17 Jun

By Gavin Greene

Admittedly a spot of guilty pleasure on my part, but I have always found the joys of watching friends embarrass themselves in their attempts to sing to be excruciatingly humorous, and with an entire disc devoted to the best voice in the history of rock and roll, (not to mention one of the hardest for us amateurs to reproduce) there was a theoretical treasure hoard of future fun contained on that dinky blu-ray.

As per the usual routine, I sat back for a couple songs, instead taking in the attempts of other E3 attendees to sing along to the more famous Queen tracks. As anyone raised in the 90s could surmise, the Wayne’s World generation produced a lot of tries at the seven-minute rock opus, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” most with gritty and ear-splitting results. My largest question posed to the game – how it would compensate for the overlapping vocal harmonies in the song – was quickly answered by the fact that the song was labeled as duet, requiring another friend to provide the back-up vocal track to the famous “Scaramouch Scaramouch, will you do the fandango?” middle-portion to the song.

While I patiently sat through many karaoke-level performances of the usual breadth of hits like “Who Wants to Live Forever” and “Another One Bites the Dust,” I soon was able to step up myself and put them all to shame with my bad singing. Being intensely familiar with the band’s back catalog, I knew enough to select the tracks that operated on a less ridiculous vocal level, usually keeping to middle and calm notes, without lead singer Freddie Mercury’s tendency to swing from high to low notes like an indecisive opera singer.

As such, the tracks I was able to sing in my time slot were the Elvis-homage “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” and the gleefully over-the-top “Breakthru.” For those of you unfamiliar with Singstar, it’s more or less the top 1/3 of the screen of any Rock Band gameplay expanded to fill the full screen. Think Karaoke Revolution for non-twats. Lyrics appear as floating opaque bars placed within the appropriate vocal range you need to implement to hit them (high notes are near the top of the screen, etc.). The background is usually taken up, in this installment of the franchise, with the song’s music video. As you sing through the track, your singing appears as a steady stream of colored lines, to which your goal is to sing just well enough to fill the opaque bars and rack up a decent score for doing so.

As expected I mumbled my way through the first half of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” with terrible accuracy, until I got used to the routine and managed to pump out a decent score in the second half. “Breakthru,” kicked my ass enough to make me embarrassed to be in public, but it never dampened the fun I had while attempting to sing. In terms of the technical aspect of the game, the microphone peripheral (sold separately of course) picks up sound extremely well, better than any other mike I’ve used for music games, at least to my untrained ears. The game’s song selection interface is also extremely fluid and killer intuitive, including a couple songs from a variety of other bands within the Queen disc. In terms of a recommendation, it’s hard to see many players finding enjoyment in this if it is their first entry into the series, and considering many of the band’s lesser known but still excellent songs will only be featured as future DLC, one could simply pick up the original disc and make their way from there. It’s a niche market, but for those with enough talent (or lacking enough testosterone) to at least mimic Freddie Mercury’s high-notes will definitely feel like a “Killer Queen” after playing through a couple tunes.

Winner of the Elder Geek E3 Award for: Best Post-Clubbing Hangover Increase
Smoothest In-Game Interface

— — — — — — — — — —

Singstar Queen

Published by: SCEE
Developed by: London Studio
Rating: T for Teen
Platforms: Playstation 3, Playstation 2
Release Date: March 20, 2009 (EU)
Genre: Karaoke