|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: iNiS Corp.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft Game Studios||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 20, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Last year's Lips on the Xbox 360 was Microsoft's answer to the blockbuster, Sony-exclusive SingStar franchise. With great songs, an import feature, and a motion-sensitive mic that allowed users to play mini-games while singing, Lips certainly had a lot of features, but it fell short of becoming the total package. With lackluster multiplayer modes and barebones community support, there was much to be desired from the inevitable follow-up. One year has passed since the release of Lips, and while its predecessor still is fun, it seems none of the complaints about the series' initial offering have been addressed, and the newest entry in this fledgling franchise seems more like an add-on or track pack than a full-fledged sequel.
Lips: Number One Hits has the same format as its predecessor. You pick a song, pick a mode, and then sing. In the first game this was a pretty cool feature, as you were able to select whether you wanted to just sing the song with a music video or animated background, or play a motion-sensitive mini-game along with the song as well. The problem is, in Number One Hits, the selection is exactly the same as it was in the original. The same three mini-games are back (dueling vocalists, bomb, and kiss) and the same visualization options are here, and there is absolutely nothing new. This is a huge disappointment, as the unique mini-games were one of the features that really impressed me in the first iteration. The fact that they have been simply duplicated for the sequel just smacks of lazy development, and is the biggest shortcoming of Number One Hits.
Although the choice to just replicate past modes is unfortunate, another issue that I took with Lips: Number One Hits is the song choice. While it is generally nice to have a good selection of music in a karaoke game, Lips: Number One Hits takes this idea to the extreme. While there are plenty of pop standards, like Black Eyed Peas' "Don't Phunk With my Heart" and Colby Callait's "Bubbly", the decision to add golden oldies like Marvin Gaye's "Heard it Through the Grapevine" or "Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison to a track list that includes the German rock song "Ready Set Go" by Tokio Hotel will leave many players scratching their heads. There are only 40 songs in the game, so it is very likely that players (especially those expecting pop music, as the name would imply) will find a handful of songs that they like, and will ignore the rest.
Despite the game's shortcomings, there are a few noteworthy areas where it succeeds. The best new feature of Lips: Number One Hits is its Xbox LIVE Avatar integration. As soon as you pop in the game, your avatar appears alongside the menu. While you are actually singing, your avatar will pop up on screen and you can use the motion-controlled mic to mimic its dance moves and earn some extra points. In addition to the Avatar's appearance in the game, Lips: Number One Hits is one of the few games to support Avatar awards. Special clothing and accessories can be unlocked by performing well in a song or ranking well on the community leaderboards.
It would have been nice to see the Avatar support used in a robust community or online multiplayer setting, but, unfortunately, Lips has the same community and multiplayer options as the first title. Sure, you can sing a duet or play one of the game's three mini-games against a local friend, but there is still no online functionality, and the simple mini-games get very boring and tedious after a few minutes (especially if you played the first Lips). This wouldn't be such a big complaint if the Lips community offering rivaled that of the SingStar online community. However, the My Lips area simply allows you to view songs you can purchase, look at online leaderboards, and compare your scores with those on your Xbox LIVE friend list. Although no other karaoke title (SingStar included) has yet to make the leap into the online foray, when other music games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero do, it really holds the karaoke sub-genre back from realizing its full potential.