Karaoke games are a genre that needs very little explanation - pick a song, grab a microphone and sing along, and that's all there is to it. Games like Lips, Singstar and We Sing add new multiplayer modes to add a bit of variety to the basic premise, but underneath they're essentially the same - it's not a genre that requires anything revolutionary. You know what you're getting with a karaoke game, and that's fine.
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With some half a dozen games under their belts by now, Nordic Games have got the formula down to a tee - pick some forty popular songs, add more than half a dozen four player multiplayer modes, and a sprinkling of single player before garnishing with a series of unlockable awards and you have your average We Sing game. While the formula remains the same, we actually prefer it that way; we wouldn't want them to do a Guitar Hero and faff for the sake of it, and ruin a perfectly good franchise in the process.
But We Sing: Pop is a turn up for the books, because this time, some things are actually a little bit different - and thankfully, they've been changed for the better. Despite the fact that the We Sing games are very multiplayer-orientated, we've always said that the games could do with a little bit more in terms of a single player game, especially as some of the multiplayer modes could be adapted for lone players too. And this time round, that's exactly what they've done, giving single players the chance to try out the Blind and Expert flavours for themselves, along with the standard ones that just let you sing a song of your choice. For the karaoke masochists only, the newly available in single player modes add something of a challenge for when you're feeling particularly brave, with Blind liking to drop out the backing track, lyrics and pitch bars at random moments, and Expert asking you to sing the songs without being able to see any lyrics or notes. But while we certainly appreciate the extra single player modes, it does seem a bit naff that there are no specific awards - the game's versions of achievements, which you unlock for completing certain pre-set objectives like getting your first 9000+ score, completing the singing lessons and changing the game's colour scheme - for the new modes. Asking us to 100% a song on Expert or Blind would have kept us playing for months...
Venture over into the multiplayer mode, however, and you'll find that Blind and Expert are only a couple of the modes on offer. Like the games that came before it, We Sing lets up to four people join in with the karaoke-fest (obviously, everyone needs a microphone, and as the Wii only has two USB ports round the back, you'll need a USB hub for more than two players), with a variety of twists on offer. First is the titular We Sing mode, which lets everyone co-operate to get the best score, without telling you who's leading the pack, and who's bringing up the rear, saving any, shall we say, aurally challenged friends the embarrassment. There's also the frantic Pass The Mic mode, another co-op mode where you have to sing a section of the song, before passing the mic to the next player - and you never know who's going to be next. For a more competitive game, you might want to try your hand at the Versus or Group Battle modes, where everyone competes for the best score, on their own or in teams of up to three players (for a three on one challenge). First to X is a similarly competitive mode, where whoever reaches the target score first is declared the winner, and Marathon lets you create a massive list of songs to sing through, with the player with the best average score being declared the We Sing master.
While generally the We Sing games have had an awesome selection of songs, with a good mix of tracks from all decades, genres and a fair amount of cheese that made sure everyone fancies a go at at least a few songs, We Sing: Pop seems to have dropped the ball a bit - or at least fumbled it. Looking through the setlist, we actually found very few songs we knew, let alone ones that we actually wanted to sing - beyond The Killers' When You Were Young and I'm Like A Bird by Nelly Furtado (Wham? Peter Andre?? What more could you want? - Ed), we struggled.
It may be worth noting that I'm probably not the best person to comment on the setlist though, considering my music tastes are stuck in the 60s and 70s with The Beatles, Joni Mitchell and Led Zeppelin (with the occasional Marilyn Manson, Counting Crows and Nirvana thrown in for good measure). But while I'm usually OK with the We Sing games, I found it very hard to find songs I actually knew well enough to want to sing, which is a first. Considering the latest game seems to have a definite bias towards the modern dancey-hip-hop stuff of kids today (and Wham), we decided it was time for a scientific experiment (yay!).
So I grabbed all the We Sing games I could find off my shelf, and divided the songs on each into decades (not including the 10s decade, as we're only two years in), and after doing a bit of mathematical jiggery-pokery to standardise the number of songs to thirty for each got the following distributions of songs:
Compared to We Sing: Pop, shown in bold pink, you notice that all the other games have a more zig-zagged distribution across the decades, mostly with a peak around the 80s and the 00s - while We Sing: Pop has a pretty much steady increase to today. Not only that, but it has the lowest number of pre-90s songs of all the games - as well as the highest amount of 00s songs, so it's no wonder it feels so samey! And with ten less songs than we've got used to in recent games, it seems even more limited than it actually is - unless you like the modern pop of Lady Gaga, Rhianna and Tinie Tempah, anyway. And those little red lines that appear under his name from my spell checker every time I write it are enough to put me off the latter.
While we very much appreciate the extension of the single player, and hope it remains for the future games, it's a shame that the We Sing Pop setlist just isn't as varied, as diverse, and, well, as cheesy as we're used to - which is a bit of a shame. If modern pop music's up your street, then there's every chance you'll get plenty of enjoyment out of this - but if you don't know who Example is, or what he's meant to be an example of, sadly, your fun here will be somewhat limited.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo Wii