I got around to checking this one out as well. This is the latest Karaoke game for Kinect. The developers, iNiS, who also developed Lips (which is still by far the best Karaoke series ever made), created this one. It’s good, but Lips is still better. If you haven’t heard of it, here’s the short summary:

Bring the party to your house and sing to over 8,000 songs from the latest hits to the oldies but goodies!  Your avatar will go on stage and sing to your voice with a full complement of stage props and back band.  Songs don’t require any download and will playback immediately via streaming for a robust karaoke experience.  Requires an Xbox 360 Headset, Xbox Wireless Microphone or Xbox 360 compatible USB microphone.

Overview

Overall, it’s not bad, but it could probably be better. I don’t mind the avatar use, but it could have been more functional, especially with Kinect. It’s the first kind of game I played where you have to pay hourly to really enjoy it, otherwise the “free” version of it is quite limited which I’ll go into detail below.

The Menu

The menu is controlled with a controller and is short, simple and to the point. It consists of Play, Leaderboards, Achievements, Help & Options and Exit. Leaderboards and achievements are quite self-explanatory so I won’t go into detail about those.

Play

This is the main mode of the game. In here, songs are all categorized into main options. They are broken up into Hot 100, which is the most popular played in the game. Browse allows you search by Genre and there are a lot, such as Modern Pop, Traditional, etc. Search allows you to type in a song title or artist. The search feature works fairly well. Favorites is a queue of songs that you can add to your favorites and recall them quickly (being that you are timed once you pay, this is a helpful feature). History keeps track of all of the songs you have played, also useful if one isn’t added to your favorites and you want to jump quickly to it again. Free songs have new songs everyday. Don’t expect any chart toppers but there is a good mix in here of about 5 songs.

There’s also at the time of this review, a State Farm icon to the left. Clicking this goes into the “Celebrity” song. I guess someone made a song for the “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” slogan, it’s like hard rock. It’s very weird but it is free and you get a lot of points from doing it. I’m assuming these will change monthly or what not and remain free to get you to play the game.

How the game works is you have fans and moola. Depending on how well you do, earns you more fans. Earning more fans earns you more moola. You have a manager who manages your moola for you and upgrades stage items to appeal more fans. I think the objective is to become as popular as you can, but if you really want to achieve that, you better plan on spending a lot of real money. Your avatar also levels up with each song you play as well, depending on your number of fans.

For the game itself, it does really well with word detection. Most games allow you to say whatever, as long as the pitch/key are correct. This one isn’t as forgiving. I like accuracy so it helps. You can also change the key of the song in case you are male singing a female song and vice versa. Now there are quite a few songs, but understand this. None of them are masters, these are just cover songs which is why they have so many. With Karaoke, it’s not a big deal to me because Karaoke singers tend to usually ruin songs anyway, so what do you need a master track for? I was quite surprised though, that one of the bands I always sing to (Train), doesn’t have any songs available, yet they have newer songs available that are still on the radio. Also, what were they thinking – there isn’t any preview option available, so make sure you know what the songs are, otherwise you will waste your time searching. You can at least queue up songs without the Karaoke pass though.

During the song, Kinect plays a key role actually. It is random as I tested out the same song quite a few times, and each time was different. You will have to match certain poses your avatar does. I don’t know how many there are, I was only able to pull off 4 at any given time, but its kind of a pain to do so while you are singing with a microphone (might have been easier with a wireless headset). When successful, you get a boat load of fans to add up. The environment also adjusts depending on how many fans you have, as you want the “Crowd out of control” to get the most. It’s quite cool how it looks overall.

My one complaint about using Kinect, is they should have made it more interactive and give you a real stage presence. We’ve seen our avatars mimic our actions in other Kinect games, but in this one they do their own thing. Actually being live mimicking your moves while singing would have made it such a realistic experience.

Anyhow, I did make a video of one of the songs. I turned the in-game microphone volume down so you didn’t have to hear my terrible voice. You can also disable the lead voices for a true karaoke experience. Check it out below:

Help & Options

This area covers How to play, the controls with a controller, Child Safe Mode which filters out certain songs and the credits.

Xbox Smartglass

This is another title that makes use of the smartglass feature. It basically allows you to remote control songs in the game and browse. You can also view the lyrics as well. Not much more to it, see the screenshots below:

Karaoke Pass (Renting)

I consider this game as a rental since you never truly own it no matter how much you pay, but it is also considered a “channel” according to Xbox Live, but still, these are not subscription prices – my cable TV with lots of channels still costs less than this. 2 hours cost 240MS points or ($3USD), 6 hours costs you 400MSP ($5 USD) and 24 hours costs 800MSP ($10USD). Now what’s really appalling to me at least, is that you are on a time limit, it doesn’t matter if you exit the game or not, time always runs. If you really played this game to your heart’s content, it could well go over the normal $50-60 game price. It’s ridiculous. I guess they believe they are making more money this way than releasing DLC.

The only thing I thought was cool its only a few bucks if you are having a party and need a quick karaoke system with lots of songs, so it has its ups and down either way. It’s just weird and I hope this is not how the future of gaming will happen, because I don’t time all games based on hours of gameplay. If it does happen, the quick and easy games would be cheaper than your role-playing games for example. But then you have achievements as well, where as most say, beat the game on the hardest difficulty. It’ll basically become how much money do you want to spend on that achievement, either beat the game on easy, or buy extra time on hard. It’s really an anti-consumer model in my opinion.

Conclusion

It’s not too shabby of a title for Karaoke. I don’t agree with the pricing model and I feel more could have been utilized with Kinect, but for what it is, it’s alright. Sure, there are 8000+ songs, but that still doesn’t make up for everything else. If you like Karaoke, you can kind of try it out for yourself before spending money on it using the free songs. Time will tell us if this model of gaming is the future.


This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Karaoke
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