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Xbox Review - 'Karaoke Revolution Party'

by Tim "The Rabbit" Mithee on Dec. 8, 2005 @ 2:06 a.m. PST

With over 50 songs, including all-new classic favorites and current smash hits, the fourth release in the incredibly popular series contains the largest library of music ever released in a Karaoke Revolution game.

Genre: Party/Rhythm
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Harmonix
Release Date: November 8, 2005

Buy 'KARAOKE REVOLUTION PARTY': Xbox | GameCube | PlayStation 2

When you spend a lot of time in front of a computer, there are a few things that become steadily inevitable. You'll get a nice negative tan, you'll gain a bit of weight here and there (and everywhere, if you're not careful), and quite often, you'll think yourself the reigning king of karaoke. Yes, I'll admit it — I sing along with my music player, whatever may be on it, no matter how much I'm giving the original performers the jeebies from afar. Now, thanks to the glory of Harmonix's Karaoke Revolution Party, I can keep on doing it and get points for it, too!

This is not the first time Karaoke Revolution has come to town; it's even the second coming on the Xbox itself. But this time is just a wee bit different … this time, the integration is better, the song list is more complete, and, to put it simply, the "Party" note up on the title there is not just for show or to avoid calling it, "Volume 17: This Time It's Got That Song You Wanted, You're Welcome."

As a quick overview, for those keeping score at home: Karaoke Revolution is exactly what it says it is: karaoke, the Japanese term for drunkenly destroying "When I'm Sixty-Four" or "Memory" in front of a crowd of appreciative and/or equally drunken associates. It translates to the consoles in much the same way Dance Dance Revolution converts dancing: establishing a pattern for you to follow and then seeing how closely you can match it. In this case, the player is provided a "pitch bar," which indicates the note the song is hitting at that very instant. The words play along under it, and a note happily indicates where you are in relation to the "right" note.

Now don't go thinking this is some silly thing you do with the controller, like a bad Amplitude clone. No, friends, in your hands is the tool of the karaoke master's trade: the microphone. You'll be singing everything from "Sweet Caroline" to "Play That Funky Music," "Billie Jean" to "Time After Time," and everything in between. Just like the barroom pastime, it's an incredibly effective party game, where everyone gets up and lets it all hang out, wave their hands in the air like they just don't care, get down and funky up on that, and all sorts of other silly slang terms for not taking it seriously at all while having a really great time. Tack on Duets, as seen in Volume 2 and Volume 3, a standard no-score/no-meters Karaoke Mode, all new mini-games and Karaoke Challenges, and what's in your hands is exactly what it says it is: a compact, portable, all-digital party game.

Even if you're not the greatest singer in the world, KR is happy to hold your hand. Variable difficulty levels make even the hardest songs approachable, and the game isn't specific about the words exactly, just that you're making some sort of noise that's at least on-key. The note doesn't have to be a perfect match, either: if you're not comfortable trying to match Michael Jackson or Sting or — dare I say it? — Freddie Mercury ("Under Pressure" is lethal to most folk), simply drop back down to the range you're more comfortable in, letting the game adjust itself to the proper octave. Harmonix deserves an award for managing to make karaoke, generally something that's unpleasant for beginning, accommodating to virtually any level of singer.

I'm sure those of you out there with previous KR experience are sitting there, rubbing your heads, and saying, "But Mr. The Rabbit! That describes every Karaoke Revolution game! All of them! Are you trying to tell me that there's nothing new here, and we've been hornswoggled out of our Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price?!" And my response to you, in all my infinite wisdom, would be, "Hey now, Jimmy-Talks-To-Websites, don't get ahead of me! And don't say 'hornswoggled.' Trust me. You've not been misled, just ... well, led in a different but equally good direction!"

Permit me to elaborate, if you will. KR Party is, in a lot of aspects, the same game we've seen many times before. What makes things different here is the approach: this package is built for groups. Gone is the Career Mode, leaving behind only Quick Pick for single-player action. In its place are a group of modes designed for up to eight players, either with one microphone ("round robin" style, if you will) or up to four mics and a lot of people. KR has always been the most fun in groups, and now it's more prepared to handle them. The Swap The Mic modes are my personal favorite additions, letting do multiple players sing at once, accompanied by backup vocals. The list of singers has vanished, filled in for nicely by Create A Singer, which gives much more variety in karaoke "personas," not to mention the 50 or so unlockable gizmos and widgets you can stick on them.

Also new this go-round is a mode that some folk have chattered about for some time, while others have completely dreaded its appearance: Song & Dance. Yes, Virginia, it's Dance Dance Revolution hooked up together with karaoke. Thanks to an interesting design feature on the Xbox version of the DDR pads (namely, module ports on the pad itself), the cabling is not a dramatic issue. But really, the whole idea sort of limps sideways like someone who's played to the point of exhaustion. There's simply too much to concentrate on between the words, the pitch bar, and the step arrows. DDR arrows also don't work side-scrolling so it's harder to gauge your position overall. It simply doesn't work very well, but that's the only major failing out of all the modes included in the box.

There are a lot of modes, and a lot of songs. Nearly the entire archive of KR tracks are available via the Live! service, though most are pay-to-acquire (and reasonably set — five tracks for $5 is pretty average). If you take the time and buckage required, you'll have somewhere around 130 songs ... and I don't know about anyone out there in Reading This Review Land, but that's far more singing than I think my friends and I could handle in a single night. On the other side, there is no online multiplayer, but that's really not all the startling, given how much of a challenge synchronizing voice data is.

Harmonix has proven one of my favorite axioms beyond a shadow of a doubt: "if it ain't broken, don't fix it." Their philosophy has been less about huge innovations and more about simply making what already works better than it was the last time around. Karaoke Revolution came out of left field a few years back and completely floored most gamers with its simple concept and high-density entertainment value. Karaoke Revolution Party does it yet again: this is plain, simple fun for virtually anyone who wants to take a crack at it. Bust it out at your next shindig, and you will not be disappointed once things get going. Just make sure you've got vinegar and honey available.

And don't say "shindig." Or "hornswoggled," for that matter.

Score: 9.7/10

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