The Lips Return!
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.
As far as production values go, Number One Hits is solid. The visuals in the game are crisp, with high-definition menus, music videos, and visualizations. The game’s animations are also very clean, and the avatar integration makes for some fun visuals. The audio is also of excellent quality, and if you have stereo speakers, you’ll definitely be able to appreciate the audio quality in the song. The quality of the player vocals is also fairly good, although you can hear some cracks in the audio occasionally.
One subtle improvement that has been made to the Lips package is the Microphone. While it looks and performs the same as the Microphones from the original Lips, the new Microphones are now compatible with other music games on the Xbox 360 like Guitar Hero 5 and The Beatles: Rock Band. This is a great option, as the Lips Microphone peripheral is one of the best available for the Xbox 360.
Play value in Lips is hit or miss. While having a game like Lips is great at parties, the lack of really great multiplayer options hinders it from becoming a true party staple, and if you already own the original Lips, then you may be frustrated by the lack of new mini-game options. However, if you are playing it by yourself and are working towards unlocking some of the game’s avatar awards, then there is plenty of replay value, as you can constantly try to improve your score or earn extra vocal trophies to work towards your goal.
Lips: Number One Hits is a great expansion pack. The new songs and avatar support will certainly please fans of the first. However, the trouble is that Lips: Number One Hits is being sold at full retail price as a standalone sequel to the original Lips. But, with a hit-or-miss song catalog, no new mini-game choices, and the continued lack of multiplayer support, Number One Hits fails to impress as a true successor to last year’s title. Sure, there is Avatar support, and certain facets of the gameplay have been improved, but there isn’t enough added to the experience to warrant a $60 purchase. If you already own Lips, then you’re better off just buying new tracks from the Lips store.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.9 Graphics
The game looks slick, and the Xbox 360 avatars look great in-game 4.1 Control
Mic-based motion controls work very well, and using the controller for secondary noises can be a lot of fun. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There aren’t that many songs on the disc, and some of the included “hits” were a little puzzling. 3.5 Play Value
The game is still fun, but aside from Avatar support, not much has changed since last year’s iteration. Still no online multiplayer. 3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.