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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Singstar Pop
(Sony for Playstation 2)

By Michael Palisano

Sony's Singstar Pop is a more accessible version of the popular Karoake-style singing game introduced last year. Using one of two microphones, the object is to match the pitch, lyrics and pacing of the songs as closely as possible. Doing so scores points and increases your rankings. You can also choose to sing freestyle as well or compete against another player head to head or in other modes. Singstar Pop also allows players to record their performances using the EyeToy camera for playback later. While it suffers from some dubious song selections, it's a fairly decent party game that should make casual gamers happy.

Taking the successful Karoake party game into another genre of music, Sony's Singstar Pop for the Playstation 2 allows players to sing along to popular songs while looking at actual music videos. This is definitely aimed at the party market, and its simple approach should make it instantly enjoyable for both gamers and aspiring singers alike. It's not that hard to understand and most players should be able to have fun right away. In order to play the game, you need to use a pair of studio-quality microphones. These are available separately or bundled with Singstar, which is good if you bought the first game and don't need an extra set. The microphones are solidly constructed and players can connect to the console via a USB interface. It works on both the PS2 and Playstation 3, in case you're wondering. Once connected, they allow you to sing along to various tracks. Connecting the microphones and setting up the game is a fairly simple task and the simple menus are easy to navigate and use. The basic approach this time around is very similar to the first Singstar title, and this installment uses a similar set of menus and options, which mean most players should be able to play through the game without much effort. Singstar Pop offers several modes of play including a performance mode where you sing along to each song. While the track is playing, a series of bars will scroll across the bottom of the screen, these indicate the timing and rhythm of each song. Singing at the same speed and pitch as the bars will increase your score and allow you to continue. Players who want to practice can also use the Freestyle mode to learn the basics of each song and get the hang of things without having to worry about their score or rankings.

Your objective in Singstar is relatively simple: the more accurately you sing to the song, the better your rankings. Chaining multiple successful bars adds even more to your score, rewarding consistency and reliability. In order to help things along, the lyrics for each song scroll across the bottom of the screen as well. It takes concentration and memorization skills to do well, and the game definitely requires practice. If you run up against a tricky track and don't do a good job mimicking the song's pace and lyrics, the track will end early and you'll end up with a low score. While you'd think that an automatic scoring system wouldn't really be useful, the results are surprisingly accurate and make a good judge of how you're singing is progressing. You can choose to play either alone, or compete against another player head to head through a series of songs and tracks. In the competitions, you alternate tracks or can choose to switch during the tracks themselves, which makes things even more fun. It's fairly easy to play against a single song, but things become more challenging when Singstar throws medleys at you, which challenge you to change your pace on a dime. The game's approach is simple and effective enough that most players should have little trouble understanding what's going on, though some of the challenge stages might be a little confusing at first to the uninitiated.

From a presentation standpoint, the game's menus and interface are extremely straightforward and makes things easy to understand. One of the key areas where the game seems to have a leg up is the ability to watch the actual music videos by the artists, which helps to make the experience feel a bit more visceral than it would be otherwise. Unfortunately, the game falls apart on close inspection of the actual music included. While Singstar Pop's play mechanics are fairly solid, the game seems to fall flat in one very important area: song selection. There are more than 30 tracks available, but the quality of them feels very haphazard and erratic. A number of forgettable power-pop ballads from one-hit bands like Hoobastank are mixed in with better tracks from the likes of U2, Destiny's Child, My Chemical Romance, and Gorillaz. There are also a few classic tracks from Cindy Lauper, A-ha and The Clash plus a few others, though these make up only a small fraction on the disc. Most of the more recent songs are somewhat awful as well, and make the game feel more like a chore than entertainment. While some of these artists probably have their audiences, it definitely feels like the track selection in this edition of the game has been thrown together. This has the effect of making Singstar Pop feel much less than the sum of its parts. While the game has been solidly constructed with a solid interface, it never really reaches the heights that you'd expect it to. In the end, the game's erratic track selection serves to undermine what could have been a much better experience.

- Michael Palisano


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