Sing a simple song.
It isn’t often that the best launch game for a new system is neither shooter nor adventure, but it may very well be possible that Sony’s update of Euro-smash SingStar for the PS3 could outperform the square-jawed grunts and katana-wielding babes of generic action fare. A streamlined, hip, and refreshingly non-Japanese karaoke game, SingStar gave a solid performance at E3 and had us fantasizing about Kelly Clarkson.
About cashing in big on thoroughly mediocre vocal talent, that is.
[image1]For those unfamiliar with the PS2 version, SingStar takes much of the guesswork out of karaoke by showing the pitch of the note you should be singing and the pitch of the note that you actually are screeching. This simple, obvious feature makes the game already more engaging than most karaoke, as you can see just how awful you are. It might not be flattering, but it certainly helps the ears of anyone in the vicinity.
The songs themselves are also a big draw. While only a few songs were ready for E3, Sony promises that you will be able to download the entire library of the PS2 version (nearly 3000 tracks) as well as new songs that can be purchased from a “singstore,” the idea being that you can download individual tunes for a dollar or two. How shifty. By being able to customize your playlist and download your favorite new songs, SingStar promises to keep the karaoke experience fresh (albeit pricey). Karaoke fresh? I never thought I would say it.
Or sing it. Though obviously it’s not a standout title graphically, SingStar could well draw in your non-karaoke friends with its impressive hipster look. Sing farewell and adieu to those impressionistic art-film backdrops; nearly every SingStar song comes with its actual MTV2 video playing in the background. The menus also look sleek and contemporary. SingStar sheds the busy graphical baggage of video games and looks more like a slick, minimalist website. All of which is to say, it doesn’t look geeky or obscurely Asian at all. And that’s a good thing when you’re trying to get people to sing with you.
[image2]The duet and battle modes take advantage of clever partitioning of the songs into two parts. Each player will take turns singing, sometimes in unison, and usually trading off riffs. While this is old hat for karaoke in general, it blings a little brighter with the addition of rap. Calling Run D.M.C.’s “It’s Tricky” a duet may be a stretch, but passing the mic from lyric to lyric feels appropriately badass. Adding rap and hip hop to the usual karaoke ballad standbys is a smart move and shifts the focus from pitch to rhythm.
The other big PS3 innovation is the ability to record your performances, whether simply on an audio track or visually with an Eyetoy. By posting your performances on the SingStar website, you can revel in exhibitionism and fantasize that others really want to see you sing. While it’s unclear yet just how your online identity will be implemented, it is certain that there will be plenty of amateur vocal talent flooding the Internet, all clamoring toward geek stardom.
Sony, I’m sure, won’t complain. For every missed pitch or garbled lyric, the company will just get that much richer. And for once, maybe they deserve it.