Review: Karaoke Revolution: American Idol Encore (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Karaoke Revolution: American Idol Encore
Genre: Singing/Rhythm game
Developer: Blitz Games
Publisher: Konami
Release Date: 02/05/2008

Y’know, out of all the people who could have produced a game like Rock Band, I always kind of figured Konami would have done it first. I mean, while in America they don’t exactly have a ton of peripheral-based games out on the market, over in Japan they are the KINGS of peripheral-based rhythm games; Guitar Mania, Drum Mania, Beat Mania and Karaoke Revolution make up the four basic “band” groups, and the idea of getting down with a full band ensemble always seemed like something Konami was going to HAVE to do sooner or later.


So now we have Konami more or less relying on one of their two stateside bread and butter franchises in the rhythm department (the other being, of course, DDR) to carry over into the next-generation market. Time was that the KR franchise was about six million different kinds of awesome and unique, but between the revolution that was Rock Band (oddly enough; Harmonix was, in fact, the original developer behind Karaoke Revolution in the first place) and Sony’s answer to the karaoke game in Singstar (a franchise that, while it lacks ridiculous polygon singers and competition modes, makes up for it with FAR superior microphones and music videos… and also, a more useful front end), KR has become just another singing franchise. But the teaming with American Idol to create a doubly branded karaoke franchise seems like a step in the right direction; I mean, after all, who DOESN’T want to be told by Simon Cowell that they are, in fact, flat-out awesome? This seems to be the basis for American Idol Encore, the second AI branded KR game so far, and it’s certainly not a bad one.

Well, the sum total amount of a “story” that could be inferred from such a game would essentially amount to “Become the next American Idol”, so let’s skip that. There are several different gameplay modes available to you, the player, including “Quick Play”, which just lets you jump in and sing something; “American Idol”, which allows you to either sing one song at a time, go through a solo tournament, or go through a multi-player tournament with friends, all while being judged by the folks from American Idol; “Duets”, which is self explanatory; “Battle”, which lets you compete with local players in a tournament structure or head-to-head; and Xbox Live, which allows you to arrange and play various tournaments and matchups online with friends or strangers. As the first debut into the next-gen market KR:AIE is pretty much chock-full of stuff to do, though long-time series fanatics will note the lack of inclusion of things like the sing and dance modes and the various singing mini-games from other versions (not that they were great or anything, but content is content).

The graphics in KR:AIE have received a serious overhaul for the 360 release, which has its good and bad points. On the upside, the character models look a WHOLE LOT better than they did in their previous PS2 incarnations, as do the judges; they look less like cartoon characters and more like, well, people. On the other, they look like FAKE people made of plastic, so there’s something to be said for the stylistic designs of the previous games. Also, clipping is present, which of all of the games in all of the world, I would not expect that problem here, especially from THE JUDGES for chrissakes (I mean, Paula Abdul DOES NOT DO ANYTHING, how hard is it to make sure HER HAIR IS NOT CLIPPING THROUGH HER BOOB I MEAN REALLY NOW). The various stages upon which your characters do their act all look nice and colorful, too, which is certainly good to see. As far as the audio goes, well, we’ll cover it a bit more in depth later in the review, but for those playing along at home: the songs sound good (though, often, the singers do not; they’re often not bad so much as “nothing like the singer they are supposed to be emulating”)… but it’s painfully obvious they’re not the studio originals. There’s also some voice acting supplied by the American Idol crew, and it’s all generally very generic, but it works in the context it was intended. There’s also an announcer to point out who has been eliminated and who is going on in the tournaments, though it’s not Ryan Seacrest, which is both pleasing (he’s an annoying prat) and confusing (why not, it’s not like he has anything else to do).

