Singstar is the leading brand in home console karaoke games, owing to its slick, party-friendly interface, intelligent song choices, and excellent online integration. There is an expansive list of genre-specific releases that cater to various tastes, but for the first time we are seeing new gamplay elements added to the mix. Earlier this week we looked at the fun Singstar Guitar, which supplemented the singing action with guitar-based gameplay. The other new element in Singstar’s arsenal is seen in Singstar Dance, allowing your friends to prance along using the brand new Playstation Move controllers.
You’ll be right at home using this iteration of Singstar, with the game sporting the same interface you are used to from previous PS3 instalments. Once through the initial set-up process, the glossy menus lead you to an easy-to-use track selection screen that will serve the party all night. You can even use a PSP to select tracks, for an even more seamless on-TV experience.
The tracklist for this release focuses on pop, ranging from boyband pop (Backstreet’s Back, The Backstreet Boys), through disco soul (I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor), to R’n’B (With You, Chris Brown). The 30-track playlist is broad enough to have something for most mainstream music fans. These aren’t the most manly tracks, and aside from the most enthusiastic people, getting friends to play may require a touch of alcohol. The 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s are all covered, providing something for all ages to enjoy. Unlike Singstar Guitar, The Brit presence is minimal in this release, with only a handful of the tracks produced by UK artists, giving this release a strong international flavour.
The tracks are unmistakeably mainstream hits, as you would expect from Singstar. When you pop the disc in at a gathering, it helps if people know half the songs. The tracks, all up-tempo, are all suited for dancing, some with dance moves within the videos themselves.
The Move controllers invite participation from those who may be mic-shy, but good luck getting someone too embarrassed to sing to dance along to the Pussycat Dolls. Dancing does make for a fun experience when players drop their inhibitions, and make for entertaining videos recorded on the Playstation Eye.
The singing element of Singstar remains the same, with scarily accurate pitch and rhythm detection. The dancing element comes from an added dancer on-screen, whose moves you must mimic. The on-screen example is a video recording of a professional dancer, whose choreography fits well for all the songs (there are no generic movements: you feel like you are doing a dance tailored to the music). For some songs the dance is very apt, matching the movements of the Jackson 5 in I Want You Back, and the movements of the Pussycat Dolls in Don’t Cha.
The game is good at detecting if you are making the right moves, grading your performance as you dance along. Not following the movements gets you fewer points than following the movements. And the game encourages you to be active, with plenty of spins, twists and bends involved in the routine. Unlike Kinect dance games promise, the game doesn’t track your entire body, but rather your Move controller, held in one hand. Thus, it is worth noting that you can phone-it-in and trick the game into thinking that you are dancing, while just making the minimal movements necessary. This of course is only as much of a dealbreaker for as far as you are willing to abuse the system – just like you can score well in Singstar merely by humming, yet deny yourself any fun by doing so.
Dancing is, like guitar in Singstar Guitar, something that feels tacked on. A dance product that tracks only one Move controller does not feel like enough to stand alone as a product, but as a supplement to singing in a party environment, it is a lot of fun anyhow. This is a release to pick up if you are searching for something to have a blast with among family and friends. If you have access to Kinect and are looking for a fully fledged dance game, more dedicated games are on the way. But as a casual title, this is ideal. Multiplayer allows for four players at once, with up to two singing and up to two people dancing (or one player can do a Britney and try to sing and dance at the same time, if they think they can handle it). The tracklist, in at 30 songs on-disc, feels slightly cramped and once the party has exhausted its favourites, things can get repetitive. Also missing is any kind of career mode, making this purely an arcadey pick-and-play game.
However, Singstar Dance offers great accessibility, a swift, friendly interface, quick loading times, and actual music videos to sing and dance along to. Not to mention all the cool Singstar features present in the main series, including PlayStation Eye support and online support through My Singstar Online, which allows you to upload performances for others to see, further extended with Facebook integration. .
Your decision to buy this iteration of Singstar depends on whether or not you like the tracklist and how much you want to put those Move controllers to use. Buying Move controllers specifically for this game requires some more consideration, and you may want to play the game at a friend’s house first. Personally, I found the songs on this release to be among the best put together on a Singstar release, with plenty to enjoy. Some of the older tracks such as Celebration by Kool And The Gang could have made way for more modern dance tracks. Obviously owing to the up-tempo tracks, you’ll find tracks are less testing when it comes yo vocals (Poker Face by Lady Gaga is monotone in parts). Soulja Boy’s Crank Dat is particularly fun to rap and sing to, especially if you take the backing vocal, yelling “YOU!” and “OH!” repeatedly.
This is ultimately yet another Singstar release, as good as ever, but with added dancing, which is certainly a nice extra. It offers more opportunities for participation, and that’s surely a good thing. Just be sure that such a game is up your street. Don’t be shy, now.