The AU$49.95 price is for Singstar Pop as a standalone game. Singstar Pop is also available with two microphones for AU$99.95.
When it comes to karaoke, there are two types of people in this world. There are those who embrace the spotlight with open arms (and lungs) regardless of tune or talent. And then there are those who whine and insist that karaoke is not for them -- protests that usually only last a few beers in before they're on stage warbling My Way (or Boyz II Men's End of the Road).
The Singstar series of games have been a godsend for the latter type, giving them a chance to exorcise their karaoke hesitations in a closed environment at home far away from critical ears. It's also proved to be a great party game, and a decent hit for Sony's PlayStation 2 console.
The latest in the series, Singstar Pop, doesn't deviate too much from the established formula, but instead adds some more multiplayer options, a medley mode and a special meter to gauge rapping. Singstar's still great fun, and is probably the best party game on the PS2 to date.
If you've played Singstar or Singstar Party, then you'll know what to expect from Pop. Singstar Pop still grades you on your pitch and timing, with a real-time on screen bar showing you how well you're going. Having instant feedback on your singing is slightly intimidating at first -- but on the flipside the on-screen bars show you where you need to improve, meaning that continuous practice will actually improve your voice and have you singing like a diva in no time.
Like Singstar Party, Pop ditches the single player campaign of the original and focuses on multiplayer modes. Multiplayer is obviously where this game shines, but this reviewer misses the 'career' mode of the original (it was a great excuse to sing solo for those lonely nights where I couldn't get anyone over to play). The game still supports two microphones, but the multiplayer games cater for up to eight people -- mic passing obviously being a requisite.
The party games range from competitive to friendly, with the popular duet functionality from Party making a welcome comeback. The newest additions to the franchise include a medley mode and rap scoring. The medley mode groups songs together (such as Aussie songs, female artists, male artists and more), with players having to sing the chorus of one song before instantly switching to the chorus of the next. It's great fun, particularly in a multiplayer battle, with players never really knowing what song to expect next.
What's not implemented as well is rap scoring, purely because of the lack of instances players get to use it. Unlike the normal pitch and rhythm levels you're graded on with most songs on Singstar, rap scoring measures how well you're sticking to the beat, regardless of your voice. It's excellent when you get to use it, but unfortunately there's really only one song on the Singstar Pop playlist where you can go all gangsta (and it's the rather short Paid in Full). And for some strange reason, some raps in other songs have been edited out entirely (such as Robbie Williams at the end of Kids and Jay Z in the middle of Crazy In Love).
Of course, how much enjoyment you'll derive from this game will rely a lot on whether you're into the songs included. From this reviewer's point of view, the playlist on Pop is probably the most diverse in the series so far, ranging from rock classics by Steppenwolf to the lightest of today's fluffy pop. More power ballads Bon Jovi style would of course be welcome, but most will probably be happy with Pop's selection.
And kudos to Sony for localising the playlist. Singstar Party seemed to have an abundance of British acts no one here had ever heard of (who the hell are Busted?), but Pop has an admirable level of local talent represented. The full list of songs are:
- Spazzy's -- My Boyfriend's Back
- Shannon Noll -- What About Me
- Missy Higgins -- Scar
- INXS -- New Sensation
- Delta Goodrem -- Born to Try
- Evermore -- It's too Late
- Natasha Bedingfield -- These Words
- Savage Garden -- To the Moon & Back
- Bic Runga -- Sway
- Kylie Minogue -- In Your Eyes
- Ashlee Simpson -- Pieces Of Me
- Avril Lavigne -- Sk8er Boi
- Beyonce -- Crazy in Love
- Black Eyed Peas -- Shut Up
- Good Charlotte -- I Wanna Live
- Hoobastank -- The Reason
- Jamelia -- Stop
- Manfred Man -- Do Wah Diddy
- Robbie Williams -- Let Me Entertain You
- Ronan Keating & Ysuf Islam -- Father and Son
- Sister Sledge -- We Are Family
- Steppenwolf -- Born to be Wild
- The Clash -- Should I Stay or Should I Go?
- Tom Jones -- It's Not Unusual
- Dandy Warhols -- Bohemian Like You
- Fountains of Wayne -- Stacy's Mom
- Erik B. and Rakim -- Paid in Full
- Blink - 182 -- What's My Age Again
- Outkast -- Roses
- Robbie Williams & Kylie Minogue -- Kids
Perhaps the greatest weakness of the Singstar series is still with Pop, however. At only 30 songs, Pop will be fun for the first few parties, but will quickly lose its sheen after that. At AU$49.95 its great value, but we'd pay double that for a greater selection of songs.
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