Lips: I Love the 80s
Ahh, the 80's. A decade where yuppies bought Filofaxes, clothes went neon, hair got huge and Mrs Thatcher did her best to ruin the country. Although we've spent the best part of the intervening twenty years sniggering at its fashions and grimacing in horror at its politics it seems the tides they are a-turning because (politics aside) the 80s are currently back in a big way. Cue Microsoft, never ones to miss an opportunity to sell you something, with this latest incarnation of their Xbox 360 karaoke game Lips: I Love the 80s.
As the name would suggest this new collection is chock full of tunes from the titular decade and to give developers iNiS some credit they've come up with a pretty decent selection of hits. With songs like Vienna (Ultra Vox), Relax (Frankie Goes To Hollywood), Walking On Sunshine (Katrina & The Waves) and Gold (Spandau Ballet) as well as tracks from bands like Culture Club, Blondie, Bananarama and Duran Duran there's no denying that there's some classics on there as well as a few that'll cause light bulbs of happy recognition to flash on once you hear them.
It's a distinctly pop focused selection however, no real nods to the rockier end of the musical spectrum meaning groups like U2, Bon Jovi and Queen miss out along with more indie bands like The Smiths (although you'll find The Cure's Boy's Don't Cry if you look hard enough) who's influence is still felt today. Such exclusions are a shame and mean that as a representation of a musical decade this collection feels a little biased. As ever though this is all a case of musical taste and how much this compilation matches up with yours could turn it from hero to zero or vice versa.
As we've come to expect by now, song packs like these rarely offer anything new to the core game besides the songs themselves. As such, Lips: I Love the 80s retains pretty much everything found in the last Lips game, we've got your basic single player sing-a-long, two player battles and duets all present and correct. Then there are the features unique to Lips like the Star Stream score multiplayer that gets built up by performing well (much like Star Power in Guitar Hero) and the slightly naff but fun-in-a-group gesture bonuses where you have to strike a pose, mic in hand, for extra points. Also making a return are the multiplayer mini games like Vocal Fighters and Time Bomb that aim to spice up the sense of competition but yet again ultimately fall flat by not really being anything more than a way of showing the current score in a more visual fashion.
The thing is, whatever Lips does it's going to be compared to Sony's SingStar. On the one hand that's a little unfair; SingStar has been around six years and a whole console generation longer than Lips, building up a massive library of songs and fans during that time. On the other hand you can say that karaoke really isn't that complicated and iNiS had SingStar's successful template to work from so if they continue to miss the boat they should be held accountable.
Personally I tend lean towards the latter of those two camps, and as such find Lips a confusingly mixed bag. Even now, four games down the line, it displays a serious lack of polish, still appearing slow and unwieldy to use while managing to make even simple things like singing with friends who don't have a profile on your 360 far more of a pain than it should be. Also missing is the online community aspect that's proven so popular in the PS3 era SingStar and the Lips online shop is still lagging way behind the SingStore in terms of both quantity and quality. However, it also has a bit more character than SingStar with its motion sensing strike a pose moments and score multipliers making the whole thing a little more light hearted than the slightly po-faced SingStar.
Should you be blessed with both an Xbox 360 and a PS3 and want to take the plunge into the world of karaoke then I'd steer you towards a SingStar title rather than a Lips title every time because it's simply the more complete product. That's not to say Lips is bad, it does the core karaoke 'thing' perfectly well, it's just missing some of the surrounding bells and whistles which is a shame. Anyone already invested in Lips will find this new collection offers more of the same just with an 80's theme, your musical tastes dictating how good or bad such an idea sounds. As ever it's hard to whack a score on the end of something as subjective as a karaoke game review. However, Lips is still playing obvious second fiddle to its big rival and this disk doesn't make any real effort to close the gap which explains the (slightly arbitrary) score I've awarded.