Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Singstar Rocks
(Sony for Playstation 2)

By Michael Palisano

Singstar Rocks brings karaoke action to the PS2 in fine form with dozens of music videos, multiple play modes and an interesting overall approach. The game includes two microphones and lets you sing along to your favorites and uses a pitch meter to judge your singing ability. You can play either solo mode or try to beat your friends in several party modes. There's a good selection of tracks ranging from classic tunes, to current hits with a variety of well-known artists included. This is an entertaining party game that should provide aspiring singers a fun way to display their talents.

With more mainstream people getting into video gaming, it's no surprise that developers are becoming more attuned to the casual audience. A perfect example of this phenomenon comes in the form of Singstar Rocks, a title that's guaranteed to appeal to a larger demographic than the normal genres. The game is basically a blown-up version of karaoke with music videos playing in the background as players attempt to match not just the words but the rhythm of each particular track in the game. Of course, there's more to it than that, but the basic premise is immediately notable, and makes for a title that's easy to play. When a song starts to play, a series of bars appears below the music video, which shows you the length and pitch of each note, along with the words to each song. Players can sing along to the song and Singstar then shows them how close they've come to matching the notes. Each bar is recorded and ranked, with higher scores given for closely matching the song's structure, words and notes accurately. Players can choose to play the game in solo mode and try to match the songs' structure and style in their own, with their vocals overlaid on top of the main song, effectively making them accompany the actual vocals. Unlike many titles on the market, each of the track is the real song, not a cheap cover version with the vocals stripped out. This makes the game more fun to play, since you're listening and singing along with the real band, not a bad version of them. The game's high-quality production values are evident, and you can see the influence of the company's successful EyeToy games on the game's overall approach.

You can select from multiple modes of play including the aforementioned solo mode and several competitive modes where you can sing against a rival. You can battle it out against another singer in versus mode, compete in teams, or play in freestyle mode. The game can be quite competitive at points. In some of these modes, your song will end if your ranking drops below a certain point, or you'll have to compete head-to-head, singing simultaneously against another player. These multiple modes of play keep things interesting and extend Singstar's longevity. Singstar's ranking system is good and ranks you in not only the words, but the pacing, note length and pitch of your notes. This makes it much harder to cheat the game, and requires a lot of concentration. It's relatively sophisticated, but there's still plenty of leeway given. Playing the game probably won't get you in the finals on American Idol, but it's a fun way to pass the time with friends. While it seems relatively simple at first, you'll quickly find yourself immersed in the action as you try to increase your scores, add flourish to your notes and take the game by storm. As an added incentive, each song includes special bonus notes, which offer extra scoring and ranking opportunities. These are usually longer and at higher or lower pitches, making them harder to maintain. This makes the gameplay all the more challenging and makes this feel like much more than a typical karaoke game. SingStar's track selection offers plenty of variety as well, and most players will find themselves challenged by the different styles and song structures offered.

The included microphones feel like real microphones, not cheap plastic toys, which makes them fun to use. They are heavy and feel right in your hands, they feel like professional instruments, not game controllers. This added realism is evident in their high-fidelity, which allows for some pretty decent sound quality that makes the experience all the more enjoyable. Connecting via the PS2's USB ports makes them instantly usable, and since there are two included, you can start battles and contests right away without having to purchase a second, which is a good idea given its target audience. Singstar Rocks also supports the EyeToy camera peripheral, which allows you to see yourself onscreen. This allows you to feel even more involved in the gameplay, and enhances the party atmosphere. The game's presentation is fairly slick with easy to navigate and understand menus, good quality music videos and a simple interface that makes it easy to see what your scores and status are. Singstar's track selection is fairly varied and includes 30 separate tracks. The selection ranges everything from classic artists like Gloria Gaynor, The Cure, Marvin Gaye, and Aretha Franklin to more contemporary artists including Coldplay, Good Charlotte, Fall Out Boy and Gwen Stefani. In addition to these standard tracks, there are also several medleys available with selections from various tracks and genres, which increases the challenge and unpredictability. Each song is accompanied by a full-length music video that plays in the background as you sing along. This makes the game more entertaining for spectators and helps to keep the excitement level high throughout.

One of the coolest features of the game allows you to save and replay your performances to the memory card. This can be either a good or a bad thing, depending on how much singing talent you have. SingStar Rocks isn't the deepest or more challenging game on the market, its an enjoyable social experience. The game's selection of tracks ranges several decades, which should broaden its appeal. There are multiple modes of play that allow for both casual and competitive play which adds to the gaming aspect as well. An easy to understand and navigate menu system, excellent presentation and slick interface makes things look good while keeping things accessible and fun throughout. It's not as challenging or hardcore as some of the other music titles on the market, but SingStar provides an enjoyable musical experience. The challenge of trying to match the songs note for note and competing with other players makes SingStar Rocks an enjoyable experience that makes for an appealing title that should entertain a broad cross-section of gamers, players and, casual singers.

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