Across the last generation of consoles, the karaoke market was a relatively busy one, with regular releases for Sony’s Singstar series, as well as the Xbox exclusive, Lips, but thus far, aside from a pretty rushed Singstar PS4, there has been precious little to satisfy those with the urge to unleash their inner pop sensation. Until now that is. With Deep Silver and developer, Raven’s Court, having spotted a gaping hole in the market, they have come along to try their best at filling it, and whilst the content may not be exactly varied (in terms of its song list), for the market that’s likely to invest, this isn’t even a flaw that they’ll notice, so as a contender to the Singstar crown it simply has to be taken seriously.
Music lovers will want to steer well clear of this one, but for pop fans, I’m sure its thirty strong track list will prove to be an unadulterated party hit, featuring the likes of Mark Ronson (feat. Bruno Mars) with Uptown Funk, Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass and the current media darling, following his contribution to the latest Bond film, Sam Smith. In fact, the closest that the developer strayed away from the pop genre was only as far as Coldplay, which, as you all know, isn’t very far at all. Likewise, as one might expect from a release bearing the Now That’s What I Call branding, all of the songs, save for just one of them were released within the last two years, but like Singstar before it, and taking into account the length of time that Now’s regular compilation album series has been running, there’s absolutely no reason why Raven’s Court couldn’t easily create new iterations based around previous albums, from the first one (released in 1983) right up to the present day.
In terms of its game modes, there’s a tad more variety to the game, with the bog standard solo and duet variations included, alongside more inventive ones such as By Heart, which challenges the player to sing without the lyrics being presented on screen, so a few practice runs might be needed first. Also, there’s an Expert Mode which removes the real-time vocal feedback, making it more challenging for the player to hit the right notes, again, this is really an option for those who have likely played this far too much, but it’s still a means of extending the game’s replayability and subsequent shelf life, so that’s not to be sniffed at. But it doesn’t stop there.
Now That’s What I Call Sing can even support up to four microphones, which is essential for some of its more interesting gameplay types, Elimination and 20,000. The former assigns each player a ration of energy that is depleted each and every time a player hits the wrong note, when the energy reserves are entirely exhausted, the player is eliminated, leaving the winner as the last person still in the game. 20,000 on the other hand simply tasks its players to reach a score of 20,000 points as quickly as possible, it’s a simple concept but a welcome addition nonetheless.
In terms of its gameplay, well, it’s pretty much as one would expect it to be, but it just doesn’t quite reach the heights of the heavyweights that have come before it. Naturally, lyrics are displayed on screen in front of a song’s official music video, and the object is to sing along accurately, simple right? Well, in Singstar and Lips, the feedback that the game provided was simple and easy to follow, with an arrow or cursor indicating whether the sung part was too high or too low, allowing the player to quickly compensate for their mistake. However, in Now That’s What I Call Sing, this feedback is rather different, being more obtuse and not so user friendly, with the note instead changing colour depending on whether you’re scoring great, okay, poor or absolutely terrible, which makes it considerably more difficult to alter one’s pitch on the fly. In its defence though, there’s no doubting that it does measure the performance accurately, which is a definite bonus.
All in all, Now That’s What I Call Sing is a welcome addition to the karaoke genre that will surely satiate the most ardent pop fan’s singing dreams, at least until Sony and Microsoft return to the fold (though to be honest, I can’t envision Lips making a return, sadly). Raven’s Court even saw fit to enable a Jukebox mode that sees the entire thirty song track list play on an endless loop, which will probably make an ideal addition to some tone deaf party. Naturally, if you hadn’t already guessed it, this release isn’t for me, but for its intended market, there’s just getting away from the fact that it’ll likely prove to be an essential purchase.