December 01, 2008
Microsoft have spent the last year or so creating their range of family orientated titles trying to make the console appeal to more than the hardcore gaming market. Part of that initiative was to offer a karaoke game that was worthy enough to rival Sony’s Singstar and after the particularly cheesy unveiling at E3 expectations were considerably low, but I’ve got to tell you ... Don’t let the shoddy marketing put you off this title; Lips not only matches Singstar but actually leaves its rival in its wake.
Lips is simply a karaoke title for the Xbox 360; no gimmicks, just straight up songs and plenty of singing. Whilst the single player may have a single player career rank linked to it, it is in no way, shape or form a career mode; you basically sing what you want, when you want it, how badly you want.
At the core of Lips is its soundtrack; it’s essentially what makes Lips sink or swim. Not only does Lips swim, it hovers above the water majestically; a bit like a rainbow trout making its way up river for its seasonal migration. The track listing has something for everyone ... literally; whether you like pop (Leona Lewis, Kylie Minogue), indie (Editors, Kooks), classic rock (Police, Nirvana), R&B (Beyoncé, Alicia Keys), rap (Young MC, Lupe Fiasco) or dance (Stonebridge, Booty Luv). Of course, this isn’t every track, there are in fact 40 in all and it’s truly hard to see any weak link, it even has a bit of Johnny Cash. My only gripe could be, is 40 really enough? If every track was 5 minutes long then you’d only effectively get 5 hours of gameplay out of it, but considering for the normal price of a game, you get the two microphones as well, on the face of it, it doesn’t seem like bad value for money.
Lips is basically broken down in to 4 sections; Sing, which believe it or not, is where you sing; Jukebox, Get Music and My Lips. The biggest section is undoubtedly the Sing section of the game which is set up fantastically with a clean and slick interface. You are presented with album covers of the songs you want to sing which you can sort by artist or song track and quickly cycle through the alphabet with the left and right bumpers. Select your song and your background video and you’re straight in to the action. The backgrounds give you plenty of choice from the genuine music videos to a more interactive background that responds to your microphone movements.
Lips’ shining light is most definitely its singing screen interface and it is set up as good as it possibly can. Not only does it indicate the pitch and give you the current and upcoming line of the song, but it also combines the two together meaning you can see which words are held when and their change of pitch. Seriously, I kid you not; it’s exactly how you would picture a visual karaoke setup in your head.
The “Jukebox” mode in Lips allows for you to create playlists for parties (or even for yourself) so the selecting of songs doesn’t ruin the flow of the party. These can either be preset or set using the games song rating system; a bit like the star rating system available in iTunes and Windows Media Player. In addition, you don’t have to jump in at the first song either, the playlist will play short excerpts of the song and its video, and when you want to jump in, you just shake the mic to begin singing.
The “Get Music” mode was made out to be more than it was pre-release and in all honesty, it really only acts as a distraction from the disc music. Sure you can import your own music and such from an approved source (iPods, Zune's, any networked computer) and enter it in to your main music list, but when you do, you’ll miss the song’s music video and the impressive karaoke lyric screen. Instead, you’ll be in “Freestyle” mode with your song playing in the background with you basically able to sing whatever the hell you want and earn points. Hardly ideal and a definite distraction.
A game such as Lips is ideal for parties; not only can you sing and pass the mic on or sing co-op on the same song but there are specialist party modes for these very occasions. In the form of “Vocal Fighters”; you’ll have a fierce one on one competition to see who can come out on top. If you’re after a slightly more co-operative mode; then “Kiss” is the mode for you as you have work together singing well to get the background romeos to make out. Last but not least is the “Time Bomb” mode which will depend on you singing well, otherwise the bomb will go off. If someone is too shy to sing, then they can pick up a controller and perform accompanying song support in the form of percussion, claps and crowd roars. All of which great party-esque modes in their own right for a room full, or even more simply, for you and the missus.
The game ships with two, not one, but two, of the greatest peripherals that the Xbox 360 has; the microphones. These aren’t just ordinary mics; they are mics with built in responsive lights that react to your performance and a built-in motion sensor to trigger Star Stream; think Guitar Hero’s star power *cough* rip off. They can also be shook to activate the song’s associated instrument depending on the song you’re singing, although I found I really had to shake it to get that going.
The “My Lips” area of Lips tracks your favourite tunes and game performance which is always nice to have a look at. Unfortunately the game lacks a real online play aspect only allowing you to challenge people off your friends list. It kind of feels like it was left out as an excuse to release Lips 2 with a major new feature ... a lot like Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action and Scene It? Box Office Smash.
The achievements are quite well balanced but all in all, they’re ridiculously generic; although I must admit, it must be pretty tough designing an original list for a singing game because of its lack of scope. You’ll pretty much be rewarded for singing, no matter how good or bad you are; it’ll just take you longer if you suck. The only achievement that could pose problems is the “What’s Cooler Than Being Cool?” achievement but that can be achieved by blowing into the mic all the way through “Bust a Move”. Either way, it’s still a fairly time consuming list and 1000 points could set you back well in excess of 20 hours as you try and rack up 100,000 stars.
It’s about time that the Xbox 360 had a party, karaoke style game that felt at home on the console. Everything about Lips is right on the money; the microphones are fantastic, the selection of tunes is sublime and the singing interface is the best in the business. It seems like it’ll be a well supported title as well with 8 downloadable tunes available already; but at 160 Microsoft points a pop, it could turn in to an expensive hobby. Our only gripes with the title are its lack of serious online multiplayer, not enough songs included on the disc and an import mode that sounds a lot cooler than it actually is, but seriously ... Singstar who?
Great tracklist ... but how long the 40 songs on the disc keep you amused though depends on how much you liked them. We loved them.
Great singing screen interface and got to love the music videos in the background ... Shame they're not HD vids though.
Maybe a tad on the easy side but it sure is fun as hell. Easy to jump in to and the mics are a fantastic 360 peripheral.
Without a doubt the best karaoke singing title on the 360. It's a shame the import music feature isn't as awesome as advertised and in all honesty, it wouldn't be any less of a game without it. Online play nowhere in sight but other than that; superb.
Time consuming and un-original list ... but then again, how do you make singing achievements original?
Microsoft now have another family/party title to add to their line-up and boy, what an addition. If only the game delivered in the online department, offered more options for importing tracks like adding custom lyrics, and gave you more songs for your cash; it would be a must buy. Otherwise a great title ... One for the festive periods me thinks.