American Idol has over thirty million viewers, and I'm not one of them; the whole "reality television" insanity isn't my sort of madness. My passion is video games, and Karaoke Revolution Presents American Idol – a hybrid of things I love and dislike – is an oddity within my romance. The hallmarks of Karaoke Revolution haven't changed here: You create and customize a character, sing to songs covered by usually competent imitators, and are graded for your performances (if you want to be). It's the sixth entry in the Harmonix's series, but the first to bear a major license like Idol. Will it fit in with the rest? Has it brought along all of the trappings of its pop competition inspiration, for better or worse? Those were questions I would've asked myself, were my thoughts more eloquent when I popped the disc into my PS2 for the first time. Regardless, I sought answers.
Anywhere in the metropolitan United States, snazzy advertisements for the American Idol show are everywhere, and its usually bright, dramatic style hasn't carried over to this title. Outside of the unspectacular opening screen, there's the clean but no-frills menu to carry you on to your play mode of choice. Once there, veterans of the Karaoke Revolution series will feel right at home, and new American Idol followers may find an entertaining game within, but that's not guaranteed. There are a few reasons for that, and one of them is a karaoke given: You must sing. If you can cut loose and have fun with that, or have an excellent singing voice, you're set. If neither applies to you, you can skip this one completely; it doesn't have anything else to offer.
...veterans of the Karaoke Revolution series will feel right at home, and new American Idol followers may find an entertaining game within, but that's not guaranteed.
Another potential fun-limiter is the disappointing song list. A fair amount of classics and some more recent tracks have come together to form an incredibly strange mixture. Those who would rush to buy this on its license alone are, for the most part, not old enough to know many of these songs. Even titles like Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf" are pushing it with their 1980s origins, and that's only going back two decades; several songs are older.
Those who do like the track list, be forewarned: A fair amount of these cover artists aren't up to par for this series. There are distinct singers whose vocals no one could ever duplicate, such as Elton John and the aforementioned Duran Duran's lead. If you're going to cover "Rock With You," you're either going to reinvent it with your own version, or you're not going to do it. Why? You're not Michael Jackson. Don't pretend to sound like him.
Then again, we're talking about karaoke, and who hasn't tried to squeal like Jacko at some point? Top-notch performances aren't what the genre's about, and you can always mute the artists' voices. For someone like me, that makes the singing substantially more difficult, which is why I find the offensive performances bothersome. For those who didn't know the original songs, this won't make a lick of difference. Nonetheless, it's a fixable issue, and expecting a whole slew of master tracks could've been unreasonable.
Those not smitten with Idol fever will find this to be a so-so Karaoke Revolution, where the cost of admission is only worth it for fans of its song list. Surely they aren't going to be drawn in by the game's story mode, which is where the game actually makes use of its branding. In it, you're tasked with singing your way through a tournament. This could have borrowed some of the show's sensationalism to produce a very interesting story mode – if a sports game can pull it off, so can one about singing – but it didn't. Those who love reality television's flavor of drama won't be pleased with the mode's bland, boring taste. There are no glimpses into the private lives of the participants, nor anything that even comes close to capturing Idol sensationalist appeal. Your competition is faceless without any form of a presence whatsoever, making the entire experience feel isolated and empty. Whatever your fan base thinks is meaningless, as they're not represented in any way. Voting system aside, all you get from the show is a trio of judges, and one of them is an invented personality.
That impersonator's a replacement for Paula Abdul, who decided against letting Konami use her likeness. Irony reveals itself when one of her own songs, "Straight Up," is unlocked in the game. Hilariously, that song's peformance also features one of the most nasal covers I've ever heard; think Fran Drescher sings Paula Abdul, and you'll get the idea. You'll also come to understand what Karaoke Revolution Presents American Idol is: A decent karaoke game, a completely underwhelming reality TV experience, and potentially, an embarrassment to all involved.