Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment London
No. of Players: 1-8
Memory Card Space: 575KB
EyeToy USB Camera Compatible
SingStar Microphones and USB Converter Required
The ‘90s were a great period in time for music. When I think ‘90s music I think of bands such as Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Everclear, Stone Temple Pilots, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, etc. I could go on and on with all the great bands from the decade. It's hard to believe that we are now looking at ‘90s music as we do music from the 70's and 80's. So it comes as no surprise SingStar has a ‘90s edition for the PlayStation 2. Being quite familiar with the decade, as I was in the prime of my youth and young adulthood, I was looking forward to reviewing SingStar '90s when Sony indicated to us they would be sending us a review copy. After some playtime with the game I realize that while I do have some issues with the playlist, at the end of the day SingStar ‘90s is a must own for those who love to sing along, karaoke style, to some ‘90s tunes.
Although SingStar is not your typical animated video game, the visuals in SingStar are not bad at all considering it is a PS2 game. It's nothing incredibly stunning but it manages to get the job done quite well. In all honesty there is not much I can say about the visuals as SingStar '90s, and SingStar franchise as a whole for that matter, as it is not your typical video game.
For those of you completely unfamiliar with SingStar franchise, the bulk of the gameplay requires you to sing along to a song while a music video plays in the background. As the music video plays, horizontal bars are displayed across the screen which gauges your pitch while the lyrics of the song are usually displayed at the bottom of the screen in typical karaoke scrolling fashion. The videos are displayed in standard definition which comes as no surprise as it is a PS2 game. The bars and the lyrics displayed on the screen are very clear, easy to read and don't distract from the music videos. I found I was able to jump into the first song with ease and it was great to go down memory lane with some of the music videos I grew up watching.
SingStar's menus are easy to navigate and look good. They don’t look nearly as good as the recently released SingStar for the PS3, however they are clean, crisp and very readable. Once you move past the main menu and jump into the song selection area you are greeted with a slick menu system for selecting music. The album covers are displayed as you flip through your selections and you get a preview of the music before you make your selection. All in all SingStar '90s scores decent marks visually.
In a karaoke or music/rhythm type game the sound is arguably the most important aspect of the game. Fortunately SingStar '90s delivers in this department as well. All the songs and music videos are master tracks which gives the game instant credibility and authenticity. Nothing “grinds my gears” more than when I am playing Guitar Hero or Rockband and some cover band is playing my favorite artist’s song. Sure, most of the music sounds good in Guitar Hero or Rockband but not all the tracks are the real deal. SingStar '90s features all original artists featuring the video's which made the bands/singers so popular. The songs themselves all sound terrific in surround sound too. It was great to listen to some of those tracks I had not heard in years such as Crash Test Dummies - "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" and Technotronic's - "Pump Up The Jam".
Surprisingly, the microphones are also very good quality. Prior to playing any SingStar games, the last karaoke style game I played was on the original Xbox. During that game, which shall go nameless, my voice would often have a bit of delay and it would almost always throw me off and I often had to compensate for the delay. Furthermore it often sounded like I was singing in a tunnel. In any event, there is no such delay in SingStar '90s as it appears the microphones are calibrated to perfection. Believe me; your voice comes through loud and clear so if your voice makes the next door neighbour dogs howl, consider yourself forewarned.
The other in-game sounds such as the background tunes which play when you are in the menus to such other in-game sounds all sound decent. Overall, I have no complaints with the sound aspects of the game as no deficiencies stand out in this area.
