Can Microsoft and iNiS possibly topple the mighty PS3 iterations of SingStar?
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By Will Freeman
It may surprise you, but SingStar isn't karaoke. Sure, the two are easily muddled, as both usually involve alcohol, both tend to bring out a terrifyingly competitive bravado in women young and old, and both seem to convince those not blessed with vocal ability that they have the silky tones of a Motown diva at their disposal.
But in a two-pronged attack, SingStar completely trumps karaoke, by removing the glares of those idiots that make up the general public, and by adding a score mechanic that does something very special to what was once the premise of seedy bars and basement venues.
SingStar makes Karaoke into a bona fide videogame, and its truly sensational success has built on the fact that those, like this very reviewer, who would never consider taking to a stage with a mic, now, like this very reviewer, are happy to take on Kiki Dee's part in Elton John's Don't Go Breaking My Heart, all in pursuit of getting that perfect score.
Microsoft, as we all know, has developed a thirst for the expanding casual market a little late, and now it wants a taste of the pies SingStar has been delivering to Sony's door for years. SingStar is a game, after all, that goes way beyond casual, drawing in every kind of target audience a marketing man could dream of. This is the realm of non-gamers, grey gamers, snack gamers, trad-gamers and 'tweens', and Lips is the Xbox 360's offering to these markets.
In reviewing any title based on real-world music, it's all to easy to get caught up in a close analysis of the included songs, which is a matter of personal taste beyond the remit of analysing the merits of Lips as a game. Suffice to say, the library included is diverse, and is certainly an informed selection. Classics like The Cure and Johnny Cash share disk space with disposable modern pop that is a fun to sing along to as it is easy to criticise, and, with the ability to download music from Xbox LIVE and add your own tunes, that is all one could ask for.
That brings us to what may be Lips' main selling point. The software allows you to add your own music to the selection offered on disk, which could be enough to make SingStar redundant in the wake of Microsoft's release. What this feature actually allows is for users to plug in compatible mp3 players, which happily includes the iPod, Zune, and a number of other brands, and sing along to tunes with the said gadget attached.