Themed karaoke games - every karaoke franchise under the sun seems to do at least one, at some point. From Singstar ABBA, to Lips: Party Classics, to Karaoke Revolution: Glee - some seem little more than just another pack of songs, that just happen to be by the same artist, while some seem to take things a little bit further. We Sing: Robbie Williams sits firmly in the latter category, and is packed to the brim with various Robbie-themed unlockables, even going as far as to feature voice overs from the man himself.
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As a karaoke game, the object of the game should be fairly self explanatory - prompted by the light-up lyrics on screen, it's up to you to sing the Robbie songs as well as you can. Hit the right notes, and the on screen pitch bars fill up - with the vertical position of each bar dictating how high or low each note is. With three difficulties on offer - Easy, Medium and Hard, you're bound to be able to find a level that offers a suitable challenge for you, with each increase in difficulty decreasing the margin of error you have on each note - so while on Easy, you can afford to be dropping your sharps and flats, by the time you crank the difficulty up to Hard, you'll need to be singing pretty much pitch perfect.
Convinced to try and shed your inhibitions and pick up a microphone yet? Not quite? Don't worry - if you think you can't hold a note, there are even 30 singing lessons in the game to help you out, ranging from quite easy to nearly impossible. If you can finish the lessons, you'll be more than ready to tackle the rest of the game.
The core gameplay and modes from We Sing: Encore remain unchanged - you can still have up to four people singing at once, both competitively and co-operatively, over eight different multiplayer modes. The We Sing mode is your bog standard, everyone singing the same song to work together for the best score affair, and the less vocally gifted people needn't worry they're letting the side down, as in this mode, no incorrect pitch lines or individual scores are shown, letting you butcher the songs in relative anonymity. Unless your friends manage to guess which one's singing out of tune. Pass the Mic is another co-operative mode, where players take it in turns, singing a section of a song, before another person takes over - but with a random order of play, you'll need to pay close attention. Versus mode does what it says on the tin, with players competing head to head for the best score, while along the same vein is Group Battle, which is similar to versus mode, except people are on teams (of 1 to 3 people). Another competitive, versus-type mode is First to X, which lets you set a target score, and the first person to reach it is in the winner. Blind Mode has you battling against each other for points - but this time with a difference, as the lyrics and sound will disappear at random intervals during the song. Marathon mode lets you sing to a created playlist, with the player with the best average score across all songs being declared the winner, while last but definitely not leat, is Expert mode - the evilist mode in the entire game - which shows no pitch bars, and no lyrics - meaning you should only ever choose this one if you pick a song you know very well. I didn't, and quickly learned from my mistake, proceeding to sing every note I could at random in the hope of hitting something.
Far more than a pure party affair, for the lone crooners among us, there are 34 different awards to work towards in We Sing: Robbie Williams, ranging from the simple 'Sing your first song' and 'Sing every song', to the more challenging 'Score at least 9000 points on every song' (which is more challenging than it sounds - I haven't got a single 9000 yet. The closest I came was a score of 8754 on 'Let Me Entertain You'), and 'Complete all singing lessons' (some of the later ones are the spawn of Satan), with a few random ones, like 'Choose the worst combination ever' (whatever that means), and 'View the credits' making up the pack. For those of you, like me, who get a tad obsessive about awards and things like that, these'll mean you'll be playing We Sing: Robbie Williams for a long time. It's a shame though, that those who have no-one to play We Sing: Robbie Williams with don't get a few more modes to keep them occupied - one's like Expert and Blind could easily be adapted for single player, and would give a bit more variety to what is essentially a multiplayer game.
Quite possibly the strongest aspect of the game, however - and obviously the most important part of any karaoke game, is just how strong the soundtrack is. Varied, and packed with tunes you'll know (and probably quite like), there's a great selection of romantic ballads, to more upbeat, rock anthems, including the likes of Rock DJ, She's the One, and of course, the must-sing Angels. Even Robbie's swing album, Swing when you're Winning gets a look in here, with Somewhere Beyond the Sea offering a bit of a change of pace, while Something Stupid forms a perfect song for couples on those cold, winters nights. If anything, about the only song we can think of that isn't on the game is Millennium - and that's the only disappointment.
Generally, the game is quite easy to pick up and play (or in this case, sing). If you're not to sure how a song goes, it is a bit too easy to get caught out, as the next 'page' of lyrics can scroll by before you've had a chance to react, especially in the fast bits, but, of course, the more times you play a song, the more likely you are to be expecting it, so the less unfair it seems.
A new addition for this iteration of the We Sing franchise is the unlockables - players can unlock photos, videos and even a song - just by playing through the game. I'm not really sure what the criteria is for unlocking them, however, as I managed to unlock all three videos after my first song (it was my newly found favourite, 'Advertising Space'). Perhaps I'm just that awesome.
As this is a Robbie Williams game, it makes sense that he Robbie is an intrinsic part of the experience, adding voice overs at the end of each song, telling you how well (or not) you've performed - although, having a picture of him pulling a rather psychotic Kiss face and telling you 'I could hear your soul in that one', does seem a tad unnerving. There's even a little Robbie Williams Mii-like character that does an introduction to the singing lessons.
Even the menus seem to have had a Robbie makeover - the main menu has a whole load of box arts in the background - in fact, there's a choice of a whopping 35 different Robbie themed ones to choose from. Considering my Wii Remote skills leave much to be desired, however, navigating the menus can be a bit shaky at times, as some of the 'buttons' seem rather small, or don't necessary look all that clickable (although the Wii Remote will rumble slightly as you move your cursor over them).
Now, I know what you're thinking. How can a game with half the number of songs (26 to be precise), all by the same person, possibly have the same sort of variety as We Sing: Encore? Whether it's a testament to Robbie's 20 year career, or Nordic Games' song choice, it doesn't matter - but We Sing: Robbie Williams is a pretty solid karaoke game. It's not without it's flaws though - but these aren't massive, game-breaking problems, and if it's fun and easy to pick up and play, who really minds.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo Wii