a good job of showing the lyrics and at what pitch they should be sung. You do learn the words after a few times through a song which is good though I'm not sure that knowing all the lyrics to "SK8er Boi" is something that I'm necessarily proud of.
The real differentiator for SingStar is that the game plays the videos for the songs behind the lyrics. This really help draw you further into the song, especially on something like U2's "Vertigo" or A-Ha's "Take On Me" where the videos have such a strong pull (I'd mention Britney Spears ".. Baby One More Time" video but that would get me in trouble with the girlfriend). The user interface is very vibrant and bright and the designers did a good job of making it easy to get into the game.
The multiplayer modes in the game area lot of fun. Outside of the standard singing for accuracy "Battle mode" there is the "Pass the Mic" mode where you and your partner take turns singing different parts of a song. Finally there is the "Duet Mode" in which you and your partner sing together against another team. The modes are fairly well done and add a good level of variety to the game. In the multi-player mode each team gets three shuffles so if you get stuck with a song you suck at you can shuffle the deck and try to get something a little easier. This adds a decent strategic level to the game as you have to manage whether or not you want to use or save your shuffles.
SingStar:Pop isn't a game that I'm going to go back and play a lot of (there's not enough alcohol in the world for that) but I know that my girlfriend still really enjoys the game and I know that John and his wife had a lot of fun with it (although I think that a lot of that was at my expense). The single player side is fairly limited though and you'll quickly burn through all the songs that come with the game (something that resulted in the girlfriend marching me to EB Games to pick up SingStar:Rock). This is something that Sony is fixing with the upcoming PS3 game as it will allow players to download additional tracks to the PS3's hard drive, something that has me (and my wallet) worried. Until then SingStar:Pop is a solid game that's easy to get into and a lot of fun to play, even if you aren't a big fan of karaoke.
More On:SingStar Pop
If you like karaoke, have PlayStation and a group of friends to play with then SingStar: Pop is worth every penny. If you're looking for a strictly single player experience you may want to pass on SingStar and look for something else.
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