SingStar Vol. 2
My god I love it. Is that wrong? I'm not sure. Should we even be reviewing on what we like to pretend is a serious games site what ammounts to a tweaked expansion to a karaoke title it is already impossible to judge in the same way as a 'normal' game? This isn't BioShock after all; it isn't even Rock Band or Guitar Hero in fact, although it does appeal to a similar audience.
What audience is that? Drunkards, in the main. After two years living in Japan I can certainly endure karaoke in all its forms sober, but after a few drinks with a few like-minded companions the art-form takes on a whole new dimension. There's something just oh-so very right about us all having a jolly sing-along together as the night wears on and the vino flows.
The first SingStar for PS3 was something of a benchmark. The visuals were predictably lovely, the pitch-based gameplay (the competitive element, focussed on singing prowess) refined, and the online functionality a revelation. No need to spend money and time acquiring seemingly endless 'R&B', 'Pop', 'Rock' and 'Bollywood' song discs, with PSN connectivity came the ability to download tunes (for a better-than-those-rhythm-action games 0.99 GBP a pop) from an ever expanding roster of favourites.
The advent of SingStar PS3 also ushered in user-generated fun, via the My SingStar Online service, allowing wannabe singers to record and even video their vocal attempts, for sharing with the world. You can of course rate others' efforts to boot, while this side of things in general is just another welcome bullet point, even if many players won't use it often.
So, you might think that SingStar PS3's online prowess would render a sequel impossible. Quite true, SingStar Vol. 2 isn't going to be an essential purchase for everyone, but for those of you without a PS3 broadband connection this is a very welcome opportunity to add some new songs to the game - while even those addicted to downloading new backing tracks will find new songs, and even a handful of new features to sink their audio-teeth into.
First up is the ability to take on harmonies during duets. This works a treat during numbers like California Dreamin' (especially after more than a couple of cervezas, when even if you don't, you'll think you sound like a choir of sexy rock angels). The two lyric streams are displayed at the top and bottom of the screen during these harmonies, keeping play mercifully simple still.
This addition is nice enough, however perhaps the most technically impressive enhancement over the first SingStar PS3 comes via the new Remote Play functionality. In tandem with previous system updates for the console itself, this allows you to control SingStar remotely via the PSP handheld. Not only can you access the SingStore music shop while away from your PS3, setting up downloads and browsing available tracks, you can also scan the My SingStar Online portal, eying up the competition (when you should really be typing up that end of year report for accounts).
The applications of this feature haven't been fully explored yet, but Sony clearly hope to see legions of trendy young things discussing and downloading songs while supping premium lager in a stylishly-lit bar, before returning home to a few croons on the game. This is certainly possible via the new PSP connectivity.
Beyond these new features, Sony London also introduce a few aesthetic tweaks to the on-screen layout, and alter the backgrounds a little, just to freshen things and ensure everything doesn't look too much like Vol. 1. Which is fine by us.
However, for most players, it'll be the track listing which swings or dissuades the puchase. 30 tracks in total are offered, there's Blur (Country House), but not Oasis. There's also more Gorrilaz (my favourite, Dare), Libertines, Maximo Park, Killers, Hot Chocolate (You Sexy Thing), Spandau Ballet, The Proclaimers and Aerosmith. The range is slightly more eclectic than in Vol. 1, but there's still a reliance on 90s and 00s music overall. Quite why Paul McCartney's frog chorus was deemed suitable is anyone's guess. Not very "lifestyle".
Play.com are offering a stand-alone copy of Vol. 2 for eighteen pounds in the UK presently, and if you like most of the tracks this is probably a cheaper way of broadening your track-listing without paying 0.99 GBP every time on the SingStore. Likewise if you're a die-hard fan the new features may well prove sufficiently luring to make this a good acquisition. Still, if you were hoping for more from the track-listing, perhaps some older sing-alongs, or better representations of non rock-pop genres, then you'll be disappointed overall.
Ambiguity aside this is a fairly middle of the road follow-on to an ace series that'll still amuse endlessly. Therefore: