SingStar Country
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-11-18 PS2 Music/Rhythm T (Teen) SCEE / SCEA

There's no questioning SingStar's dominance over the karaoke video game scene. While other franchises do exist (like Karaoke Revolution, for example), it seems that no other franchise has been able to achieve the same "pick-up-and-play" success that the SingStar brand is now known for, along with their ability to target and support the musical tastes of each age group and musical genre with equal weight.

Continuing in this success is SingStar Country, which, as the name suggests, mixes country songs both old and new to form a list of 30 hit songs to choose from. Along with mixing both timeless country classics like Johnny Cash's "I Walk The Line" with new offerings like Taylor Swift's "Our Song", SingStar Country also makes a point of tackling the broad range of country music that's been released over the decades.

Where songs like Alan Jackson's "Chattahoochee" and Brooks and Dunn's "Boot Scootin' Boogie" contain more twang and traditional country stylings, songs like Jessica Simpson's "Come on Over" and Jewel's "Stronger Woman" are more comparable to modern pop music than anything else.

From this varied selection, you can choose to either perform each song as a single player or as a duet with another person. One you choose the number of players and a song, you are taken to the performance screen, where the real-life music video for said song is played.

In classic karaoke style, as the songs play, their lyrics scroll across the bottom of the screen, while a pale staff is placed on top of the music video itself, with the staff containing bubbles that show you the expected pitch of each lyric in the song, and fill in appropriately as you sing. If you sing well, the performance bar at the top left of the screen will fill in and your score will rise. Sing badly and the performance bar empties.

Unlike other karaoke games that I've played, even on the easiest difficulty in SingStar (the harder the difficulty, the more critically your singing is judged, and vice versa), it seemed that my performance was being critiqued on a fairly steep scale, and that furthermore, I had to sing a lot louder than I expected to actually get the microphone to register that I was singing. This is especially true on songs like Josh Turner's "Another Try" and others that have lots of tenor-specific areas, since, as a female, my voice doesn't naturally go that low.

Aside from the basic two-player duet, there are various other multiplayer options, such as a two-player battle mode, where both players sing simultaneously but are judged separately, with the highest scoring player at the end of the song being declared the winner. Another option is the Keep it Up mode that tasks you with keeping the performance bar filled to a certain level for the entirety of your performance. If your performance bar drops below a certain point, your performance is over and the other player wins.

Even more options come in the form of various "Pass the Mic" modes that increase the speed and difficulty of each performance as you have to quickly pass the microphone between players before the performance continues without you, and a Medley mode that has you singing a random medley of songs, with your final score for the entire medley being what really counts.

Rounding out the various game modes is the FreeStyle mode that simply plays each music video while displaying the lyrics on screen, but doesn't judge or score your performance. This mode is especially great for those who need to practice a song before being judged on it, or for those who need a bit of encouragement to sing in front of others in the first place, since there is no fear of any "my score was better than yours" tormenting.

Overall, with the inclusion of the real music video for each song and incredibly intuitive, streamlined menus, along with virtually no loading times, SingStar's technical prowess is obvious. Furthermore, where other karaoke games only include music sung by mediocre cover bands, SingStar obviously contains the real deal, earning it even more of my respect.

In the end, while SingStar Country may have a more limited audience than some of the other SingStar titles (since country music tends to be an acquired taste), that doesn't make it any less fun to play. In fact, after going through the song list in the game, I was reminded of just how much I do like country music, especially after seeing that one of my all-time favorite songs (regardless of genre), Martina McBride's "A Broken Wing", was included.

All in all, SingStar Country continues in the addictive tradition of other SingStar titles and offers enough variety in its song list to keep even fans with the most discerning of tastes satisfied for some time to come.

Special thanks to Tania Kingsrud and SCEA for providing a copy of this title.