The first cut is the deepest.
Next to "extreme" and "ops," the most overused adjective in a game title has to be "revolution." Revolution this, revolution that. Apparently, the industry is in a constant state of rebellion. Pssst...game publishers...find a new word already.
Still, the first Karaoke Revolution did in fact live up to its somewhat revolting moniker. By coupling a smooth interface and style with one of the most primal skills - the ability to sing - it managed to become a rare crossover title appealing to gamers and non-gamers alike. But it's hard to up the ante on that kind of innovation; thus, Karaoke Revolution Volume 2 simply offers more of what made the original a success. It's no longer groundbreaking, but it's still effective.
There are a few new modes this time around. Medley, for instance, lets you select a series of songs and forces you to belt "em out in quick procession. A new Career mode is here too, which is the main way to unlock the game's new characters, environments and animations. A Quick Play mode lets you jump right in and play without having to sort through menus.
The game utilizes a USB mic, although up until now the options have exclusively been headsets. The fine folks at Logitech have remedied that by releasing a standard microphone, so switching players is no longer such a hassle.
But clearly the most important aspect of Volume 2 is the new song list. Per the individual licensing deals, some include the original vocals, while others use a competent cover. Hey, it's better than real karaoke, where you invariably wind up singing to a video of a sad girl walking through a garden or something.
The song list is a bit scattered, featuring everything from bubble-gum pop (Britney's ""Baby One More Time"; Christina's "Genie in a Bottle") to classic rock (Steve Miller's "The Joker"; Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild") to old and new school R&B (Boyz II Men's "I'll Make Love To You"; Jamiroquai's "Virtual Insanity"). The list might seem a bit scattered, and if you're not a karaoke pro already, it's certainly daunting.
However, I think the eclectic list is an improvement over the original. There are at least one or two songs for just about everyone. Despite an abundance of flavor of the month tunes (which do, in fact, have good reason to be here), there are still enough karaoke classics for older music fans to enjoy. Rock out all night long with KISS, let the kids hit it one more time with Britney, and then bust out a High School Prom ballad, Boyz II Men style. There's something for everyone, unless your choice in music is David Hasselhoff or William Shatner.
As before, the game registers the pitch of your voice to calculate your score, which mean you can very well sing total nonsense instead of real words, but if your pitch is correct, it will pass. It's an understandable allowance; if the game actually followed pronunciation, I imagine it would feel too demanding.
Visually, the game does a decent job of giving you a nice range of environments and characters to keep things lively and colorful. It's really just a backdrop for the audio, anyway.
The original Karaoke Revolution promised expansion packs, but nothing ever turned up. I guess the idea was scrapped since more money could be made by wringing out new volumes instead. If this game was an expansion pack that only included the song list, for half as much money, I'd be twice as happy. Aside from the updated song list, the new additions are pretty thin, and it's also a little annoying that you can't use songs from the original game in this sequel. At least it's cheaper than a night out with friends at a real karaoke parlor, though.
And at the end of the day, this is still a great party game. I'd say a good chunk of Karaoke Revolution's buyers are fellow dweebs aching to convert a significant other to video games, and if that's the case, more power to yah! It's a gateway game and the perfect hook for those American Idol hopefuls who know more about D notes than D-pads.