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Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol

Platform(s): PlayStation 2
Genre: Rhythm
Publisher: Konami


PS2 Review - 'Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol'

by Andrew Hayward on Jan. 19, 2007 @ 2:44 a.m. PST

Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol lets you sing and perform using a USB headset/microphone, take part in auditions, earn an invitation to Hollywood and compete through the Semi-Finals and Finals stages just like on the TV show.

Genre: Rhythm
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Blitz Games
Release Date: January 2, 2007

When considering a purchase of Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol for the PlayStation 2, it would seem to me that three questions should probably cross your mind. An answer of "Yes" is not required for all three of these, but at least one such answer would probably increase your chances of enjoying this title. The questions are as follows:

1. Do you like rhythm or music-based games?
2. Do you enjoy Karaoke Revolution or singing in general?
3. Do you have a positive opinion of "American Idol," the show?

All three are simple questions, yet all seem absolutely necessary for such a dual-branded item. If you absolutely abhor either Karaoke Revolution or "American Idol," chances are that a game that carries both licenses will do nothing to change your mind. But if you have had positive experiences with other music games and have a fairly open mind about both properties, then continue on – this game may have something to offer you.

True, Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol is not the ultimate "American Idol" experience – though the license has been fairly well integrated into the standard Karaoke Revolution formula, it feels lacking in many respects. It may have two of the three judges, a number of familiar songs from the show, and several unlockable video clips, but the static menu screens and lack of interactivity keep it from being little more than just another Karaoke Revolution title, albeit with a fresh coat of paint.

That's not such a bad thing, considering the quality of the core experience. Already in its sixth iteration in just three years, the Karaoke Revolution series has always provided an experience unlike any other. As a popular song plays in the background, the lyrics scroll onto the screen, challenging you to sing along as best as possible with your USB microphone or headset. Though the game does not actually recognize your lyrical proficiency (or lack thereof), it does monitor your rhythm and pitch, awarding you points for the quality of your singing.

Like Guitar Hero, it is the kind of game that gamers and non-gamers alike can jump right into. With multiple difficulty levels, even a tone-deaf singer can do fairly well. Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol does little to change the basic gameplay of the series, instead building around the core experience by adding familiar faces, songs, and stages. Like a contestant on the show, you can audition in the hopes of "going to Hollywood" and then try to become one of the final 12 singers. At that point, you will perform a song each "week" for 11 weeks, and hope that you did well enough for the "viewers" to vote you into the next round.

As with the real thing, a set of three judges is willing and ready to rip into you upon conclusion of the performance. Unlike the show, it's not Simon, Randy, and Paula – it is Simon, Randy, and Laura! Why Paula Abdul chose to sit this one out is beyond me, as she was present for the 2003 American Idol game from Codemasters. Perhaps the horrid nature of that game kept her away. Yet oddly enough, her pop classic "Straight Up" is one of songs that you can sing in the game, in an obvious nod to Abdul's ongoing status as a judge on the show.

Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson both lent their voices and visual likenesses to the game, and both are very similar to their respective real-life counterparts. Cowell is almost always uncouth, though he will occasionally slip in a genuine compliment. Jackson is a bit nicer, but he will gladly crack jokes and act disappointed if you sing poorly. Laura, who is clearly just a digital duplicate of Abdul, is overwhelmingly nice most of the time and helps soften the blow of the more brutal judges.

Their vocal comments will often confound and bewilder, as positive comments will be sloppily lodged between extremely negative ones. During one of my auditions, all three judges said I was bad, with Simon calling my performance "miserable" and "horrible" – before noting that I had made it to the next round. Wait, what? I do like that you can see the judges' reactions to your performance as you sing. Whether you are rocking the house or stinking it up, the judges' body language and facial expressions will coincide with the current mood.

However, unlike the show, there are no guest hosts, nor are there themed weeks where only a particular genre is represented. In fact, many of the little things that enhance the "Idol" experience are missing from the game, with only the absolute basics making the cut. Each "week" in the competition looks like this: You pick a song, you sing, and you get judged. Repeat until you win. If you are among the final contestants, there will be an additional still screen in which someone gets "voted off," but it's not something over which you have active control. If you sing well enough, you'll move on to the next week.

I was hoping for mini-games, banter between contestants, or even one of those terrible Ford commercials starring finalists from the show. Really, anything to enhance the experience would have been great, but it's just not there. I was able to finish the 18-round "American Idol" mode in about 90 minutes, and that's really the biggest part of the game. I've won the competition – now what? Absolutely nothing. There is no post-"Idol" recording career or anything of the sort. There are a couple of simple party games accessible from the main menu, but most are designed for two or more players. The single-player experience begins and ends (rather quickly) with the "American Idol" mode.

What Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol does do right is pack the game with bonus content and inside jokes that only fans of the show will really appreciate. When you get a Platinum score on a song, you will often unlock a clip of a former "Idol" contestant singing a portion of the song. Additionally, some of the funnier auditions from previous seasons are unlockable, such as William Hung's rendition of "She Bangs." Please note that the audio and video may not be in sync when watching these clips on a PlayStation 3 system, but everything was synced up when watching on a PlayStation 2.

It should also be noted that the game features EyeToy support, which allows you to capture your face and put it on a singer. I took my face and created "So Creepy," truly the most frightening character in all of gaming. Sporting a giant mane of glorious locks and a pink sweater, he writhed around the stage and moved his lips when I sang. It was simultaneously amusing and horrifying. The EyeToy can also be used to plaster you up on a video screen while you sing, but there are no truly interactive features that make use of the camera. I know that the real judges are all about stage presence, so it would have been nice if you could have used the EyeToy for dancing or other movements. It seems like a missed opportunity.

Of course, a quality selection of tunes is absolutely essential for a singing title, and Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol delivers a sharp soundtrack with something for nearly everyone. Recent hits like Fall Out Boy's "Sugar We're Going Down" and Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You" are positioned alongside past smashes, such as "All My Life" by K-Ci and JoJo and "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis Presley. Though none of the songs are preformed by the original artists, the cover versions are mostly dead-on throughout the 40 available tracks.

Being an "American Idol"-based game, there are several songs that were introduced by winners and finalists from the past five seasons. Season five winner Taylor Hicks' "Do I Make You Proud" made the cut, as did "Flying without Wings" from season two winner Ruben Studdard and "Breakaway" from original winner, Kelly Clarkson. Other than a song from season four runner-up Bo Bice and the aforementioned Paula Abdul song, there are no other "Idol" tracks to sing. Where are the songs from winners Carrie Underwood and Fantasia Barrino? What about Clay Aiken? I bet the "Claymates" are furious.

Idol is not the prettiest game on the market, but rhythm titles are not usually known for their startling visuals. While the character models are crisply rendered, they are only lightly detailed, though the judges' faces are really well done. The environments are often colorful, but many feature low-quality textures on the background items. And why is the audience so skimpy? They pack thousands into the final episodes of the show! The unlockable video clips come in a variety of aspect ratios and quality levels, giving the impression that they were quickly slapped together without much care or consideration.

What ultimately matters is the singing experience, and that is as enjoyable it ever has been. That's not entirely a positive statement, however. Aside from the "American Idol" skin, Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol is generally unchanged from previous entries. In fact, this one includes much less content than 2005's Karaoke Revolution Party. However, if you are a huge fan of either of the anchor properties, Idol should fuel your addiction for a bit longer. Casual fans (and the uninitiated) might do well to check out a previous iteration of Karaoke Revolution instead.

Score: 7.5/10

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