That's probably over-generalizing, of course, but at least on the surface, it's fairly true. Every release brings with it 30 new tracks, same same single- and multiplayer modes like Pass the Mic, Battle, Duet and Solo, and all essentially require the use of the EyeToy and a bunch of friends to really get the most out of the game. That's changed a little with the online features of the PS3 SingStar games (the second of which is also being reviewed on TPS today), but with the PS2 ones, you know exactly what to expect.
Which is fine, really, since the SingStar series still stands as the best karaoke experience out there right now, and so long as the PS3 ones keep beefing up the online offerings, it'll probably stay that way. The PS2 ones, however -- particularly SingStar Country, SingStar Pop Vol. 2 and SingStar Legends -- come down to what 30 songs are in the game and how much fun are they to actually sing, half of which you can find out just by flipping the box over and looking at the list on the back.
The other half, the singing part, is obviously the most important of the two, and in classic fashion, all three of the PS2 games offer plenty of fun all around. When people ask me what kind of music I like, I tend to reply with the usual, "just about everything." In the past I would have probably qualified that with "except country" and that may well have changed these days to "except mainstream hip-hop," but the truth is, most of the stuff out there that's popular, no matter the genre, is popular because it's catchy, and applying a blanket "I don't like that stuff" statement to music is just shutting yourself off from a bunch of great tunes.
It was with a bit of trepidation that I dove into SingStar Country first, and discovered that, yes, country crooners can not only sing a hell of a lot better than I can, but that only some of the more popular hits (which span a fairly wide timeline, actually) are about women leaving or how much one loves their dog. In truth, there are some songs that only work as country hits (and of course the flip side is true; just look at the ill-fated All4One/John Michael Montgomery song swaps in the 90s), and they're just as fun to belt out as any of the non-country tracks found in SingStar Legends (one could even make the case that the latter SingStar incorporates a couple of country hits from the former).
[SingStar Country Track List]
Alan Jackson - "Chattahoochee"
Alan Jackson - "Good Time"
Big & Rich - "Save A Horse (Ride a Cowboy)"
Blake Shelton - "Home"
Brad Paisley - "Online"
Brooks & Dunn - "Boot Scootin' Boogie"
Brooks & Dunn w/ Reba McEntire - "If You See Him/If You See Her"
Bucky Covington - "It's Good To Be Us"
Faith Hill - "Red Umbrella"
Gretchen Wilson - "Red Neck Woman"
Jessica Simpson - "Come on Over"
Jewel - "Stronger Woman"
Johnny Cash - "A Boy Named Sue"
Johnny Cash - "I Walk the Line"
Josh Turner - "Another Try"
Keith Urban - "Days Go By"
Kellie Pickler - "Red High Heels"
Kenny Chesney - "Big Star"
Lady Antebellum - "Love Don't Live Here"
Martina McBride - "A Broken Wing"
Miranda Lambert - "Kerosene"
Montgomery Gentry - "My Town"
Montgomery Gentry - "What Do Ya Think About That?"
Rascall Flats - "Bless the Broken Road"
Sara Evans - "Born to Fly"
Taylor Swift - "Our Song"
Terri Clark - "Girls Lie Too"
Trace Adkins - "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk"
Trace Adkins - "You're Gonna Miss This"
Willie Nelson - "Pancho and Left
SingStar Legends, though, is something of a different beast, mainly because it does precisely what it purports, which is cull hit songs from just about every genre into something that (hopefully) satisfies everyone. It's not the greatest collection of songs (that honor still belongs to phenomenally well-picked track list in SingStar '90s), but as a smattering of songs meant to interest everyone, it's not a bad listing.
[SingStar Legends Track List]
Barry White - "You're The First, The Last, My Everything"
Biz Markie - "Just A Friend"
Black Sabbath - "Paranoid"
Bonnie Tyler - "Total Eclipse Of The Heart"
David Bowie - "Life On Mars?"
