With SingStar finally approaching its release date on PS3, every other karaoke game is probably going to be deserted by wannabe singers. Being able to download one’s favorite tracks from a list that in time promises to include dozens, if not hundreds, of choices is a luxury that will make players look at other titles as obsolete. Before Sony gives the finishing stroke to the previous installments of its own karaoke series, though, there’s still time for some more action on PS2 with SingStar ’80s and SingStar Amped. The first one is a tribute to the golden era of big hair and pop hits, while the second digs more specifically into hardcore rock music.
The only thing that Sony changed from previous installments in the series is the tracklist of the two games. Everything else, from the graphic interface to the gameplay, is exactly what we have seen in SingStar Rocks! and SingStar Pop, both released in the last twelve months. Same presentation with easy-to-navigate menus, same options for single- and multiplayer, same connectivity with the EyeToy camera: Sony didn’t feel the need to change any of the features before the series’ leap to the next generation.
The goal is, as usual, scoring the most points by matching the note bar that runs in the middle of the screen. If the note is sung too high or low, the player’s bar (colored in blue or red depending on the chosen microphone) will act accordingly, rating the performance as “bad” or even “awful.” The more “golden notes” players can match, the better their final score will be, until they eventually reach the status of SingStars.
The SingStar series is clearly designed to be enjoyed best in multiplayer mode. There are several options that allow groups spanning from two to eight players to take part in competitive or collaborative challenges. The two teams can compete in Battle, a one-against-one race for the maximum score; relax with Duet, a performance equally split between two players; or face the long Pass the Mic, a customizable set of eight different challenges. When there’s a shortage of competitors, single players can still have fun with Freestyle, a mode that is specifically designed to be enjoyed without having to score points, or improve their skills on Easy, Medium or Hard difficulty level. Top 5 charts keep track of the best performances for every song and for every difficulty level.
Unlike SingStar Rocks!, which paired some good rock tracks with completely unrelated music genres, such as classic soul and hip-hop, Amped is a pure selection of hard rock hits. There’s nothing in it to distract players from shouting angry lyrics into the microphone and acting like (deceased) rockstars from the ’90s. There’s an obvious tribute to Nirvana with “Come As You Are,” Alice in Chains with “Would?” and Sublime with “Santeria,” three good tracks that will attract nostalgic rock lovers.
Apart from the ’90s, there’s rock for virtually every taste. Starting with the early bands in the genre with Steppenwolf, Boston and ZZ Top, the tracklist goes on with some ’80s phenomena such as Motorhead and Quiet Riot. The contemporary age of rock is represented by Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age and The Killers. But there’s much more than this: there’s a great collection of unforgettable classics such as David Bowie’s “Changes,” The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and Pearl Jam’s “Alive.” The only out-of-tune track is Blink 182′s “I Miss You,” more of a pop ballad than a serious rock effort, but we suppose it’s a matter of tastes.
There’s only one evident flaw in SingStar Amped: it’s not specifically designed for women’s voices. The only female vocalist in the tracklist is Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O., and some songs such as Radiohead’s “Creep” and Iggy Pop’s “Real Wild Child” might give female players a hard time due to their extremely low tones. It would have been nice to have some more examples of female-fronted bands in the style of Hole, Sonic Youth and Garbage. Nonethless, Amped is a title that every rock lover should have in their collection.