For those who are unaware, SiNG Party is a karaoke game. It’s a pretty simple concept that I won’t put too many words into explaining – but players essentially pick a song, sing along to the words as they appear on screen (or on GamePad, in this circumstance) and be graded at the end. It’s very simplistic, it works well, and for the most part it’s great fun. The game itself comes bundled with a wired USB microphone although anything that worked on your Wii previously will also work with SiNG Party on the Wii U. It is admittedly a bit disappointing to see a wired microphone when both competitors on other consoles employ wireless ones, but the cable is long enough to reach almost anywhere anyway. Of course, as karaoke games have evolved throughout the years, many of them are aimed at bringing in not just the people singing but also those who are watching or participating too. SiNG Party is no exception, and aims to do just that with instructions on screen for other singers, “back-up singers” and “dancers” alike.
After calibrating your game to filter only the noise coming through your microphone, you are presented with three major modes. Party Mode allows the lead singer to read their lyrics off the GamePad, which the developers claim will allow you to face your friends while you sing. I don’t know about you guys, but as a 23 year old red-blooded male, singing karaoke is already embarrassing enough for me so I don’t want to be looking at my peers while I do it. But each to their own, I guess. The GamePad also gives the lead singer cues during this mode, allowing them to tell the audience to sing along with certain parts, clap along or dance if they wish. I imagine during a drunken party or something this would be quite fun, but in our “test” audience of two people it just seemed a bit awkward and embarrassing.
The other two modes are Sing Mode and Team Mode. Sing Mode is basically your traditional karaoke experience. You can either sing by yourself or team up with someone for harmony renditions of the songs. As you perform in this mode, the game actually assesses the pitch of your voice and of course, whether you get the words right or not (similar to most karaoke games). For the most part, the detection is spot on but there were some moments where it was clear the game was giving us the points but not displaying it on screen, as if we or the game itself was going too fast for its own good. Regardless, we were still given the points, just minus the visual feedback. Team Mode is just allows two people to take on two more people between both modes.
SiNG’s gameplay is pretty comparable to its competitors, but it features a few cool things that make it stand out from the rest. Firstly, when actually singing along with the song, whoever has the GamePad can manipulate the audio track as they please with the in-game mixer. Hate how you sound on the mic? Turn down your mic! Hate how the singer sounds, and want to hear more of yourself? Turn down the vocals in the song. It’s great that the developers have gone and deconstructed each song to give the player the ability to manipulate it how they see fit – even giving the options to remove the music itself for a capella routines or add reverb to “bolster” your voice.
Something I feel a lot of people might not realise is that the mixer has the potential to be a lot of fun in the hands of another player who isn’t performing. I was getting into a song (a Rihanna one, unfortunately) when all of a sudden my mate who had the GamePad turned up my mic and turned down Rihanna’s vocals. Needless to say I was embarrassed and had to leave the room for a while, though I surmise my vocal performance was on par with the Barbadian pop star herself. The GamePad is also used to great effect to queue up songs mid-song, so either a player can add a song themselves or another friend can add another Rihanna or Katy Perry song to torture whoever is singing.
While it’s quite fun – my only real issue with SiNG is it feels incredibly bare bones in its presentation. I understand it probably would’ve cost a bucket load more to include the original music videos associated with the songs, for example, but their inclusion could’ve made this feel like a more legitimate product. I know it’s superficial, but quite frankly, it gives it a bit of a rushed feel. I will be fair – the developers have created fully 3D “visualisations” with unique looks for each song, but sometimes it just feels a little bit too on the budget side.
It’s hard to evaluate the longevity of SiNG Party – I imagine it’s one of those games you would keep on file almost all the time and only bring out whenever people are keen or interested (or you’re wanting to settle some disparaging drunken bet). Regardless, those who enjoy it can try to complete the game by unlocking stars/medals, which are in turn unlocked by earning certain achievements as you play. SiNG Party also employs a ranking system – judging you on your pitch, your power and your flair. We’re not quite sure, after hours of play time, what “flair” means or how it’s measured but it’s nice to have a score breakdown after each song. Medal progression can be automatically posted to the MiiVerse community too, which is a nice touch (but let’s be honest – not a real substitution for leaderboards).
Speaking of songs, SiNG Party has about fifty of them on the disc available from the get go, with support for downloadable content promised (and hopefully eventually fulfilled) in the near future. The collection is very eclectic – songs from the 60s include Groove Is in the Heart and The Shoop Shoop Song, ranging through every decade to the very present, including songs by Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and LMFAO. It’s a somewhat limited track listing overall in that most audiences won’t be able to enjoy the full offer unless they are all from different backgrounds, but there is sure to be something here that everyone is bound to enjoy for at least an hour or so.
All in all, SiNG Party is a fun karaoke game that definitely fills a niche for the casual market that the Wii never really properly filled. Yes, there were games, but none were really of the same quality and design as SiNG Party is. While we’re not 100% sure that it does an absolutely fantastic job at measuring how well you sing, we are sure that it’s a rather enjoyable romp that most people who are willing to let their hair down will enjoy quite a bit. It’s just a little bit disappointing that the overall package feels a little bit bare bones at present – music videos are absent, downloadable content has yet to even be announced yet alone released, and the track listing while plentiful does feel like it’s missing some karaoke classics. Despite this, if you’re into Karaoke and you’re looking for a game to fill that void on the Wii U, this is definitely it. Just don’t expect something of the same calibre as the big guns like Singstar. Small steps, I’m sure, but the very talented FreeStyleGames have definitely built a very solid foundation. I hope this franchise gets a chance to evolve and eventually prosper later on down the track