Pros: Good song selection, Easy-to-Use Gamepad Interface.
Cons: Off-Kilter Pitch Detection, Inconsistent Song Modes, Nickelback.
I wasn’t that excited about the idea of yet another karaoke game, so SiNG Party wasn’t my top priority when Nintendo sent it to me along with the Wii U and a number of other games. But when my non-gamer girlfriend Laurel expressed interest in seeing how a karaoke video game worked, I decided I’d quickly show it to her before we went to bed.
Two and a half hours, we were still playing SiNG Party. For me it was fun; for Laurel, it was irresistible.
Developed by: FreeStyleGames
Published by: Nintendo
For ages: 10 and up
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: November 18, 2012
The Basics: Sing Along
SiNG Party is typical of karaoke games, with a pitch indicator on a musical staff that indicates how close you are to the right note. In an interesting twist, the words appear directly on the staff, following the pitch. They also appear underneath the staff, as in other karaoke games, but I preferred the pitch text, which kept my eyes where they needed to be.
You navigate the song list with the Wii U gamepad, although the list is also shown on the TV. As with an iPod, the display orientation changes if you hold the gamepad sideways.
Once you select a song the pitch meter and lyrics are displayed on the TV, along with some pretty graphics in the background. While singing you can use the gamepad to choose the next song, change the volume controls, or “jam,” which entails tapping on the touch screen, giving you the sound of an organ, drums, guitar, or whatever else the developers thought appropriate. It is also possible to jam with the Wii remote, which most often makes a tambourine sound.
While the gamepad has an internal microphone, SiNG Party insists you use a separate mic, which is included.
The Gameplay: Fun Combined with a Little Confusion
There are four modes in the game, Party, Sing, Team, and Practice. For one or two people, Sing is the way to go, so I’ll discuss that first.
When you select a song, you can choose to sing it as a solo, together with another person, in a duet in which you trade off verses, or in a “harmony duet” in which you, unsurprisingly, harmonize. Laurel and I found harmony duet particularly appealing, although I discovered that even with songs I know well I generally can’t come close to the harmony part. I clearly need to spend time in Practice Mode, which lets you work on problem areas; you can even create a loop out of part of a song and go over and over it until you’ve got it right.
Unfortunately, the game doesn’t seem to understand its own modes. Some songs, like The Supremes You Can’t Hurry Love, use Harmony Duet to indicate that one singer will take the lead and the other will do the background vocals. But neither Betty Everett’s The Shoop Shoop Song nor the Beach Boys Surfin’ USA have a Harmony Duet option, although in both cases the Duet mode functions exactly as the Harmony Duet does for The Supremes. And The Monkee’s Daydream Believer’s Harmony Duet is simply a normal duet with some parts sung together with no harmonies at all. (Not all of SiNG Party’s songs are rock’n’roll oldies – artists include Florence + The Machine, Gloria Gaynor, Michael Buble, Fleetwood Mac, and Lady Gaga – but most of the true harmony songs included are from the 1960s.)
SiNG Party also doesn’t indicate on the main menu what modes a particular song supports, but perhaps that’s because these modes are so inconsistently handled that the information would be of little use.
Another place where the game stumbles is in its ability to accurately gauge your voice. Laurel and I both found that even if we were singing right with the vocalist, the pitch indicator would show us changing pitch late. We might have thought problem was with us if I hadn’t found that if I held the microphone up to the TV to get the original singer’s voice, it still indicated a lag. This means that to get the highest possible score, you would need to sing slightly ahead of the song.
But the truth is, neither of us was paying much attention to the score, which is calculated based on pitch, strength of voice and “flair,” which involves singing different notes or scatting or just singing the song wrong. We just wanted to sing.
Other Modes: Club Karaoke or Competition
If you want something typical of a karaoke club then you can play in Party Mode. Party Mode has no pitch meter. The singer holds the gamepad, which displays the lyrics, while anyone who cares to can play tambourine with the Wii remote (which for some reason is controlled by a button press in Party Mode but with a shake in Sing Mode). At times the audience might be told, via the television, to clap along, or the singer might be told to let the audience sing by themselves.
There is also a Team Mode, in which two groups can have a sing off. Oddly enough, for part of team competition you use the gamepad’s internal mic instead of the one that comes with the game, and this allowed me to discover why that mic isn’t generally used; it picks up the vocals from the TV so well that you don’t even have to sing.
The Verdict: Fun Though a Little Unpolished
In spite of a few quirks, SiNG Party offers a very solid experience. I like the majority of the game’s 50 songs, although I wish there were a way to hide songs I never, ever, ever want to sing, like Nickelback’s How You Remind Me. The design is clean and simple and the graphics are colorful and fun. The ease of use the gamepad offers alone is enough to make this the best experience I’ve had with a karaoke game. And it’s nice to find a video game that can keep my girlfriend entranced for over two hours. It’s also nice to know she likes me well enough to spend two hours listening to me sing harmonies off key.