Review: Singstar Pop Vol. 2 (PS2)

Singstar Pop Vol. 2
Genre: Singing/Rhythm game
Developer: SCEE London
Publisher: SCEA
Release Date: 09/23/08


So, about four months ago, I reviewed the PS3 version of Singstar, and the end result was that I found it to be a fun, enjoyable experience, mostly because of the ability to download new songs and watch/make videos of ridiculous behavior while playing the game. The PS2 games, lacking either of those features, generally get by because of their price point: you can, in most respects, acquire the games, sans microphones, for about thirty dollars, and as each game contains about thirty songs, well, the cost-to-value ratio is generally pretty good. As such, however, rating such a game is somewhat difficult at the best of times, largely because it’s really designed to just be an expansion of the prior titles, and as such, whether or not you’re going to want to buy the game is going to come down to whether or not the track list is worth owning. Singstar Pop 2 does present a tracklist that features a bunch of songs you can’t sing anywhere else, so it has that much going for it, and if you’ve never played one of the games before (and don’t own a PS3) it’s not a bad buy at all, but whether or not its worth your thirty dollars will really depend on your personal tastes.

So, as with every other Singstar title ever, there’s no story, so let’s look at the gameplay modes. All of the modes from the various other versions are here, from solo, duet and battle modes for one or two players to “Pass the Mic” play that lets you switch players mid-song for up to eight players to freestyle karaoke play that just lets you sing without having to earn points (or match pitches). As is the standard for the franchise, there’s nothing to unlock, nothing to earn, and nothing to strive to accomplish; you’re given thirty songs to sing across a bunch of different modes, as well as the ability to switch out your disc at any time for another disc from the franchise. The variety in gameplay comes from being able to access any song in any Singstar game you own at any time, which is what makes the experience so fun and adaptable, since you can go from pop tunes to 80’s tunes in a flash. As party games go, it has enough modes and options to be instantly accessible, and offers enough to do to keep it in rotation, though there’s nothing new or exciting here, as there hasn’t been in any of the PS2 releases since the first.

Visually, Singstar Pop 2, as with all games in the series, shows you the music video of the song you’re singing, the words to sing, the pitches to hit, and the odd words of encouragement as you play. As usual, the videos are all top quality, and the interface and menus look good and are easy to navigate. If you, for whatever reason, don’t like the videos, you can always hook up your Eyetoy and watch yourself singing the songs, if, you know, you’re not already embarrassed enough at the idea of your bad singing that you feel the need to be shamed further. As far as the audio goes, again, all of the songs are the master recordings, so they’re pretty much perfect, and the background tunes that pop up while browsing menus are just fine. Of course, the actual track list is the major selling point here, and with thirty tracks, there’s definitely something for everyone, though how many “somethings” there are is relative. Now, several of the tracks in the game are both unique to this game AND known Top 40 tunes, like “Makes Me Wonder” from Maroon 5, “Bring Me To Life” from Evanescence, and “Jenny From the Block” from Jennifer Lopez, which is great for people who remember those tracks and liked them. That said, if you’re looking for a whole disc of recognizable pop tunes, this isn’t it. A lot of the tracks are either not really pop tracks (“Not Ready to Make Nice” from the Dixie Chicks; while they have had pop hits, this is more of a country hit) or not really hits (“How Far We’ve Come” is probably not one of Matchbox 20’s better known tracks, despite its more recent release), and while there ARE plenty of tracks that are pop-themed and recognizable, it just seems like there are less tracks on Singstar Pop 2 that make you stop and go “Ooh, I wanna sing THAT” in comparison to other games in the series.

As far as gameplay is concerned, well, time for the copy paste:

“The gameplay in Singstar Pop 2 consists almost entirely of singing, which probably isn’t much of a surprise. As in previous Singstar games, the words are displayed at the bottom of the screen, along with a series of bars that appear directly above it, some of which may be glittering. Your objective is to match the pitch of the actual song, so that your vocals trace across the bar, thus earning you points, moreso if you complete the glittering bars. If you’re off-pitch, your vocals will pop up either or above or below the bar you’re aiming for so as to indicate how off you are so that you can adjust, so you can adjust your pitch to try and score regardless. Depending on how you do, you’re given any one of a number of different descriptors like “Hopeful” based on your score. The game judges neither words nor tone, so you need not sound like Amy Lee to sing “Bring Me To Life”, nor do you have to sing the actual lyrics. The downside of this is that you can simply hum and earn points with no penalty, but on the upside, if you’re so inclined, you can feel free to come up with your own words to the songs and sing those instead. The game seems to respond well to your voice, and so long as your microphone works and you can match the pitch of the song, you should have no issues to speak of with the gameplay.”

