SingStar DancePlatform: PS3
Category: Interactive Music
The SingStar franchise is back on the PlayStation 3 console with SingStar Dance. Having reviewed a glut of SingStar games in the past, I think I had my fill of SingStar games to last me a lifetime. Not because they are bad games but rather the franchise has become a little stale in recent years. That being said, I was looking forward to the next high definition instalment in the SingStar franchise as this time the game utilizes the PlayStation Move controller for the new dancing elements featured the game. Does SingStar Dance offer up enough new content to breathe some fresh air into a series that has taken a back seat to games in the Rockband and Guitar Hero franchise? Can this game even compete with Dance Central for the Kinect? Read on to find out.
Overall, I was somewhat disappointed with the visuals in the game. Granted, SingStar is not your typical video game so I won’t be comparing this game to Call of Duty: Black Ops anytime soon. Being a music based karaoke game, we are not going to put a lot of weight on the game's overall look. Nevertheless, SingStar Dance certainly presents and looks much better than the PS2 versions of the franchise and is on par with the previous PS3 SingStar games. My main issues rest with some of the poor quality and shabby looks of some of the music videos. Granted, the ones that look crappy are older videos; however, I just expected them to be re-mastered or cleaned up a little. Heck, if they look that bad why put them in the game at all? I am sorry but in this day of high definition gaming, I can’t bare looking at standard definition videos on a next generation console.
Aside from some of the ugly looking music videos, the rest of SingStar Dance delivers. First off the presentation is very good. The menus are easy to navigate and they do look fantastic. You can immediately tell you are playing a PS3 game when navigating in the menus as they maintain that signature PS3 look. The online interface is equally as pleasing. Once you move past the main menu and jump into the song selection area, you are once again greeted with a slick looking interface. The album covers are displayed as you flip through your selections and you get a preview to the video before you make your selection. When heading online you can also preview the video before you make a purchase. All in all, SingStar Dance scores decent marks visually but the standard definition videos really hold this game back.
In a karaoke or music/rhythm game the sound is arguably the most important aspect. Fortunately, SingStar Dance delivers in this department as well. All the songs and music videos are master tracks which gives the game instant credibility and authenticity. Nothing grates me more than when I am playing a music based videogame and some cover band is playing my favourite song(s). Sure the music sounds good but it is not the real deal. SingStar Dance features all original artists and the videos that made the bands/singers so popular. The songs themselves all sound terrific in 5.1 surround sound. It was great to listen to some of those tracks I had not heard in years. In case some of you are wondering what songs you get out of the box, here is the complete SingStar Dance set list:
"Bye Bye Bye" 'N Sync
"Shut Up" Black Eyed Peas
"Heart of Glass" Blondie
"With You" Chris Brown
"Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" Cyndi Lauper
"Baby Love" Diana Ross and The Supremes
"I Will Survive" Gloria Gaynor
"Standing in the Way of Control" Gossip
"What You Waiting For?" Gwen Stefani
"Cosmic Girl" Jamiroquai
"That's the Way (I Like It)" KC & The Sunshine Band
"Day 'n' Nite" Kid Cudi vs Crookers
"Celebration" Kool and the Gang
"Bulletproof" La Roux
"Poker Face" Lady Gaga
"U Can't Touch This" MC Hammer
"Hangin Tough" New Kids on the Block
"Hey Ya!" Outkast
"Straight Up" Paula Abdul
"I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)" Pitbull
"I Like To Move It" Reel 2 Real feat. The Mad Stuntman
"Livin' La Vida Loca" Ricky Martin
"It’s Like That" Run DMC vs Jason Nevins
"Push It" Salt N Pepa
"Baby Got Back" Sir Mix A Lot
"Crank That" Soulja Boy Tell 'Em
"Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" The Backstreet Boys
"I Want You Back" The Jackson 5
"Don’t Cha" The Pussycat Dolls
The SingStar Dance party bundle also comes with two microphones. Overall, the microphones are very good quality. It appears the mics are calibrated to perfection as your voice comes through loud and clear. I found there was no lag or delay and voice volume is adjustable as well. The latter is handy if you are having some pitch problems and cannot sing a song particularly well. You can turn the volume on the microphones down without having to turn down the music in the game. The other in-game sounds such as the background tunes that play when you are in the menus all sound decent. Overall, I have no complaints with the sound aspect of the game as no glaring deficiencies stand out in this area.
