Review: Singstar Queen (PS2)

Singstar Queen
Genre: Singing/Rhythm game
Developer: SCEE
Publisher: SCEA
Release Date: 08/04/09

A word, before we begin, again: as Singstar Queen is functionally identical to the billion other Singstar games before it, and conceptually identical to Singstar ABBA, so too will the review be mostly identical. There’s no reason to re-write a review if Sony isn’t interested in renovating the game; as such, new commentary will be italicized, while the core content of the review will remain unchanged. If you’ve read any of those reviews already, feel free to skip to the italicized text. Suffice it to say, however, if you own any of the various other Singstar games already, whether or not you feel the need to own Singstar Queen will depend exclusively on whether or not you like Queen, or alternatively, Highlander; if you do, this is good, but if not, it isn’t.

As noted previously regarding the PS3 version of Singstar Vol. 2, it is a generally 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 Queen 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, though this version of the game DID, in fact, come out for the 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 Queen, 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. The videos are about as good as can be expected, though it bears noting that most of them are from the seventies and eighties, with a few coming from the nineties, so you’re generally going to be looking at some grainy video in many cases, though 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.

The songs, of course, are all Queen songs, so whether or not the music does anything for you depends entirely on your opinion of the band. Now, Queen is a good bit more significant a band than ABBA, so it’s more than likely that many people reading this can identify a good bit of the songs on the disc. For those who really are aware of the major hits, Singstar Queen has plenty of those, including “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “We Ae the Champions”, “We Will Rock You”, and “Who Wants to Live Forever”, but fans of the band will find the disc to be a serious compilation of awesome Queen hits. Aside from the above, you’ve also got “Another One Bites the Dust”, “Under Pressure”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, and of course, “Fat Bottomed Girls”. Of course, there are also less known songs like “Tie Your Mother Down” and Don’t Stop Me Now”, and there are plenty of songs missing that serious Queen fans might be bent about (I was kind of hoping for “Killer Queen” and “Stone Cold Crazy”), but the mix here is generally fantastic, and if you’re a fan, there’s plenty here to sing along with.

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

“The gameplay in Singstar Queen 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 Freddie Mercury to sing “Under Pressure” (just ask My Chemical Romance), 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 Queen 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.” Singstar Queen also offers the option, in a few songs, to sing as the backing vocals or, in the case of “Under Pressure”, as David Bowie. This isn’t a big change, but it’s neat being able to pick what vocals you want to sing along with as the situation presents itself.

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 Queen 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 Queen 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, it might be difficult to justify picking up this iteration of the game.

There’s also the matter of there only being, as in Singstar ABBA, twenty songs on the disc. I mean, I KNOW you were looking at the thirty dollar price point and thinking “but it’s a full-priced product” but, haha, no, once again, the joke’s on you: you will not only have to be willing to part with your money for a product devoted to one band, but you will ALSO have to accept that the disc contains ten less songs than a normal Singstar game. Further, the PS2 version contains five less songs than the PS3 version for no discernable reason save that Sony wanted to convince PS3 owners not to buy the cheaper game if they wanted the TRUE Queen experience. I find this especially objectionable, as three of the five PS3-exclusive tracks, “Radio Ga Ga”, “It’s a Kind of Magic”, and “Killer Queen” are songs that might actually sell a fan on the PS3 version, but no one in their right mind is going to drop the cash on a PS3 for five songs. The only reason this was done was to convince PS3 owners that the PS3 version was worth owning; it wasn’t a disc space issue, or a licensing problem, it was the desire for cash, pure and simple. The fact that it’s a gigantic middle finger to all those PS2 owners who have yet to upgrade is only a bonus. Hey, Sony, take your middle finger and sit on it, okay?

Also, as was noted previously regarding Singstar ABBA, you could BUY twenty songs on iTunes and sing along with them instead for less money than this game costs, and the only possible reason for the game to be more expensive for less content is because Queen or Sony demanded the money. This isn’t something like Guitar Hero Metallica, where you’re getting all sorts of presentation modifications and band interviews and whatnot to go along with the motif; it’s Singstar with a bunch of Queen songs in it. You’re paying regular price for less songs because someone along the line decided you would, and getting nothing but karaoke versions of twenty Queen tracks for your troubles. If you’re a fan, that might be enough, but in recent years, with games like Guitar Hero Aerosmith, Guitar Hero Metallica, and the upcoming Rock Band: The Beatles, we’ve seen what developers can do with a little motivation and a love of the band, and Singstar Queen comes off looking like a weak, uninspired cash-in as a result.

The bottom line is, if you’re a karaoke game fan, or you love Queen, or you love social video games, and you don’t mind paying for less product, Singstar Queen 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 classic rock fans will be able to sing along with and enjoy. Singstar Queen can’t touch the PS3 version, of course, as it lacks the downloadable content and the online video watching, not to mention five additional tracks, but if all you have is the PS2, it’s a fine choice, so long as you don’t expect anything new and different and you’re okay with twenty songs for thirty bucks. Singstar Queen is still the same game as the franchise has always provided with more specialization and less songs, 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, Singstar Vol. 2 (or a Rock Band/Guitar Hero product) might be more your speed; the PS2 Singstar games have essentially worn out their welcome, thanks to other companies innovating the concept to the point where the PS2 Singstar games are officially “outdated”, and while Singstar Queen is the only way to really play songs from Queen in the Singstar games, it’s only for people who really love the band and don’t mind paying the same price for less content than you would normally get from the series. Queen is a more recognizable band than ABBA, and Singstar Queen is more likely to see time in your PS2 than Singstar ABBA, but that doesn’t make it any less of a lame cash-in, good tunes or no. The tunes on the disc are mostly good, so if you love Queen and all you have is a PS2 it’s not a bad effort, but the PS3 version is probably what you’ll want if you want the best Queen experience, assuming you can stomach paying ten extra dollars for content that could have easily fit onto the PS2 version if not for publisher mandate.

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

Short Attention Span Summary:
Sadly, I lack an appropriate musical outro for this game, so let’s just sum it up quick-like: Singstar Queen is about as good as every other Singstar game, ever, and if you like Queen it’s a fine collection of their more popular songs that should see plenty of time in your PS2. That said, it’s yet another game that’s utterly unoriginal, utterly bland in presentation, and crippled by publisher mandate to make the PS3 version seem the superior product. If you love Singstar and Queen, and you only own a PS2, this game is fine, but if you own a PS3 you’re better off picking up the PS3 version of the game, but after seeing what companies like Harmonix and Activision have done with the band-specific music game at this point, you might want to wait and see if either one of THOSE companies has something in mind for Queen instead, because whatever it will be promises to be infinitely more interesting than what Sony is doing with them.



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