Further, “If you know how a song goes, you’ll obviously be better off than if you don’t, but you can learn the song well enough with a little time, assuming you want to, and if you can match the pitch, you’re golden either way. Singstar Pop 2 also offers rap sections in songs, where the song grades your “rapping” by judging if you match the tone of the original rap, more or less, without forcing you to hit the appropriate notes exactly. Singstar Pop 2 also offers up “Freestyle” sections where you can pretty much do whatever you want (the game doesn’t score freestyle), so if you want to make an ass of yourself or whatever by making up your own little freestyle rap or song, by all means, knock yourself out, though if you don’t, you’re not obligated to do so either.”

God bless sequels; they make my life so easy.

Now, as this is a PS2 game, and is as such part of the PS2 series of Singstar games, all of the neat stuff the PS3 game featured, IE the ability to see people’s weird videos, the ability to download songs, and so on, are not in this version; as such, for the reduced price, you’re essentially getting a frontend with some songs stuffed into it. And again, that isn’t a bad thing; for thirty bucks, you’re getting a good, solid party product, and if you happen to own other games in the series, this is another disc you can swap in or out to keep things going, offering up more variety for gatherings and whatnot. Singstar Pop 2 generally plays about as well as its predecessors, meaning that if you liked any of the other games, you’ll like this one too, so long as you like the tracklist.

However, as has been noted previously, “the biggest problem, of course, is that this is just another karaoke game, for better or worse. If you like Singstar as a brand, this is exactly like all the others; if you don’t, well, this is exactly like all the others.” Now, Singstar Pop 2 is basically a pick up and play game, as everything is open and ready to use from the get-go, which means you can simply play it and enjoy it, but that ALSO means there’s no reason to play it outside of a social setting; without the ability to download tracks or watch videos that the PS3 version has, or the unlockables and character editing of a Karaoke Revolution, it’s basically really only going to get any use as a social game. That’s not a bad thing, by any means, but if the track list isn’t to your group’s liking (IE if they don’t want to sing Rihanna, Gwen Stefani and Fergie), it might be difficult to justify picking up this iteration of the game. Sure, you can compare scores, and sure, the game doesn’t fail terrible singers so everyone can play, but it’s not going to get much play outside of your parties, and if you already have Singstar Pop you might not even need ANOTHER disc of pop songs.

The bottom line is, if you’re a karaoke game fan, or you love the tracklist, or you love social video games, Singstar Pop 2 is probably worth your cash, as it’s a fun, easy to play karaoke game, just all of the other games in the series. It’s simple to play, good fun at parties, is completely compatible with the other discs in the series, and features a tracklist that almost definitely will have something on it everyone wants to sing. Singstar Pop 2 can’t touch the PS3 version, of course, as it lacks the downloadable content and the online video watching, but if all you have is the PS2, it’s a fine choice, so long as you don’t expect anything new and different. Singstar Pop 2 is still the same game as the franchise has always provided, for better or worse, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll have fun with it. If you’re looking for something else, though, the PS3 version (or a Rock Band/Guitar Hero product) might be more your speed; the PS2 Singstar games are treading close to wearing out their welcome, and while Singstar Pop 2 might not be the breaking point, the fact that THREE MORE Singstar titles are coming out at the end of this month might well be.

The Scores:
Game Modes: MEDIOCRE
Graphics: GREAT
Sound: UNPARALLELED
Control/Gameplay: GOOD
Replayability: MEDIOCRE
Balance: GOOD
Originality: WORTHLESS
Addictiveness: MEDIOCRE
Appeal: ABOVE AVERAGE
Miscellaneous: WORTHLESS

Final Score: DECENT.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Sixth verse, almost the same as the first, Singstar Pop 2 continues the trend of popping thirty tracks onto a disc and letting you play, with no frills or extras to speak of. The videos still look great, the songs still sound great, the game is still easy to play, and there’s still lots of fun to be had with a group of friends, especially if you have more than one game, since they can be easily swapped from the main menu. It’s still the same game as all of the other PS2 versions with different songs, however, and the song list is basically going to be the selling point for you with this one; if you want to sing songs from Ashlee Simpson, Avril Lavigne, Duran Duran, Fall Out Boy, and Pink, you’ll certainly have plenty of reason to pick this version of the game up, but if not, it probably won’t be worth the thirty/fifty dollars (if you get the game only or the game and the mics) to add it to your collection. If you love all karaoke games, Singstar Pop 2 will probably be worth the money for you, but if you’re looking for something a little more substantial, you won’t find it here.

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