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About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox 360 is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.

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PS3 Review - 'SingStar Vol. 2'

by Brian Dumlao on Nov. 25, 2008 @ 6:02 a.m. PST

Even though the original game allows you to expand your tracklist through the Singstore, SingStar makes an encore performance with Vol. 2 featuring not only 30 new tracks, but also a new Harmony Duet mode, and browsing of the Singstore via PSP.

Genre: Rhythm
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: SCEE London
Release Date: October 28, 2008

A little over five months ago, Sony released the first SingStar for the PS3. The series, already wildly popular in the U.K. and gaining steam in the U.S. with the previous PS2 releases, had added several welcome features to the familiar singing game. Aside from high-definition video for some of the music videos, an online music store allowed players to obtain more songs. More importantly, however, SingStar made extensive use of an online community that was more than happy to share video clips of people singing song choruses, pictures of themselves in goofy outfits with their mics, and audio recordings of them singing badly. This sense of community helped make SingStar a must-have title for PS3-owning music fans.

After a few months, Sony thought that it would be the right time to release SingStar Vol. 2 for the PS3. Those fans just looking for new songs will be satisfied with what they find. Everyone else that's looking for some improvements to the game will find that Sony took the saying 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' a little too literally as there is nothing else new to find here aside from a different list of songs to sing to.

For those unfamiliar with the game series, SingStar Vol. 2 falls squarely under the "easy to learn, hard to master" idiom. Using the supplied USB microphone package (or ones supplied from the first game or prior PS2 packages), players select a song and sing along to it. The goal is to try match the vocal pitch of the song using a scale presented on-screen. The meter fills up when you match the presented pitch, and it also goes above and below the pitch meter when you happen to sing higher or lower than what the game wants, respectively. The pitch meter is presented near the center of the screen, while the lyrics go on the bottom, in case you don't have the song memorized. As an added bonus, the music video of the song plays in the background, so it gives onlookers something to watch while they wait their turn.

Playing the game is easy. All you really have to do is sing to your heart's content until the song is over. Match the pitch well, and you score more points. Fail to hit the pitch just right, and you won't score as many points as you would have liked. At the end of the song, you get a point total and a ranking of how well you did. As stated before, SingStar Vol. 2 is easy to play. The hard part comes from the fact that you want to keep practicing to get your scores higher and higher than before. With the songs all containing different vocal pitches and vocal stylings (including rap), getting the top score in each song won't occur instantly.

Aside from the single-player mode, there's a duet mode where you and a partner sing a song together for a cumulative score. Depending on the song, both singers either have specific dedicated parts, or the song will be split up so that each person can take turns with one singer's different lyric sets. There's also a battle mode, where you and a partner can go head-to-head to compete for a higher score on the same song. For party situations, there's a party mode that keeps track of up to eight players at a time.

Gamers who have tried other music games such as Guitar Hero: World Tour, Rock Band 2 or Karaoke Revolution presents American Idol Encore will find the singing system here to be a bit different. Whereas those titles have a system where the lyrics scroll by with an arrow indicating where your vocal pitch should be, SingStar Vol. 2 has a static lyrics system where there is no early indicator for where your pitch should be in order to score high on the given tune. Unless the song has a consistent pitch to it, most players will have no idea about where their pitch should go until it was too late. It doesn't get any easier if the song happens to go by at a rather fast pace. It doesn't make the title any less fun since you might want to sing the same song again somewhere down the road, but it is something to note.

Much like the previous games, there's nothing to unlock here. No Trophies, no avatars or outfits, no new backgrounds ? nothing. All of the songs are unlocked the moment you insert the disc, which is great for party situations since you don't have to worry about not having all of the advertised songs available without putting in some work on your own first.

The graphical look of SingStar Vol. 2 hasn't changed at all compared to previous versions of the game. At first glance, someone could even mistake this version for the PS2 version. The pitch bars for the vocals still sport the same blue and red colors with the same clarity as the previous versions. The lyrics area is still the same, and so is the score area. Outside of the main menu interface, the biggest graphical change would have to be the videos. While the downloadable videos are mostly in standard definition, some of the videos on the disc are in high definition. However, due to the song selection this time around, there are more videos that haven't received the HD treatment.

