SingStar: Ultimate Party Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4
Hell yes. I love to sing. I can’t - at all - according to my wife/friends/family/anyone in earshot but oh damn is it fun. Everyone loves to sing along to their favourite tunes, no? In the car on the way home from work after a particularly tawdry day; in the shower; waiting for the bus or down the gym. It might be a full-on demonstration of your vocal prowess or a silent, mouthed rendition of your tune of choice. Now you can sing along at home using your PlayStation 4 as part of your Ultimate Party thanks to SingStar.
Now, SingStar: Ultimate Party is the latest version of one of Sony’s great successes of the last decade. Released before the rhythm action game became populist through Guitar Hero, this was the definitive karaoke system for your home. It began life on PlayStation 2 and carried on living throughout PlayStation 3’s cycle. Now it debuts on PlayStation 4. Disappointingly there are some issues. Pretty major ones. Starting with the entire lack of point.
There is no point to this game. If you choose to go to a shop and purchase SingStar: Ultimate Party you will buy a shiny disc which plays music videos and puts the lyrics on screen whilst they’re being sung by the artist. Whilst that wonderfully talented individual(s) performs for your wonder you are entitled to sing along as you would to any music video on MTV, or YouTube. Probably even a song on your personal music player of choice. The difference here is the words are written down and if you sing the words like the famous people you colour shapes in blue or gold and get points for doing so. The better your colouring in, the higher your score. Let me be clear: you don’t use the Move controller to actually colour in the shapes (always round-edged oblongs of different dimensions for all you fans of polygons) but your singing leads the game to colour them in for you.
So, by paying for some circular media (or ones and zeroes by way of digital purchase) you get to sing along to songs you already do for free, via your TV and PS4 which you already can do without spending a penny, but with the addition of an ever-increasing score resulting from the game colouring in shapes for you. At least, that’s what it seems like to me given there is no tutorial or explanation given as to what’s going on otherwise. This is my summation. There are other aspects to this game, though, to be entirely fair.
The extras are absolute doozies. For one thing, if you happen to have the PlayStation camera you get to watch clips of yourself singing along to the tunes after you’ve performed. You can upload these to social media or the SingStar community pages and let others rate you! How awesome. This means you can rate others too. Wow, it’s like karaoke without visiting a bar at 2 AM, but with extra fun and not at all distressing social interaction.
Being that we have a game here rather than real late-night drunken karaoke you can play with other people. In this iteration the extent of this is that two people can join in singing any particular song. You can both get points and you can both enjoy it - whether the song you’re singing along to had two or more singers in the first place. What you can’t do is perform a duet or have a party or pass the mic or anything fun and enjoyable and in anyway different to watching a music video and singing. Except for the words and colouring in of shapes, of course. There might be more to it but we couldn’t find anything - and nor could the game’s website given the writers noted they needed to link to the features article but then didn’t actually link to the features article. Classy. This game really is stripped of all layers and whether or not you like it boils down to whether you can justify paying for the privilege of singing along to music videos you like.
So what of the track-listing and any in-game purchase options? Well, on the disc you have thirty songs ranging from classics like Kylie Minogue’s Can’t get you out of my head to songs from Frozen (the pop variant anyway). Honestly we’ve done the game a bit of a favour there - there aren’t really any other classics and in reality most of the tracks are going to be unknown to folk/disliked/liked only by a certain subset of consumer. I think the target audience here is young female teenagers. If you don’t meet those criteria you’re going to need to visit the SingStar songstore (I will let Sony use that alliteration in marketing if they like). On here you get a greater variety of songs with actual classics from Elvis and The Beach Boys, as well as modern favourites like Common People, by Pulp, and Tribute, by Tenacious D. You can get these new tracks without leaving the game itself which is lovely and a novelty compared to every other PSN purchase. Each song costs £1.15 though, which seems steep for an awfully compressed music video with less resolution (seemingly) than when it first came out. Video quality does vary massively to be honest - each is the original so it is understandable but then when they originally came out we didn’t all have super-sized high definition televisions. If your eyes feel ill when viewing 576i content on a 1080p screen, look away now.
The overall presentation is something that has been done well to be honest, aside from the above wrinkle. The interface is snappy, it’s all easy to set up - the game knows what microphone is connected and you can auto-calibrate to ensure your voice will be in-sync with the game to guarantee you have the best chance of colouring in those damned shapes. You don’t even need a microphone to be honest! You can download an app which turns your phone into a microphone. If you use Android or iOS, at least - bad luck Windows phone users; sorry, no gold star to Sony for their lack of inclusivity with what appears to be the single unique selling point of SingStar: Ultimate Party. Whether you’re using your wired microphone (old mics work here in an example of last-gen peripherals working on PS4 despite the lack of the requisite security chip), camera or smartphone, the experience is the same. They all work, and you gather points for singing, but you hear only the performance artist through the TV and yourself only in real life. Is this a problem? Not at all.
So, to sum up what SingStar: Ultimate Party is I can safely say what it is not. It is not the ultimate party. If it were, life would be very dull indeed. What it is is a way to collate certain music videos in one place in exchange for payment as opposed to finding them for free via various other methods. It’s a chance to sing into your smartphone rather than hear singing from it and a chance to see shapes turn blue or gold or stay white. It’s a chance to record yourself singing without pressing play on the video recorder and a chance to have other people you don’t know rate your singing to prove once and for all to your wife/mother/friends that you bloody well can sing. Does all of that make the game worth playing? Not a chance.