REVIEW: Singstar ABBA & Volume 3

Developer: Sony | Publisher: Sony | Format: PS3

REVIEWER: Brendan Tinnelly || Sony’s first-party karaoke franchise has long been a jewel in the crown for the Playstation brand. It’s universal, pick-up-and-play accessibility has been attracting non-gamers to the Playstation 2 when the Wii was still just a pipe dream.

For those coming late to the party, the core mechanic is as so: the player sings the on-screen lyrics of one of forty-odd songs into the supplied USB microphone, and is awarded a score based on the pitch of their voice, which is also represented on-screen. It’s just like karaoke at your local pub on a Thursday, but with a videogame high-score tacked on.

The PS3 iterations boast one real improvement over the previous generation. By purchasing any PS3 SingStar release, you also gain access to the SingStore, where you may cherry-pick songs to download from an impressively vast selection, at a price of e1.49 a song. The store is frequently updated, and while the selection is a little limited, there is certainly enough quality to fuel a couple of nights of karaoke.

The ability to build your own library via SingStore is an important one, as the on-disc content can be very hit & miss. While Singstar ABBA boasts all the classics you know and love, it also contains some more obscure ones that will likely fall flat for most casual fans. Singstar Volume 3 contains a cocktail of pop that lurches from Michael Jackson to Kate Bush via Dizzie Rascal and Smashing Pumpkins. There’s undoubtedly something for everyone, but it’s unlikely one will enjoy the entire selection.

This leads to a niggling fault: while you can build your library via the SingStore, those unpopular on-disc tracks cannot be removed from rotation, and so infuriatingly pop up during the various random-selection party modes. It’s a tiny design oversight, but there is no understating its impact.

Of greater concern, perhaps, is the awkward attempt to turn karaoke into a videogame. For the tone deaf, myself amongst them, the appeal of karaoke has always been in making a holy show of yourself as you butcher a classic song. However, with a high-score metre and instant feedback on your performance, the gaming mind subconsciously curtails your extrovert shrieks and wails in search of a better score.

There has been dismay too, that in the jump to Playstation 3, we are still encumbered with wired microphones. For some, the lack of wireless microphones is a deal breaker. For this reviewer, there is a certain charm in the wired microphone, adding to the illusion that yes, you are in fact Freddie Mercury on stage at Live Aid as you wrap the wire around yourself.

As stand-alone discs, with their limited track-lists, it is difficult to recommend either title as a must-have. However, If you’re willing to open your wallet for the well-stocked SingStore, you have the ingredients for a great night of social gaming.

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