If you are one of the few who have not yet played a SingStar game, it is essentially a karaoke game that features a scoring system and the artist's music video playing in the background. Similar to the vocals in games like Rock Band or Guitar Hero, SingStar Dance for the PS3 has you sing along with music in order to score points. Users interface with the PS3 via the SingStar USB microphones. If you do not have the microphones from a previous edition of the franchise you can get the game with the two microphones and the USB adapter in the party bundle. The SingStar franchise does not measure how well you know the lyrics but rather uses a system that gauges your pitch (again similar to Rock Band). The pitch you are required to sing is displayed on horizontal bars and these bars correspond with the lyrics of the song. Your pitch is compared to the pitch of the artist(s) singing the song. The better your singing abilities (e.g. the better your pitch and timing) the better you score.
Now that I have provided a brief overview of how the singing elements work, I will briefly examine the main new feature to the franchise: dancing. Yes now you can dance away to all the SingStar Dance songs with the use of the PlayStation Move. You cannot sing and dance at the same time, so you have to pick one or the other before you launch into a song. This being said, the game does support two players where one can dance while the other sings away to any given tune. This all sounds great in theory but dancing with the Move just felt awkward for me. Having just reviewed Dance Central for the Xbox 360 Kinect where there is no controller, waiving around the PlayStation Move just did not fell right. Granted, the Move is very responsive and it accurately read my movements. Yet I just felt silly waiving around the Move like a mad man. I actually got to a point where I just sat on the couch and waived the controller around as I was just not feeling it.
Being able to progress along in the game in Dance mode is a neat idea but in this post Dance Central era, SingStar Dance just does not measure. One of the main problems with the dancing in the game is you never know what dance moves are coming up next. Your first attempt at dancing to a new song is a 'gong show' unless you are a professional dancer. Or better yet unless you have already watched and practised the song's dance routines. Unlike Dance Central, SingStar Dance does not show you the upcoming dance moves. I felt clumsy and really had no idea what I was supposed to do from one moment to the next. For this reason alone the dancing aspects in the game seem incomplete.
SingStar Dance comes with 30 tracks out of the box which is the SingStar franchise standard. Here is where another concern surfaces. Simply put, 30 tracks are not enough out of the box in my view. When games such as Rock Band III or Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock come with over 80 tracks, 30 just seems way to few. It only took my daughter and me a couple of hours to try nearly all the songs. Ideally I would have liked to have seen the playlist doubled to 60. Of course the game also features a slew of downloadable tracks via the PS Network, but these come at a cost. Unfortunately I feel too much emphasis is placed on the user spending a $1.49 per song from the SingStar store.
As for the 30-song set list itself, the songs selected are decent. Granted, it's hard to please everyone but clearly the developers had a certain target audience in mind and stuck with it. Kids under the age of 12 and adults over the age of 40 will likely have no use for this game. SingStar does not feature many golden oldies nor does it feature any Hanna Montana songs. My 8-year old daughter loves to sing and dance, but unfortunately SingStar Dance does not feature many songs for her age group or even those songs for kids a bit older than her. At the end of the day, it is a good set list aiming to please a wide range of people. Nevertheless more songs out of the box or some free downloadable tracks could assist in reaching a wider audience.
One of the great features of Singstar for the PS3 is the online interface. In addition to the ever expanding list of downloadable content, SingStar Dance features an online community component. The idea is similar to YouTube as you can upload photos and videos of your performance onto the SingStar online network. This is truly a fabulous feature. You can spend hours just watching other performances and it is pretty fun to do so. You can use the PlayStation Eye to upload your photos or videos or you can use any other compatible USB camera. In the online community you can also rate each others performances and leave comments on other people's profiles. All in all, it's a great feature and gives the game some awesome replay value.
Another disappointing aspect of the game is the fact that there is no single player mode similar to what we have seen with the Rock Band and Guitar Hero franchises. Granted they are distinctly different games and I did like the fact that I could play any of the 30 songs right from the get go in SingStar. SingStar Dance is truly a pick up and play game in every sense of the word. Nevertheless, a single player story mode or some sort of other mode featuring some unlockable content would have given me some good reason to play on my own, try to get better and sing all 30 songs. A SingStar tour mode would have made the game near perfect in my opinion.
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