Dusty Springfield - "Son Of A Preacher Man"
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong - "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off"
Elton John - "I'm Still Standing"
Elvis Presley - "Blue Suede Shoes"
Grateful Dead - "Touch Of Grey"
James Brown - "I Got You (I Feel Good)"
John Lennon - "Imagine"
Johnny Cash - "Ring Of Fire"
Joy Division - "Love Will Tear Us Apart"
Madonna - "Papa Don't Preach"
Marvin Gaye - "What's Goin On?"
Michael McDonald - "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)"
Nirvana - "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
Patsy Cline - "Crazy"
Ray Charles - "Hit The Road Jack"
Sam Cooke - "Wonderful World"
The Jackson 5 - "I Want You Back"
The Monkees - "Daydream Believer"
The Police - "Roxanne"
The Righteous Brothers - "Unchained Melody"
The Rolling Stones - "Sympathy For The Devil"
The Smiths - "This Charming Man"
Tina Turner - "What's Love Got To Do With It?"
Tom Jones - "What's New Pussycat"
Whitney Houston - "I'm Your Baby Tonight"
SingStar Pop Vol. 2, on the other hand, is piggybacking off the success of the first game, but this time around, I really just couldn't get into the track list. It's not necessarily that the song selection isn't good (though it can't hold a candle to the first SingStar Pop), just that the songs didn't quite have the same hooks as some of the earlier SingStar offerings -- or even the other versions reviewed here. It does have the honor, however, of being the game that, along with the EyeToy, made for plenty of laughing and pointing by the rest of the staff when they witnessed me getting all teary-eyed during Pink's "Who Knew." Hey, what can I say, it's a powerful song and Pink's pretty damned hot.
[SingStar Pop Vol. 2 Track List]
3 Doors Down - "When I'm Gone"
Ashlee Simpson - "Boyfriend"
Avril Lavigne - "My Happy Ending"
Boys Like Girls - "The Great Escape"
Cartel - "Lose It"
Colbie Caillat - "Bubbly"
Dixie Chicks - "Not Ready To Make Nice"
Duran Duran - "Ordinary World"
Evanesence - "Bring Me To Life"
Fall Out Boy - "Thnks Fr Th Memrs"
Fergie - "Big Girls Don't Cry"
Gwen Stefani feat. Akon - "The Sweet Escape"
Jennifer Lopez - "Jenny From the Block"
Lifehouse - "First Time"
Lily Allen - "Littlest Things"
Lloyd - "Get it Shawty"
Maroon 5 - "Makes Me Wonder"
Matchbox Twenty - "How Far We've Come"
Michelle Branch - "Breathe"
Nelly Furtado - "Promiscuous"
Norah Jones - "Don't Know Why"
P!nk - "Who Knew"
Peter Bjorn and John - "Young Folks"
Plain White T's - "Hey There Delilah"
Rihanna - "Umbrella"
Santana feat. Chad Kroger - "Into The Night"
Steriogram - "Walkie Talkie Man"
Sum 41 - "Fat Lip"
The Hives - "Tick Tick Boom"
The Outfield - "Your Love"
The one nagging thing that I couldn't shake about all three games, however, was that they just didn't feel nearly as compelling after playing the PS3 version of things. It's not just the hi-def visuals or better sound or the option to completely mute the vocals if I wanted to, it was that overwhelming feeling that, yes, I had done all this before, just with a different colored interface, intro and songs. When the releases are starting to get into the second volumes and nothing dramatic has happened, it just makes me pine for the online interaction of SingStar PS3.
Does that mean Legends, Country and Pop Vol. 2 are bad games? No, of course not. There are few party-type games that continue to get better as you add more people and more drinks start flowing like SingStar, and in that respect they're all fine additions to your PS2 library. It's just that the PS3 version really is a lot stronger as an offering, and the gulf is only going to widen as the SingStore gets more tracks.
If you still haven't bit on the PS3 yet and are a fan of the SingStar games, then you know exactly what you're getting here. If you haven't played the PS3 versions, then you're probably even better off, as ignorance is bliss, but once you have tasted the next-gen goodness, the same old modes and interface are going to seem a little... lacking.