Not Your Typical High School
When it comes to musicals, most people fall under one of two camps: either you love them or you hate them. If you consider yourself among the latter then you’re likely wary of the ever-present danger of picking up a passing jingle and having it glue itself into your brain on a semi-permanent basis. At that point you have little recourse but to listen to the song, sing along, and exorcise the demons. By the end you might just find you’ve changed your outlook on musical storytelling and had some fun in the process.
For those who’ve been accidentally exposed to the Disney Channel lately – whether through a younger sibling, your own child, via channel flipping, or other means – High School Musical: Sing It! offers an opportunity to cast out the audio poltergeists you’ve been absentmindedly humming for months. Let’s not forget the fans too. If you’re one of the thousands of people who absolutely loved the incredibly successful Disney movies then Sing It! will let you let you bust out your mad vocal skills in front of friends and family.
Hot on the heels of the second High School Musical movie, Sing It! incorporates 21 songs from both films, and an additional nine songs from other Disney artists, into a karaoke style game which puts players in a variety of interactive musical scenes from the original High School Musical film. PS2 owners can choose to pick up a copy either bundled with the USB microphone or without. The PS2 version is compatible with the microphones from the Singstar games. In either case, you’ll be singing along through the TV to the catchy tunes as the game’s many characters prance around. The words will appear on the lower portion of the screen, and you must hit the notes at the right pitch and the right cadence by following guides across the upper portion of the screen. Gameplay is more demanding than simple straight-up karaoke – which traditionally doesn’t require any measure of actual skill whatsoever – as you will be judged on how accurately you sing the notes. Getting the song lyrics perfectly right doesn’t really matter as much as hitting the proper pitch at the right timing.
A small basketball moves along the gray bars following your vocal pitch as you sing along, so it’s relatively easy to match up your singing visually if you’re not adept at doing it by ear. When the bars pass by, they’ll turn a light blue if you hit them correctly and a darker shade of blue if you’re off the mark. Singing a phrase well earns you multipliers which will boost your score significantly. Getting through a song isn’t tough, but accumulating a high score is necessary for unlocking additional songs, new settings, characters, and outfits. Most of the tunes are fairly short, and they won’t strain your voice or leave your out of breath thanks to a few pauses. Two characters trade-off phrases in each song, typically with male and female parts, and players have the option of singing solo or passing the microphone back and forth for a duet with friends.
Even if you’ve never seen either of the two Disney movies it will take a will of iron to get the upbeat pop-laden songs out of your head after a few listens through. Likewise, the music is enjoyable enough to sing along to without having ever heard it before. It does help to be familiar with the songs since there are many moments where you’ll find yourself stumbling to keep up due to the absence of solid cues on when it’s your turn to sing on some tunes.
If you’re too embarrassed to fully belt-out the words, it is possible to play through the entire game by humming in the correct pitch. Some may consider this cheating, but it will help younger players be able to enjoy the game as well. A helpful lyric booklet is included with the game for those who do want to master the songs through and through. If you’re on the sidelines and don’t feel like singing, you can use a controller to play a variety of percussive instruments while someone else croons. Unfortunately, this feature is awful, and it’s basically only useful for keeping an annoying sibling pacified while you play through the game.
For all the entertainment value singing along to High School Musical tunes may hold, the game suffers from a few drawbacks which hamper the overall experience. Sing It! on the Wii has slightly better graphics than the PS2 version, however, the vibrant tones and energetic presentation don’t completely make up for the game’s overall lack of visual detail. The cel-shaded style works well but it doesn’t attain the level of eye-candy.
Another area where the game falls up miserably short is in its actual length. The story mode primarily features songs from the first film and it’s over in about 30 minutes of straight play time. The narration and photos in between songs is like High School Musical lite, which will be fine for players who want to skip right to the singing action, but it would have been nice to work the game’s other tunes into the story presentation. To access the extra songs and other un-lockables you’ll have to reach scoring benchmarks by replaying the game to get higher scores. The extras menu lets you track the different characters, outfits, tunes, settings, and other extras you’ve unlocked. The additional play modes make it fun to play with friends, yet they don’t entirely round out and balance the shortness of the story mode. Quick Play lets you skip the fluff and get right to the singing, and Party Mode is good for holding singing competitions with friends as you battle for high score.
Sing It! is a title that can easily be enjoyed by a wide audience, however, playing the same short game over and over again for a high score to get at the bonus features gets old fast. Ultimately, the missing depth and short length make it a hard sell for the price of the package. Still, the gameplay is solid and it is an entertaining experience while it lasts.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.2 Graphics
Cel-shaded art style looks good, but lacks detail. 3.6 Control
Singing into the mic works great. Navigating menus and fiddling with the extra rhythm instrument controls is not. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Catchy, CD quality music and solid voice acting are nice on the ears. 2.5 Play Value
The game is un-excusably short. A lot of extras do make for reasonable replay time, but altogether it’s just not enough of a good thing. 3.1 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.