Back in the day, it used to be tough to make a fool of yourself in front of thousands of people. Sure, anyone could flub their way through a bad rock ‘n roll song at a Karaoke bar or buddy's party, but a few hours later no one is the wiser and your tomfoolery is forgotten. Along comes Singstar for the PS3, which takes the concept of living-room rock-star hijinks to a new level. Snap a webcam into your PS3, slip Singstar into the drive, and 15 minutes later your boozy rendition of Weezer's "Buddy Holly" is broadcast around the world for anyone to see.
There've been a gazillion different versions of Singstar on the PS2, but it now makes its debut on Sony's next-generation console. It's been worth the wait, as this is the slickest and most complete karaoke-party package of its kind. Featuring full length songs with accompanying music videos (remember them?), impressive voice-recognition software, engaging single and multiplayer options, user-friendly video capture, and unique online functionality, it beats all comers in the arena. The available song selection is wide-ranging, with something for just about everyone at a get-together with a drink in their hand and an urge to get their groove on. Too bad that there's only enough music to power you through a few hours before you're looking around for more – which Sony is more than happy to provide through an in-game online store.
There've been a gazillion different versions of Singstar .... this is the slickest and most complete karaoke-party package of its kind.
At its core, Singstar is a pure party game. Between a healthy selection of rock (The Killers, Jane's Addiction, Weezer), pop (Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse), and rap (Outkast, Ne-Yo), there's plenty of variety for anyone to scout a track they'll enjoy. I've seen it in action myself, putting it on display during my son's first birthday party. Everyone – and I mean everyone – got into the action, from my wife's heartfelt rendition of "No Rain" from Blind Melon to my brother in law and his wife dueting (thanks to the two microphones that come with the full version of the game) on Blink 182's harmonic nugget "All The Small Things." At one point, even Grandma got into the mix, belting out David Bowie's "Let's Dance." Everyone had a good time, until they caught their taped performance beamed back to them through the PS3's My Singstar Online service, at which point utter embarrassment took over.
Once the newbies and wanna-bes head home, though, there's some serious depth to the musical action. Anyone can sing along then move on to the next song, but Singstar's voice recognition system actually creates an extremely difficult game from a scoring standpoint (once you move off of the easiest level). Correctly matching your voice to the expected notes is no simple task, even if you consider yourself a talented vocalist and know the song pretty well. Accomplishing a high score involves a significant amount of practice, concentration, and a distinct lack of alcohol. Trust me, I know.
When you're not fighting against the demanding vocal tracks to score a winning rendition, you can peruse the video antics of thousands of other Singstar players through the wonderfully integrated online video features. Each day, hundreds of videos are posted online, and I was surprised at how much time I wasted sitting back and watching people of many different... um, talents happily bear their singing souls to the world. Give people a microphone, a camera, and an R.E.M. song, and it seems there's no holding back.
If you're a Singstar fan who doesn't exactly love the music offered on the standalone disc – or a hardcore player who tears through the game's offerings quickly – there is a regular onslaught of new music available through the game's online store. Most song/video combos are available for $1.50 a pop, which is relatively cheap at first glance but it can add up quickly. As of this writing, only single tracks are available, although the storefront promises entire albums at some point in the future. While I would appreciate a less pricier structure, there's no denying that Singstar can stay vital many months after its release date. Just as you'd expect based upon the diversity of the retail game, a wide variety of genres awaits online too.
No matter how you slice it, Sony's first Singstar on the PS3 is a triumph. It's the ultimate everyman's game, allowing just about anyone to have a good time. Whether you've never played a video game in your life or you're an aspiring perfectionist who simply has to nail each and every note, there's something here for you. Just don't expect your exploits to remain your own dirty little secret.