Now, for those of you who have played a karaoke video game at some point or another in your lives (and, more specifically, one developed by Harmonix; so, you know, anything that isn’t Singstar), you will be pleased to know that the game plays identically to how you would expect it to and move on to the next paragraph. If you’ve somehow missed this trend, allow me to explain by proxy of quoting a previous review:

“The gameplay in KRP consists almost entirely of singing, which probably isn’t much of a surprise. As in previous Karaoke Revolution games, the words scroll along the Phrase Bar at the bottom of the screen, along with a blue line. Your objective is to match the pitch of the actual song, so that an arrow traces across the blue line, thus earning you points. If you’re off-pitch, the arrow will either change color or simply not hit the line at all, though you can adjust your pitch to try and score regardless. Depending on how you do, you could earn either a “Gold”, “Platinum”, or “Diamond” record based on your score. The game judges neither words nor tone, so you need not sound like Billy Joel to sing “Uptown Girl”, 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.”

Honestly, that sums it up exactly. On one hand, it’s hard to argue with not changing up the formula; on the other, the fact that I can keep quoting the same review for a description of the gameplay over two years after the fact is… kinda sad.

And that brings us to the song selection portion of our review, which is always a big thing for karaoke games, and this time around is certainly no exception. The upside of the song selection this time around is that it’s pretty outstanding, with a large list of songs that are fairly popular for both younger and older music lovers, as well as a few songs people have been waiting for, probably, since the first KR title debuted. “Bohemian Rhapsody”? Fantastic. “In the Air Tonight”? Sensational. The Annie Lenox version of “Sweet Dreams”? Outstanding. And for those of you who AREN’T showing your age with your musical tastes, you’ve got tracks like “You’re Beautiful” and “These Words” and other top 40 hits to work with. Granted, some of the tracks are repeats from older games (“My Heart Will Go On”, again) or have popped up in games that do more with them (“Black Hole Sun”, which is a lot more enjoyable to work with in Rock Band, obviously), but the track selection is FANTASTIC overall, even if it is smaller than expected (there are only about forty tracks here, as opposed to the fifty in Karaoke Revolution Party and the fifty plus in Rock Band). Presumably one could remedy this thing with the “hundreds of downloadable songs” option advertised prominently on the back cover… except that as of now, there are a whopping ZERO tracks to download.

But let us assume that Konami will, at some point in the near future, put up a library of tracks for us to download and sing along with, thus keeping the content of the game fresh constantly. That resolved, KR:AIE is still flawed in a few silly ways. First off, you can’t create characters anymore. Now, yes, you CAN customize the pre-made templates with hair styles, clothing, and your own name if desired, but you CAN’T actually build a character of your own, so the default face and body templates will have to suffice, which also means that you can only have so many custom characters to work with. Second, online play, as of this juncture, is weird; you have to talk to people with the Xbox Live mic to set up matches even though you ALREADY HAVE a mic set up for singing with, which is… odd, and oh yes, you can’t hear other people singing, which would be understandable except for the fact that Rock Band allows you to do this thing if you wish to do so. Ultimately, though, the biggest problem with the game comes down to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality present in the game: NOTHING is new here. Downloadable content and online play (especially in their present incarnations) don’t make up for the fact that this version of Karaoke Revolution is functionally identical to most every other version that has come before it, warts and all.

If you’re never played a karaoke game before (and you want to do so), Karaoke Revolution: American Idol Encore certainly isn’t a bad place to jump in and try it out. It’s got a fantastic song list and the potential to offer a ton of other great hits, and it’s easily as functional as any other game that does such things. For those who have played such games before, or who have played the superior Rock Band, however, this is going to come off AT BEST as yet another kick at the can, and AT WORST as a shallow and uninteresting one at that. If you really love singing (or really love the songs in this game) KR:AIE will certainly be worth your time; otherwise, it’s just a rental at most.

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


Short Attention Span Summary:
Karaoke Revolution: American Idol Encore is, for all intents and purposes, simply a new coat of paint on the same old house. There are lots of great songs to sing along with, and if the DLC ever gets online there could be a whole lot more, which is really all that matters. But there’s nothing you haven’t seen or done before otherwise, and more than a few things are missing that you might have actually LIKED. The game is still fun and enjoyable, but considering it’s something like the sixth game in the series, there’s absolutely nothing here BUT the songs to make you want to buy it.



, ,




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *