Sing it Like You Mean It!
When you think of karaoke games, the natural title to think of has to be SingStar. This franchise has become a casual powerhouse, and with over twenty titles to it’s credit, it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. SingStar Volume 2 is the series’ second installment on the PlayStation 3, and even though it features the same tried-and-true SingStar experience, there are enough new features to make this entry in the PS3 series feel distinct from its predecessor, and SingStar fans definitely won’t be disappointed. < /p>
From the very beginning of the game, SingStar Volume 2 wants to remind you that this title is online-enabled. Like most SingStar titles, when you first start the game up, you will have to create a profile. However, instead of just creating a name and moving on, you will be able to go straight online and create a SingStar identity. This identity includes a custom name, picture, and favorite artist and song information. Once you become a seasoned pro, this identity will also showcase your high scores and other singing stats. After you create your SingStar Identity, you are able to jump into the game at your leisure.
The core gameplay in SingStar Volume 2 is largely the same as it has always been. You choose a song and try your best to match little note bars that appear on screen. If you are successful, these note bars will turn blue. If not, the note bar will remain transparent, and little blue indicators will show you the notes that you actually sang. The interface is simplistic, but it has worked well to date, and since it is such a signature part of the SingStar series, I would not want or expect them to change this core mechanic any time soon.
However, there are a few different aspects of the singing that SingStar fans will notice in SingStar Volume 2. The biggest difference here is the debut of separate harmony and melody parts for many of the songs. These two parts are made up of completely different notes, with the melody comprising the lead vocal “tune” of the song, and the harmony providing complementary vocals. And, as any church or high school choir member will tell you, mastering a song’s harmony is no easy feat, especially when it requires you to actually read the notes instead of just listening to the tune. The separate vocal parts function definitely provides a welcome challenge for vocal enthusiasts, and it adds a brand-new dimension to the gameplay. Although the separate parts function is not available on all the tracks, you’ll find this option with songs like “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers and “California Dreamin’” by the Mamas and the Papas.
But if you’re not all into harmonizing with your vocally talented friends, there are still many multiplayer modes here that will keep you singing your favorite tunes. All your favorites are here, including Duet mode, Battle mode, and Pass the Mic. Duet mode assigns different portions of a song to you and a friend and measures the combined score. However, if you are not in a cooperative mood, there is Battle mode, which calculates you and your friend’s score separately to see who is the better SingStar. Of course, Pass the Mic is the ultimate party mode, which allows you to play with up to eight different people (with two mics) and take turns singing the different verses and choruses. Although not much has changed with regard to these multiplayer modes, they really didn’t need much work as it was and are still fun to play in a group.
One awesome feature that is making a return for Volume two is the video mode. Although this feature originally debuted in the original SingStar for the PS3, it has been streamlined this time around. The video you record (using either your PS2 EyeToy or PlayStation Eye) is now directly tied to your SingStar identity and can be searched for within the SingStar community. This is a pretty cool feature if you have lots of vocally talented friends online, or want to search for those who share your musical tastes.
However, if there was one component I feel the online SingStar experience is missing, it is online play. While it is great to find new people while browsing through the SingStar community, it would be even nicer to find someone you thought had a nice voice and be able to invite them to an online duet. Since every person’s SingStar identity includes their vocal ranking, high scores, and other stats, it would be so easy to just search for someone who was especially proficient in a single song and battle it out. Unfortunately, however, the online mode does not include any actual match functionality, and you’ll have to settle for watching videos of friends, family, and perhaps even total strangers for now.
As far as new tracks are concerned, SingStar Volume 2 has a modest collection of 30 new tracks that cover a wide variety of musical genres. You’ve got rock standards like Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady” and “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by The Police, pop songs like “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles and “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield, and, of course, the original emo standard, “Pictures of You” by The Cure. There is definitely something in the tracklisting for everyone, but I can’t help be disappointed that there are only thirty songs. Generally, most PlayStation 2 SingStar titles have about the same number of tracks, and I was honestly hoping that a current-gen title would include more content, especially considering the Blu-ray’s incomparable size capacity. Still, the songs that are included are nice, and if you find yourself looking for more, you can always browse the 500 songs in the SingStore catalog.
Visuals in this game are pretty good and feature the same basic SingStar look we’ve grown accustomed to with some HD improvements. Most notable is the HD up-scaling given to some of the older videos. For instance, even though the video for “Don’t go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee is over 30 years old, the video has been remastered quite well and looks surprisingly sharp. SingStar Volume 2 also has a customizable menu interface with several high-resolution pictures for you to choose from as your home screen and menu background. These pictures are all a little abstract and feature everything from a warm sunrise to a close-up of a strawberry. Although I doubt anyone will really obsess over these customization options, they certainly are nice, and it doesn’t hurt that the pictures are all quite pretty to look at in high definition.
Overall, SingStar Volume 2 is hardly a game-changer. Basically, everything you’ve ever experienced in a SingStar game is once again present in this title. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the SingStar formula has proven successful thus far, and the minor tweaks they have made in this entry all seem for the better. So, if you’ve got a PS3 and an urge to sing your heart out, SingStar Volume 2 is definitely worth adding to your collection and just may make you a star at your next party!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
All videos and menus are presented in full HD and the different backgrounds are nice to look at. 4.0 Control
If you can pick up a mic, you’ve already mastered the control. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The song selection is nicely varied with selections of pop, rock, and even rap music, but I would have appreciated more than just 30 tracks on this disc. 4.1 Play Value
All your favorite SingStar modes are here, and the harmonizing options give advanced singers something to cheer about. The only thing missing is actual online play. 4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.