SingStar Pop

Pop Rocks

Sony's second SingStar offering comes Stateside and once again proves they've got karaoke down.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: April 5, 2007
A karaoke game isn't terribly difficult to do; mix a handful of popular songs, toss in a microphone peripheral so you can sing along, and have the game judge just how horrible your version of Britney Spears is after eight Jager Bombs when you think everyone's passed out and you can sing your little heart out.

A good karaoke game, however, has to do all three of those things well, which is precisely what SingStar has done to the tune of some seven million copies sold worldwide (most of them in Europe, where the series is a runaway success). Rather than grabbing a bunch of Top 40 hits and getting cover artists to do the music, Sony gets the actual song and actual video by the actual artist and throws it into a game with that funky UK Design aesthetic that developer Studio London does so well. Rather then ship with a single mic, it comes with two, and to encourage the social aspect of the game, liberal EyeToy support has been thrown in, as well as the ability to save horribly embarrassing recordings to be used later as the ultimate blackmail.

For anyone who has played the series before, this is nothing new. SingStar Pop, as the title so eagerly explains, is all about pop hits, meaning it's even more mainstream and Top 40-friendly than SingStar Rocks!, so if you recoil in horror at the mention of artists like Avril Lavigne or Hoobastank, you're probably not going to be backflipping across the room at offerings here, but then this clearly isn't a game aimed at the indie rock crowd. There are a couple of artists that have slightly different sounds (well, not so different these days), so if screaming along to My Chemical Romance and Panic! At the Disco floats your boat, you're pretty set. If nothing else, including both the original song and video for a karaoke classic -- A-Ha's "Take On Me" -- might be worth the entry price for some.

(If you're curious, the full list is right here, and as per usual for the series, it's 30 songs strong.)

So the game, then, comes right down to the song selection and the interface, which I gushed over during the SingStar Rocks! review. Studio London's interface is incredibly clean and gives near-instant feedback on pitch and timing, which is important since the game grades on both criteria. It's not always perfect, as anyone who has to stumble or whiz through the rap sections of the Gorillaz' "Feel Good Inc." will tell you (whether you suck or you're dead on, the result always seems to be pretty similar), and it feels like there's a slight delay on the PS3 if you're playing the game there (along with a lock-up on the intro video, though everyone else plays well).

Whether because some of the videos are a little more action-packed this time around or just because some of them are a little on the longer side, it seems like the quality is a little lower than Rocks!, though it's nothing to get terribly upset about. In fact, the songs this time around seem almost chosen as much for how good the videos themselves are as the songs (which would explain why crappy fluff like Hinder made it into the collection); videos from The All-American Rejects, The Raconteurs and Franz Ferdinand regularly got all of us in the office to go, "that was a really cool video" just as much as the songs were singable.

And again, the audio here is good stuff. It's not 5.1 super-fidelity stuff, but there is some light surround and once again the simple menu beeps and clicks all serve their purpose well without being terribly overstated.

Despite a soundtrack that's a little bit weaker than the previous effort (and again, that's entirely my opinion on things, since I enjoy rock more than pop to begin with), Pop continues SingStar's dominance as the best home karaoke game out there. There's nothing better than hooking up an EyeToy, busting out the booze and screaming along to songs, pausing every once in a while to crap a "SingStar Moment" -- a second or two clip of a song where you pose for the camera -- and then watching it all a few minutes later (or a replay for maximum pain) so you can see just how much alcohol makes you think you're a good singer.

I keep ending these reviews by pointing to the PS3 version because all the stuff in the PS2 ones, while good, are really just building toward the community and sharing parts of the future of the series. What's here is good, but it's nothing compared to what it could be. Still, for the money, there's no better way to get the actual songs and videos, two mics and a ton of fun all in one package, and so long as the track list appeals to you, you're going to be in karaoke heaven here.
The Verdict