SingStar Pop Vol.2ESRB:
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
I don’t know what it is but every time our Editor-in-Chief hands me another SingStar game, I get a little excited even though I am a horrible singer. There is just something about throwing a SingStar disk into the Playstation console, setting up the microphones and busting out some lyrics which really get’s me energized. Usually my wife and daughter join me as we scroll through the set list and randomly pick songs to sing. It’s always an enjoyable experience and Sony’s new edition to the SingStar franchise is no different. SingStar Pop Vol. 2 is the latest arrival to the franchise and it once again delivers. That being said, the same issues which plague some of the other SingStar games for the PS2 are back and I am really starting to question the direction the franchise is headed.
Similar to the other SingStar games, SingStar Pop Vol. 2 is not your typical animated videogame. There are no character animations to dissect or large animated maps to critique. With that in mind, there is not much I can say about the visuals in SingStar Pop Vol. 2 let alone the SingStar franchise as a whole for that matter, as it is not your typical video game. SingStar Pop Vol. 2 follows the same template as the previous SingStar games and overall the look is decent considering it is a PS2 game. It's nothing incredibly stunning and I would prefer if some of the videos were in High Definition however it manages to get the job done.
For those of you completely unfamiliar with SingStar franchise, the bulk of the gameplay requires you to sing along to a variety of songs while a music video plays in the background. As the 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 screen are very clear, easy to read and don't distract from the music videos. As with the other games in the franchise you are able to jump into a song with ease in SingStar Pop Vol. 2.
SingStar Pop Vol. 2's menus are easy to navigate and look good. They don’t look nearly as good as 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 when making your selection. The album covers are displayed as you flip through your possible choices and you get a preview of the music before you make your selection.
All in all SingStar Pop Vol. 2’s scores decent marks visually. That being said, SingStar Pop Vol. 2 does not take any chances to re-invent itself as the game takes a more conservative approach and sticks with the same overall look as it has done so many times in the past couple of years.
In a karaoke or music/rhythm game the sound is arguably the most important aspect. Fortunately SingStar Pop Vol. 2 delivers in this department as well. All the songs and music videos are master tracks which gives the game instant credibility and authenticity. As I have said in the past, 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 these games but not all the tracks are the real deal. SingStar Pop Vol. 2’s 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. Some of my personal favourites included in the game are Santana featuring Chad Kroger’s "Into The Night" and Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World”.
Once again, the microphones are also very good quality. That being said I did get quite a bit of feedback if I cranked up the volume on the amplifier. This was easily rectified however by merely turning down my voice with the trigger button. Prior to playing any SingStar games, the last karaoke style game I played was on the original Xbox. During that game, which shall still 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 Pop Vol. 2 as it appears the microphones are calibrated to perfection. I also loved that fact that SingStar Pop Vol. 2 allows you to adjust your singing volume so you don’t have to completely embarrass yourself when trying to hit some of high notes from Maroon 5.
The other in-game sounds such as the background tunes which play when you are in the menus sound decent. Overall, I have no complaints with the sound aspect of the game as no major deficiencies stand out in this area.
For those of you unfamiliar with all that is SingStar, let me give you some background in terms of what the game is all about. If you haven’t already guessed it, SingStar Pop Vol. 2 is essentially a karaoke game. It features a scoring system and the artist's music video playing in the background during the song you are singing. Similar to the vocals on Rock Band, SingStar Pop Vol. 2 has you sing along with music in order to score points. Users interface with the PS2 via the SingStar USB microphones. The game does not measure how well you know the lyrics, instead it uses a system that 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. So in a nutshell your pitch is compared to the pitch of the actual artists singing the song. The better your singing abilities (e.g. 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 Pop Vol. 2 comes with 30 tracks out of the box. This is apparently the series standard for how many tracks are packaged with the game. As I have stated in previous SingStar reviews, 30 tracks are not enough in my view. When games such as Guitar Hero: World Tour and Rock Band 2 are coming out with 80 plus songs, 30 just seems way too short of a track list. Ideally I would have liked to have seen the playlist doubled to somewhere around 60 songs. Unfortunately SingStar Pop Vol. 2 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 Pop Vol. 2 is going to be your first and last SingStar purchase.
For those of you wondering, the game’s track list is as follows:
3 Doors Down - "When I'm Gone"
Lloyd - "Get it Shawty"
Ashlee Simpson - "Boyfriend"
Maroon 5 - "Makes Me Wonder"
Avril Lavigne - "My Happy Ending"
Matchbox Twenty - "How Far We've Come"
Boys Like Girls - "The Great Escape"
Michelle Branch - "Breathe"
Cartel - "Lose It"
Nelly Furtado - "Promiscuous"
Colbie Caillat - "Bubbly"
Norah Jones - "Don't Know Why"
Dixie Chicks - "Not Ready To Make Nice"
Pink - "Who Knew"
Duran Duran - "Ordinary World"
Peter Bjorn and John - "Young Folks"
Evanesence - "Bring Me To Life"
Plain White T's - "Hey There Delilah"
Fall Out Boy - "Thanks For Tho Memories"
Rihanna - "Umbrella"
Fergie - "Big Girls Don't Cry"
Santana feat. Chad Kroger - "Into The Night"
Gwen Stefani feat. Akon - "The Sweet Escape"
Steriogram - "Walkie Talkie Man"
Jennifer Lopez - "Jenny From the Block"
Sum 41 - "Fat Lip"
Lifehouse - "First Time"
The Hives - "Tick Tick Boom"
Lily Allen - "Littlest Things"
The Outfield - "Your Love"
Overall this is not a bad set list as surely there is something there for everyone. Clearly the developers were attempting to target a wide audience who loves pop songs by offering such a broad range of tunes. Nevertheless, some tunes did seem out of place. For instance, I was caught off guard when I saw The Outfield’s "Your Love" on the set list. Don’t get me wrong it is a great track but the song should be on a SingStar 80’s version as opposed to a game with Nelly Furtado and Pink included. Also, Santana and the Dixie Chicks are not the first to come to mind when I think of pop music.
SingStar Pop Vol. 2 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 out there 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. Finally you can play with up to eight players and organize players in a Party Mode. This 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.
Another item I would like to comment on which I continually find disappointing is the fact there is no single player mode similar to what we have seen with Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Granted, SingStar and these guitar/band based games are distinctly different. I did like the fact I could play any of the 30 songs right for the get go, however a single player story 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.
With Rock Band 2 recently released and Guitar Hero: World Tour on the way, gamers have watched titles in the music genre continually make strides. Unfortunately, we are not seeing any major advances with the SingStar franchise. If we don’t see some drastic improvements soon, SingStar may quickly go by the way side in favour of games which offer more music and more variety. SingStar Pop Vol. 2 is a decent game but the franchise is in need of an overhaul real soon.
Continue to Page 2