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SingStar is one of a growing number of games (such as Sing It PS3) that enable players to sing along with their favourite songs and be graded on their vocal performance. Whilst there are other games that offer this in a band setting (Rockband 360 and Guitar Hero Aerosmith 360), SingStar and the like focus on the vocals and as such have something of a karaoke feel to them.
Rhythm action games combine the enjoyment that comes from creating music with the challenge of video game scoring. The player is usually tasked with dancing on a mat, tapping a touch screen, pressing a button, singing into a mic or strumming a fake guitar controller in time with the music.
SingStar in unique - and particularly appealing to an older audience - because of its smooth clean presentation and excellent choice of packed in songs. In this way SingStar is to karaoke games what iPod's are to music players. It does what other games do, but with the style and content that is so often missing elsewhere. The slick menus and clean lines make it appealing for anybody to play. None of the dark murky tones and on stage computer generated antics of the band focused games here. The action is all about the player, the microphone and the song.
The game comes with a pair of Microphones, subsequent editions of the game (of which there are a steady stream) then add songs to the roster. The Mics have an impressive heft and quality - although the developers decision to make the player use only the official peripherals is a little limiting (we couldn't use our USB Sing It Microphone).
The song selection reflects the anticipated older clientele. Tracks here are broadly anthemic, whilst providing a good smattering of ballads, funk and punk along the way. If you are not happy with the 20 or so songs on the disc you can purchase additional discs (around GBP25 for 30 songs) or log into the online music store in game and purchase a hand picked selection (around GBP 1 a song).
The game can be played (sung?) in a variety of modes. Anything from solo, duet, pass the Mic and battle are provided. The duets work particularly well and have been sequenced for songs that contain multiple singing parts. Although not quite as flexible as the cast, lead, support selection in the Disney musical game Sing It PS3, SingStar provides a much better all round selection.
As the pre-roll video so well depicts, the attraction here is the simple joy of singing with friends, family and loved ones. We use our voices to share information with each other all day, but how infrequently do we appreciate the tone, syncopation and musicality of each other's vocal chords.
Sat on a sofa with a few friends, it is great fun to take turns singing the same song trying to outdo each other's score. It is surprising how infectious the singing is, even the most retiring of family members will put themselves up for the next song.
Each song lasts a around three minutes - so sessions can be as short or as long as you want. Those who want more variety in their singing can opt for the medley songs (which comprise the famous bits from the other included songs) or opt for a shorter version (around a minute) of the song to sing to.
Controlling a game with your voice makes it easily playable by even the youngest players. Although they may (not unlike older players) struggle to hit all the notes, the thrill of singing in to a microphone is more than enough to keep them entertained. Some of the songs do have grown up content and themes, but with a little parental supervision appropriate tracks can be selected.
Intermediate players should enjoy the simplicity of the experience and the sense of reconnection they get to their own voice. In addition to having some fun and scoring points there is an educational quality to proceedings as players start to learn how to sing.
Experts are more likely to attempt the songs on their hardest settings and enjoy achieving perfect sing throughs. However, previous prowess in other video games by no means ensures a smooth passage here. The use of the voice as a controller is something that has to be learnt over time and needs a degree of raw talent to achieve consistently high scores.
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