SingStar. The juggernaut of karaoke games. Lips. The tinker toy truck of karaoke games. Now there’s a new kid in town, Konami’s franchise reboot of Karaoke Revolution.
The first thing to note is that this game is absolutely crammed with features, including more or less everything SingStar should have had years ago: savable playlists, savable teams, multi-round rulesets for party play which can also be saved for later re-use, a jukebox mode where you can just listen (although it is limited to a maximum of 5 queued tracks at once), online play – both single games and tournaments – customizable characters, a venue creation tool and so on. There is pretty much everything here you could possibly want to customise your karaoke experience, and that is excellent.
The disk comes with 75 tracks (50 in NTSC regions), which unlike previous incarnations of Karaoke Revolution are all master tracks. There is quite a lot of overlap with SingStar but there are a number of oft-requested tracks on here like Katy Perry – I Kissed A Girl, Miley Cyrus – 7 Things, Rihanna – Disturbia, Taylor Swift – Love Story, Lily Allen – Smile and Lady Gaga – Just Dance that may nudge you into a purchase if you like that sort of thing. It’s not all cheesy pop though; Seal, REM, Pulp, Rod Stewart, Talking Heads and many others are featured.
There are no real music videos in Karaoke Revolution; instead you get a Guitar Hero-like stage and mo-capped performances. The menu interface is simple and does the job, but looks quite retro. The game graphics are similarly underwhelming, but this ultimately doesn’t really affect the experience.
The actual singing interface looks like an almost direct clone of Lips – which probably means that Lips is a direct clone of Karaoke Revolution. Fortunately you don’t need to bang or wave the mic or clap like an idiot here – instead you get multiplier boosts for singing particular phrases perfectly, with no multiplier limit. This is both good and bad, because unlike SingStar (but like Lips) there is no way to compare how good you are at any one song against any other except via the slow and cumbersome online leaderboards. At the end of the song, you are however told the percentage of notes you hit.
Unlike both the other games, Karaoke Revolution has a fairly expansive 130-event career mode based on unlocking platters. You start off at the centre of a platter and as you complete an event successfully, the adjacent sections of the platter become unlocked. Therefore you can progress in a branching non-linear fashion if you want to. Each event has certain targets such as reaching a certain minimum notes hit, multiplier, limitations on song or genre and so on. It’s not particularly exciting, but it is another oft-requested karaoke game feature and it does at least give you the impetus to try every song a couple of times – and the ability to skip something if you really don’t like it.
It has been reported to me that online play works fluently, unfortunately I tried several times to start a match and was never able to find anyone online, so don’t expect too much online action until more copies have been sold.
One issue is that it takes quite a while for songs to load – longer than they take in Guitar Hero or Rock Band. The other karaoke games have more or less instant start.
SingStar and Lips mics are both reported to work – although the Lips mics only have a 20% gain so they are not recommended – and I’m pleased to say that both my SingStar wireless mics worked fine in battle and duet modes, despite claims to the contrary in Konami’s own FAQ.
Moving onto the store, here we have problems. Konami are pushing updates every other Thursday in alternation with SingStore updates, and the range of tracks is excellent, plus they only cost 79p each compared to 99p for SingStore tracks. Of course you don’t get the video, and the big issue is that they are all covers. However, this apparently is not as bad as one might imagine. I tested it out with the cover of Michael Jackson’s Beat It and it was almost indistinguishable from the original song. The singer was of course, a little rougher, but the rest of the song used the same samples, instruments and melody. It did not negatively impact the gameplay experience at all.
Unfortunately, the store does not allow you to preview tracks, and it also presents only the title of the song and not the name of the original performer – so unless you’ve got a very keen eye for song names, it is pot luck whether you actually get the right song or not. This really needs to be addressed. Most of the store releases so far have also been regurgitated tracks from older PS2 disks, so we really need to wait and see what Konami brings to the table when their back catalogue runs out.
And that’s the rub: the success or failure of this game will ultimately depend on its DLC. Guitar Hero has now more or less flopped against Rock Band in part due to its overpriced and niche appeal DLC. Karaoke Revolution may flop against SingStar in the same way. SingStar currently has about 1250 English language tracks available on its store – many of them are arguably chaff but there is nonetheless plenty of goodness to be found. If Konami roll out well-known songs with master recordings, this game easily has the credentials to trounce and destroy SingStar due to its much richer feature set. If they don’t, Karaoke Revolution will likely fade into oblivion – which would really be a shame.
- Good well-rounded track selection for most people including previously unlicensed tracks
- Huge wealth of gameplay and customisation options
- Jukebox mode lets you listen to your songs without playing
- DLC is cheap
- Retro graphics
- Long loading times
- Difficult to find an online match
- The longevity of the game hinges on future DLC which is currently uncertain
In rating Karaoke Revolution, I have taken the game on its own merit as a standalone product and ignored the DLC issues, so you should take that into consideration when mulling over the purchase.
If you like karaoke games, Karaoke Revolution is a no-brainer even if you already own SingStar. It doesn’t have the polish or refinement of SingStar, but it does have heaps of potential, and the career mode will keep you busy for a while, especially when you consider a SingStar disk usually ships with 30 songs and a Lips disk with 40.
Karaoke Revolution is out for PS2, PS3, Xbox 360 and the Wii.
Visit www.totalmusicgaming.com for SingStar, Lips, Rock Band, Guitar Hero, DJ Hero and Karaoke Revolution social networking and contests. Thanks to TSA for their support! – Katy