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SiNG Party (Wii U) artwork

SiNG Party (Wii U) review

"SiNG Party feels like a genuine karaoke experience. If you’ve been thinking about potentially picking up a dedicated machine for that purpose but you already own a Wii U, the game would actually be a great alternative..."

I was watching “The Voice” on television recently, as I pretty much always do when a new episode is airing, and I didn’t abandon my comfortable recliner during the commercial break like I normally would. Someone at Nintendo had the very good sense to pay to air a SiNG Party commercial during that time slot, and I liked what I saw. Fueled by my often-dormant passion for music and the enthusiasm I’d just witnessed on the singing competition programming, I went online and willingly ordered a karaoke game for the Wii U console that I knew would be arriving a few weeks later. It still seems like something that was done in a dream, but it actually happened.

My wife was not convinced that I had made a good decision. She’s the one in our household who typically likes to sing along with music, but she’s also self-conscious (a fact I attribute to her persistent difficulty staying in key for more than a few words at a time). In this case, her reticence meant there was no talking her into playing the game with me when it finally arrived. I had to wait to throw my party until my wife was at work and my closest neighbors were running errands.

As it turns out, clandestine play sessions are not the ideal way to experience SiNG Party. Perhaps the “Party” in the title should have been a clue. After all, the basic goal when you play SiNG Party is to throw a great karaoke party for your friends. The game disc merely exists to facilitate that event, and to allow you practice ahead of time so that you can totally impress your friends with your crooning prowess.

From the main menu, you can choose to play the Party mode (which is the default option and obviously recommended), or you can just play the Sing mode to add objectives for a single player, or you can start a Team game with friends (you’ll need to photograph people’s faces using the gamepad so that everyone involved knows who is expected to do what and when) or you can head to the Practice mode to listen to troublesome songs and perhaps improve your performance on particular segments that are giving you more trouble than feels appropriate.

Regardless of the mode you choose, there are 50 songs available. These are presented on a horizontal menu, alphabetically arranged like songs on a default iTunes playlist (meaning Alanis Morrissette appears as the first artist, rather than in the ‘M’ section where she clearly belongs). You can linger on an artist’s name to hear a familiar portion of that artist’s available song. Or you can keep scrolling left and right. The scroll speed starts slow, but it speeds up so you won’t have to spend ages reaching the opposite end of 50 songs.

Artist and song choice is actually pretty good and even includes some old tunes from the likes of James Brown and Frank Sinatra. The bulk of what you’ll hear comes from the 90s, it feels like, but there’s good representation from earlier and there’s also a lot of stuff from today’s top artists. “Call Me Maybe” is here, for instance, and you can also sing tunes from Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus, among others. Even country act Lady Antebellum contributes to the group, though pop and rock are the genres primarily available. It’s worth noting that a lot of the songs seem to be chosen to provide a real workout for your voice, though none of them are assigned any difficulty rating. That’s not helpful if you’re unfamiliar with the songs and just want to get your feet wet, so to speak.

If you’re playing the game alone in Sing mode, some generic animations display in the background as you perform. That’s probably good, since you might become distracted if anything interesting were to scroll across the screen (plus some text might be difficult to read), but I would have liked music videos. Besides lyrics that appear on-screen, there’s a bar that looks like sheet music, with a vertical meter that lights up if your voice is making noise. That meter indicates your current pitch, which needs to sync with the artist. This particular mode keeps score, so you want to hit every note just right if you’d like to reach the end of your performance with a grand score. You’ll be rated from one to five stars, based on your pitch, power and flair. Essentially, you need to score 60,000 points to earn 3 stars (which is often quite doable), 75,000 points for a 4-star award (which is usually pretty tricky) and more points still for a 5-star performance. I’d give you a specific number, but I’ve actually never done well enough to earn that ranking. Perhaps a career as a lead vocalist isn’t in my immediate future.

Naturally, you might well be playing SiNG Party with friends instead of serenading empty chairs in your living room, in which case things work a bit differently. The person who will be singing holds a USB-powered microphone (one comes with the game, assuming you buy the same bundle I did at launch) and the gamepad. As the music begins, lyrics will appear on-screen and on the gamepad. No score is kept and there’s no indicator to let your friends know that you’re singing off key. They’ll have to use their ears to determine that. The television screen’s real estate is instead devoted to a dancing girl. She gives your audience suggestions about how to show their appreciation of your brilliance.

Thanks to the simple setup and gamepad hardware, SiNG Party feels like a genuine karaoke experience. If you’ve been thinking about potentially picking up a dedicated machine for that purpose but you already own a Wii U, the game would actually be a great alternative... especially since there will likely be additional songs that you can download down the road (though I didn’t see any available quite yet). A decent karaoke machine without much music to speak of would cost maybe $100, and then you’d have to buy discs on top of that, a fact worth keeping in mind.

At the same time, SiNG Party is likely to disappoint anyone who is looking for a title with the sort of gameplay that the likes of Rock Band and Guitar Hero offer. The microphone and your vocal chords are your control devices, essentially, so there’s not a lot of room for extra innovation. You can add Wii Remote devices for your audience if they want to try their hands at mild instrumentation, and in-game medals and score leaderboards augment things, but ultimately this is fairly straightforward karaoke system shoehorned onto the Wii U hardware. Even with that limited goal, it’s not an absolute success. Unless you’re ready to set the gamepad in a stand and you have good eyesight, for instance, you’ll also have to hold it in your hand the whole time you sing to your audience, which limits some of the interaction you might otherwise enjoy. Of course, so does real karaoke system with its tiny screen.

Anyway, my biggest complaints really just come down to personal preference. SiNG Party is ultimately a successful experiment, even if it’s a limited one, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to someone who is looking for a home karaoke solution. If you want an actual game, though… look elsewhere maybe?


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Staff review by Jason Venter (November 25, 2012)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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