Much like the graphics, the sound isn't going to blow people away. None of the videos sport any surround sound, the menu sounds are pretty basic, and the quality of the songs are good since they all come from the videos. Just like the first game, the one major change from this version and the previous ones is the ability to turn off the vocals for the song playing, which is good if you'd rather hear yourself than the original artist.

SingStar Vol. 2 still chooses to only have 30 songs on the disc, which is disappointing when you start comparing it t other music games that easily have double or triple the number of songs before downloadable content is factored in. Granted, you are getting music videos for your troubles, but you'll quickly feel that the space afforded by a Blu-ray disc isn't being filled to capacity, especially when the PS2 SingStar titles also featured only 30 songs on DVD. One thing that's built in this time around is a disc-swapping feature. If you happen to own a previous version of SingStar (or plan to get future volumes of the game), you can hit the Select button and swap out discs, preventing you from having to reboot the game anytime you want to play a song that's on a disc different. In case you're wondering, here's the song selection for SingStar Vol. 2.

The online section for SingStar Vol. 2 shares every feature that the previous title had and still lacks the one feature missing from the series: online gameplay. All multiplayer gameplay is relegated to local consoles only. When compared to the other games in the genre, not having online gameplay seems a bit behind the times. Fortunately, the other online features more than make up for this oversight.

As alluded to before, SingStar Vol. 2 has an online store available where users can download new songs for the game. The online songs are as varied as they are on the disc, and they're a combination of songs previously released on older SingStar compilations and newer songs. Updates seem to happen every two to three weeks, with those updates containing no less than 15 songs to choose from, each tune going for a price of $1.49. With a library of close to 400 songs available as of this writing, including songs that were available in previous PS2 releases, the online store seems like it would be an abundant source of music for fans of any genre.

In the months that the store has been available, however, players have noticed that the selection of songs has more of a European slant to them. While there are songs and artists that American players would recognize, a majority of songs come from artists that few people outside of Europe would know about. People familiar with these artists would be happy and see an online store full of vocal possibilities, while those with a more U.S. taste would see the store as being too cluttered, making it more difficult for them to find a song that they want. It's also worth noting that the songs purchased in the store work in both volumes of SingStar, ensuring that you won't feel like you wasted your money.

The biggest hook to the online portion has to do with My SingStar. This segment of the game creates an online community for the game similar to that of Facebook, MySpace and YouTube combined. Using the PlayStation Eye, players can upload pictures, audio recordings and 30-second videos of themselves performing to the site. While all of the user-created data has been done before on older SingStar versions, the fact that it now gets posted to an online site increases the appeal of the game. People can now see how other players perform and share their performances with everyone who owns the game and is online. Star-based rankings for songs included on both disc volumes, downloaded tracks and songs not available in the U.S. can also be displayed online via the built-in site. In a way, the game has a roundabout method for having competitive online play without having a dedicated mode to do so.

Like the previous title, this is also one of the few PS3 titles to support remote play on the PSP. While the user obviously cannot play the game this way, it was designed so that the user can download songs while he's away so that the tunes would be ready to play when he gets home. While the images are a bit blocky, the text is so grainy and small that this feature is one people might not use too much

SingStar Vol. 2 is still one of the best music games the PS3 has to offer. The great mix of songs and casual attitude are a great way of getting people to play the title in the first place. The online community features will make players stay with the title if only to see how other people perform and, in some cases, see how badly they perform. If you haven't picked up the previous title, feel free to grab this one, as the experience is well worth the price of admission. If you are an owner of SingStar Vol. 1 for the PS3, take a good long look at the songs included on the disc. Considering that SingStar Vol. 2 is merely a new track pack for the game with nothing else to offer, purchasing this title will depend on whether there are enough songs that you want to sing to justify the $39.99 price tag.

Score: 7.7/10

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