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 SingStar franchise has become a force to be reckoned with. I am just amazed that in a relatively short period of time SingStar has seemingly become a household name. In a few short years Sony has kept pumping out game after game in the franchise. One of the first SingStar games to hit North America was ‘SingStar Rocks!’. The game hit shelves over a year and half ago. Yes, I admit we are quite late to this party but hey, give us credit for recognizing this franchise and the need to catch up on reviewing all the games. Being that I have been the one doing all the SingStar reviews I have come to enjoy them, so when Sony recently sent us ‘SingStar Rocks!’ I was looking forward to reviewing the game and rockin’ out to some great tunes. Although ‘SingStar Rocks!’ features a solid set list, I do have some issues with it, especially when compared to some of the newer and improved SingStar games.
The visuals in ‘SingStar Rocks!’ 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 Rocks!’, 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. These bars gauge your pitch while the lyrics of the song are displayed at the bottom of the screen in typical karaoke scrolling fashion. The music videos are displayed in standard definition which comes as no surprise as it is a PS2 game. The bars and the lyrics displayed are very clear, easy to read and don't distract from the music videos that are featured. 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. Granted 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 Rocks!’ scores decent marks visually.
In a karaoke or music/rhythm type game the sound is arguably the most important aspect of the game. As far as the music and videos are concerned, ‘SingStar Rocks!’ delivers in this department. All the songs and music videos are master tracks which gives the game instant credibility and authenticity. Anyone who has read my most recent reviews of the SingStar games I have played knows that nothing “grinds my gears” more than when I am playing Guitar Hero or Rock Band and some cover band is playing my favorite artist’s song. Sure, most of the music sounds good in Guitar Hero or Rock Band but not all the tracks are the real deal. ‘SingStar Rocks!’ features all original artists as well as featuring the music 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 Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s "Summertime" and The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love”.
The microphones are also very good quality but I do have issue with the volume of your singing voice. Unlike other SingStar games that I have played and reviewed lately, ‘SingStar Rocks!’ suffers a bit in terms of how your voice comes through the TV or stereo system you are playing on. Often when my wife and I were playing the game (I took it back to my home office) and singing at the top of our lungs we could barely hear our voices. Unfortunately, unless I am missing something, you cannot adjust your voice in game. The microphones appear calibrated properly as there is no delay or lag with our voices. So everything being said, my only issue with the sound department is with the volume of your voice through your display or audio system’s speakers. Fortunately, more recent SingStar games do not have this same issue.
The other in-game sounds such as the background tunes which play when you are in the menus to such other in-game sounds are all relatively decent.
I think that I am sane enough 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 also those who have not. Should you have played any SingStar game in the past, skip forward to the next paragraph. However, for the uninitiated here is a brief description of what the game is about. ‘SingStar Rocks!’ 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 Rock Band, ‘SingStar Rocks!’ for the PS2 has you sing along with music in order to score points. You 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 Rocks!’ does not measure how well you know the lyrics but rather uses a system which gauges your pitch (similar to Rock Band). The pitch you are required to sing is displayed on horizontal bars and these bars correspond with the lyrics of the song. Bottom line, your pitch is compared to the pitch of the actual artists singing the song and the better your singing abilities (i.e. the better your pitch and timing) the better your score will be. 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 Rocks!’ comes with 30 tracks out of the box. This is the series standard for how many tracks are packaged with the game. I know that I am sounding like a broken record given that I have reviewed all the SingStar games for Gameboyz, but 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 Rocks!’ 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. So, if you decide ‘SingStar Rocks!’ is going to be your first and last SingStar purchase you’ll be stuck with the 30 songs included on the disc.
For those of you wondering, the game’s track list is as follows:
Gwen Stefani - Cool
Fall Out Boy - Dance, Dance
The Killers - Somebody Told Me
Coldplay - Speed Of Sound
KT Tunstall - Black Horse And The Cherry Tree
Aretha Franklin - Respect
Elton John - Rocket Man
Marvin Gaye - I Heard It Through The Grapevine
The Cure - Friday I'm in Love
D.J. Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince - Summertime
The White Stripes - Blue Orchid
Naked Eyes - (There's) Always Something There To Remind Me
B52s - Love Shack
Dusty Springfield - Son Of A Preacher Man
Joss Stone - Super Duper Love (Are You Diggin On Me?)
Blur - Song 2
Gloria Gaynor - I Will Survive
Jet - Are You Gonna Be My Girl?
Hole - Celebrity Skin
Thin Lizzy - The Boys Are Back in Town
Scissor Sisters - Take Your Mama
The Rolling Stones - Paint It, Black
Bloc Party - Banquet
The Police - Every Breath You Take
The Offspring - Self-Esteem
Lynyrd Skynyrd - Sweet Home Alabama
Keane - Everybody's Changing
Scorpions - Wind Of Change
Good Charlotte - Girls & Boys
The Hives - Hate To Say I Told You So
Overall this not a bad set list but when I received ‘SingStar Rocks!’ I expected rock music. Jazzy Jeff and Gwen Stefani don’t exactly fall into that category. It appears the developers wanted to reach a wide range in their target audience but in doing so many of the tunes seem out of place. Artists like Good Charlotte and Aretha Franklin on the same set list is a prime example. I would have liked to have seen the game stick to its title and have rock tunes only. Preferably rock tunes from the same decade as well.
‘SingStar Rocks!’ 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 ( a 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, is the fact that there is no single player mode similar to what we have seen with Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Granted, SingStar is a much different game, 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 story mode or some sort of mode featuring some unlockable content would have given more reason to play on my own more often and try to get better at the 30 songs if I knew there was a bigger reward at the end.
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