Can Microsoft and iNiS possibly topple the mighty PS3 iterations of SingStar?
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The end result is of a mixed success. While the technology for transferring and playing your music is simple to use and efficient, there is no way to make any lyrics for your uploaded favourites appear on screen. That in itself isn't too bad in practice, as inevitably most users will only want to add songs they already know and love to sing along to, but there are less obvious, more substantial problems.
While it is understandable that some digitally protected music will not work, the system Lips uses does seem rather sporadically successful. While on the whole most music used to test was compatible, releases, for example, by very small bands like Defiance Ohio who release music for free over the internet and thus require legal downloading through Bit Torrent failed to work. The scoring in this mode also seems unrelated to who sings the best, and instead gives points to who sings the most. Finally, longer tunes, such as Meat Loaf's eight-and-a-half minute masterpiece Paradise By The Dashboard Light, appeared to outlive the automatic shut-down of the game controller, pausing the song just as the big man gets to full speed.
However, those singing along to their favourite hits are unlikely to worry too much about anything more than belting out a well-loved song through a mic, and in that regard, you can't fault what Lips provides. The scoring for my performance of Slayer's Angel Of Death might have been way off, but the smile it put on my face easily outweighed any niggles.
Elsewhere Lips is superb, and as well as offering a range of party challenges, co-operative and competitive multiplayer modes, and playlist functionality that lets you create your own track lists, there's a wealth of small details that mean the game easily rivals SingStar's PS3 releases. Aside from the arrival or wireless mics, which is an utter godsend, there's a reasonably thorough community and social networking aspect, and the scoring system and voice detection for the songs included on disk in reality outshine Sony's by a margin, by registering actual syllables, and seeming to allow for the flexibility of real singing over hitting pitch perfect notes.
There are some mildly disappointing elements, such as the motion-sensitive ability of the mics and controllers, which is supposed to let them be used as instruments like tambourines. In reality it's near impossible to get beats in time, and like the slightly cluttered in-game HUD, the function interferes a little with what should be a very pure, refined experience.
Regardless of such small complaints, tidying up after a night with Lips, wiping wine from the floor and ash from the sofa, it's clear that Microsoft's answer to SingStar absolutely creates the party it strives to bring to life. As a rival to the excellent SingStar series, there is no doubt Lips stands up to comparisons. Finally Xbox owners have a singing game to be proud of. Now the hardcore Halo fans and avid online clan members just need to take to the stage and show the world what talent they have, which should be an enlightening experience for all concerned.