GOONL!NE Review: Singstar: Motown

Developer: Studio London
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console Played On: Playstation 3
Also on: N/A (PS3 Exclusive)
Release Date: Friday September 18th 2009
Age Rating: E for Everyone
Reviewed by: David Pitchforth

I guess I best get this out there right away – singing games are my dirty little secret. It’s not something that a “hardcore” gamer likes to admit, but there, I said it. I do enjoy singing away to any of the various games that are available that let me use my vocal “talents” (I use that word in its absolute loosest sense). The reason I like the games is the main reason they’re so successful, and the same reason why karaoke has been a staple in pubs for years, which is simply because of how much fun they can be to play when you have a group of friends around.

If you’ve never played a Singstar-style game before, where have you been living these past few years? The basic premise of the game is as simple as it gets, as the game is a virtual karaoke machine. You pick from any of the available songs to sing along to, the words come up along the bottom of the screen as the song plays, and you have to sing in the correct pitch as shown as screen, as well as you possibly can. You get scored based on how close you manage to get to the correct pitch, with the overall aim of getting as high a score as possible. You can play the game in solo mode, working through whatever songs take your fancy, or play through the different multiplayer modes, perhaps working together with a friend as a duet. And it’s in this situation, when you’re playing with friends, where the game really shines.

Singstar is fun enough on your own, but the only real challenge is beating your previous high score. When you add some friends in, it becomes a whole new ball game. Passing the mic back and forth while you sing along to classic songs, trying to beat each other’s scores, laughing at the people with the vocal talent of a goat, maybe indulging in an alcoholic beverage or two, it’s one of the best party games you can own, as everyone can get involved. On every Singstar game yet released (of which there has been a total of 9 worldwide on the PS3, with a further 24 released on the PS2), there has always been songs for everyone, songs anyone will know the words to and will happily sing along to. Even if you’re like me and don’t have any vocal talent whatsoever, it’s still fun to sing along with your favourite songs, and that’s what the Singstar series has relied on to become so popular.

The song lists are what separate the various releases, and it’s here where people will make their decisions on whether to buy the game or not, as very little changes between releases in terms of modes, options and functions. Whenever a new Singstar game is released, it’s the track list you need to look at when deciding whether to purchase the game, and it’s here where I think Singstar Motown shines through. While the large majority of gamers won’t even have been born when a lot of these songs were released and popularised, it’s amazing how many songs you’ll realize you know. Whether it’s bopping along to The Jackson 5 and “ABC”, relaxing with The Commodores and “Easy (Like Sunday Morning)” or trying to get your groove on with Marvin Gaye and “Let’s Get It On”, there are more than enough recognisable tracks for pretty much anyone to pick some songs they know and jump right in. There are some classic Motown songs on the disc and if you’re a fan of the genre you’ll be sure to absolutely love this release.

Of course, just like every themed release so far, the songs on offer won’t be to everyone’s taste, and it would be remiss of me to say what a great set list I think it is without actually showing you that set list. So, here in their full glory are the 30 songs included on the disc for Singstar Motown…

1 David Ruffin – Put A Little Love In Your Heart
2 Diana Ross & The Supremes – Reflections
3 Jimmy Ruffin – What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted
4 Lionel Richie – My Destiny
5 Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – Jimmy Mack
6 Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – Nowhere To Run
7 Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On
8 Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On?
9 Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston – It Takes Two
10 Mary Wells – My Guy
11 Rick James – Super Freak
12 Smokey Robinson – Being With You
13 Smokey Robinson And The Miracles – The Tracks Of My Tears
14 Stevie Wonder – For Once In My Life
15 The Commodores – Brick House
16 The Commodores – Easy
17 The Contours – Do You Love Me
18 The Four Tops – Reach Out I’ll Be There
19 The Isley Brothers – This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You)
20 The Jackson 5 – ABC
21 The Miracles Love Machine
22 The Supremes – You Can’t Hurry Love
23 The Temptations – Get Ready
24 The Temptations – Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone
25 The Velvelettes – Needle In A Haystack
26 The Four Tops – I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)
27 The Jackson 5 – I Want You Back
28 Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – Dancing In The Street
29 Marvin Gaye I Heard It Through The Grapevine
30 The Supremes – Stop In The Name Of Love

As you can see from that list, there are some great artists and classic songs available, and I would be amazed if there’s someone out there who wouldn’t know at least a few songs to sing along to. Should only a few songs take your fancy however, you can always visit the Singstore to boost your collection. The Singstore is a virtual store where you can purchase an ever increasing selection of tracks for a mere 99p each, and the range of songs available is incredible, with virtually every genre covered. If you love the Singstar series already then you will no doubt have a good collection of songs downloaded, but if you’re new to the series then I recommend taking the time to look through the store for some extra songs, as having more songs available only increases the longevity of the game that much more.

Of course, as the features of the game don’t really change much with each release, so the game brings the problems of the series with it. While it’s lovely to be able to swap discs to another Singstar game without having to exit the game, in this era with large hard drives it would be lovely to be able to export the songs to the console so you can play them all from one main game without having to worry about swapping the discs over. The lack of modes for a single player is also a problem that has persisted throughout the series, and as yet there seems to be no attempt to rectify this. If like me you play these games when you have friends around then this won’t be a concern, but if you’re a vocalist looking to use the game to help refine your singing at all, then you may be let down by the lack of features.

Still, I don’t think playing the Singstar games on your own is what the series is about, and if you don’t play the game with a group of friends then you’re really missing out on the most fun aspect of the game. Now that the series has been around for so long, and is accepted as the premiere karaoke game available today, it’s hard to judge the individual releases based on the options and features which have remained relatively unchanged for so long. To judge these Singstar releases I think you have to look at the theme of the game, and try to figure out just how good the setlist is. For me, as someone who admittedly does like the Motown genre, I think they’ve picked an excellent mix of songs that will surely appeal to the majority of people out there. For that reason alone, I think Singstar Motown is an excellent addition to the series and well worth a purchase if you’re a fan.

Final thoughts: The Singstar series has been going for that long I was starting to wonder where they would take future releases without making them feel stale or like rehashes of previous games. With Singstar Motown they will be introducing a classic genre the series, while reminding people just want a great genre it actually is.

Gameplay – 9: Tried, tested and pretty much perfected over the years, the series retains the core fun gameplay that has made it such a success. Still at its absolute best when played with a group of friends.

Graphics – 7: Hard to score the graphics here when there aren’t really any to speak of. Music videos are included for all the songs, though you’ll spend more time looking at the pitch charts rather than the videos themselves.

Sound – 9: An awesome set list that contains some classic songs. Perfectly reproduced, instantly enjoyable.

Presentation – 8: Clear menus, easy navigation, but not perfect. The addition of a shuffle mode for the songs would be an easy but great addition to the series.

Overall – 8: One of the best Singstar releases in recent years, the collection of songs is more recognisable than you may initially think, and just as fun as ever. A great addition to the Singstar series.

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