I think it is prudent to start with what SingStar ‘90s is all about. I am going to assume that there are a lot of people who have played any of the past SingStar games, but I am sure that there are those who have not. SingStar ‘90s is essentially a karaoke game. It features a scoring system and the artist's music video playing in the background for the song you are singing. Similar to the vocals on Rockband, SingStar '90s for the PS2 has you sing along with music in order to score points. Users interface with the PS2 via the SingStar USB microphones. If you don’t have the microphones from a previous edition of the franchise you can get the game with the two microphones (red and blue) and the USB adapter. SingStar '90s does not measure how well you know the lyrics but rather uses a system which gauges your pitch (similar to Rockband). The pitch you are required to sing is displayed on horizontal bars and these bars correspond with the lyrics of the song. Bottomline, your pitch is compared to the pitch of the actual artists singing the song. The better your singing abilities (i.e. the better your pitch and timing) the better your score will be. So you do not need to nail down the words to perfection as you can hum through an entire song and gain decent scores. This is perhaps a flaw with the game but I have no idea how they would be able to score players on how well they know the specific lyrics of a song.
SingStar ‘90s comes with 30 tracks out of the box. This is apparently the series’ standard for how many tracks are packaged with the game. In my honest opinion 30 tracks are not enough. When games such as Guitar Hero III come with well over 50 tracks, 30 just seems way to short of a track list. Ideally I would have liked to have seen the playlist doubled to somewhere around 60 songs. Unfortunately, SingStar '90s for the PS2 does not feature an online component as the PS2 does not come with a built in HDD. So you are stuck with the 30 songs that are on the disc if you decide SingStar '90s is going to be your first and last SingStar purchase. For those of you wondering, the game’s track list is as follows:
Arrested Development - Tennessee
BoyZ II Men - Motownphilly
Chumbawumba - Tubthumping
Color Me Badd - I Wanna Sex You Up
Divinyls - I Touch Myself
En Vogue - Free Your Mind
Extreme - More Than Words
Gin Blossoms - Hey Jealousy
Hootie and the Blowfish - Only Wanna Be With You
Jesus Jones - Right Here Right Now
Len - Steal My Sunshine
MC Hammer - U Can’t Touch This
Natalie Imbruglia - Torn
New Kids On The Block - Step By Step
Nirvana - Lithium
Paula Abdul - Opposites Attract
Poison - Unskinny Bop
R.E.M. - Everybody Hurts
Santana feat. Rob Thomas - Smooth
Savage Garden - I Want You
Seal - Kiss From A Rose
Sir Mix A Lot - Baby Got Back
Sixpence - None The Richer Kiss Me
Soundgarden - Black Hole Sun
Spin Doctors - Two Princes
Stone Temple Pilots - Plush
Technotronic Feat. Felly - Pump Up The Jam
The Cranberries - Zombie
Vanilla - Ice Ice Ice Baby
Wilson Phillips - Hold On
Overall this not a bad set list but I don't think it accurately reflects ‘90s music. If anything it appears the developers purposefully wanted to focus on some of the more goofy or cheesy tunes from the decade. For example, I would consider artists like MC Hammer, New Kids on the Block, Vanilla Ice, and Color Me Badd to fall into the cheesy category. I know that it is hard to please everyone but clearly the developers had a certain target audience in mind and stuck with it. Unfortunately, not all SingStar fans, including myself, will want to sing some of the more goofy songs. Nevertheless, it was nice to see Stone Temple Pilots, Spin Doctors, Soundgarden, Nirvana and Arrested Development on the set list.
SingStar '90s features a variety of modes including singing solo or duet. You can sing freestyle where you don’t have to worry about scores or getting the right pitch. For those competitive singers you can sing in battle mode where you go head to head against another opponent. The one who sings the song better and scores more points wins the game. Furthermore you can play with up to eight players and organize players in a Party Mode. Party mode features games such as Pass the Mic (game based on rounds where you are presented with different singing challenges) and other customizable team games.
The final thing I want to comment on, and again it is something that I find a little disappointing. This final thing is the fact there is no single player mode similar to what we have seen with Rockband and Guitar Hero. Granted, SingStar and these guitar/band based games are distinctly different, and I did like the fact I could play any of the 30 songs right for the get go. That being said, a single player store mode or some sort of mode featuring some unlockable content would have given me some good reason to play on my own, try to get better at it, and sing all the 30 songs.
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