I am a rather dedicated gamer, in the sense that I play a crazy amount of games each and every week. In the past I have faint memories of playing karaoke games, but such memories are quickly replaced by gaps of nothingness in my deep and drunk subconscious. Sitting with a glittery microphone in my hand, as sober as the pope, I feel confident to admit that this is my ‘nerdiest’ gaming moment (yes, I don’t do table top war games… yet).
Of course this is Lips, the direct competition of the more familiar and well known SingStar, found on the PlayStation 3. Lips is a karaoke game developed by iNiS for the Xbox 360 with an emphasis on the fancy new feature of motion-sensitive microphone control. Oh, and not to forget that they have flashing lights on them!
Lips follows closely to karaoke games before it, in a sense that by viewing a screenshot you may struggle to differentiate between them. During each song you will be provided with the lyrics in a large font face, which is highlighted as the song plays over the words with different variations in pitch. Along the top of the screen (or bottom if you are the second player) you are given a star bar and medal icons. The star bar will fill as you perform well throughout the songs. When the bar is full you can strike a pose in order to trigger Star Stream, a brief score multiplier. The pose that is required will be shown in the corner of the screen, which can be anything from tilting the microphone up in a dramatic fashion to needing to fling it from your side; all whilst in the middle of completing the lyrics of the song. This helps spice up the typical scenario slightly, but provides little in terms of depth, which the game is greatly lacking.
Without a doubt Lips is a game for parties, for drunk or overly confident non-gamers to make fools of themselves. This comes from the game lacking much competitive edge and little in terms of progression. If you perform badly during a song you will not be penalised in any way, the song will just continue oblivious to your screeches. The same goes if you perform amazing on a song, you will simply be rewarded with your score – which means little when you notice the score system runs on a quantity system, as opposed to quality. Therefore the more you play, the higher you rank and the more bragging rights you accomplish. Due to this, Lips has no single player incentive whatsoever, unless of course you find singing to the same songs alone with no challenges enjoyable.
For those playing the game as intended, multiplayer, you can either play verses or co-op. Verses mode allows for two microphones to sing over one another in a battle to obtain the highest score of the two. The co-op mode on the other hand splits each song up into sections, allowing for each player to sing their heart out alone or in harmony together during certain sections for all the tracks on offer.
This is where the second problem of Lips comes into play. After an hour of play you come to a stop as you likely have been through all the songs that interest you. With only 40 songs on offer, of which jump all over the different genres available, you will likely find very few which appeal to your tastes. This could be remedied with downloadable content, but who really wants to buy a game to wait for costly downloads to slowly get released.
One of the larger features which Lips boasts is the ability to include your own songs from external devices, network locations or the Xbox 360 hard drive. This could easily have rectified the above issue, if only the feature was even close to what karaoke fans have eagerly been hyping over. Unfortunately the developers have not found some revolutionary new amazing method to rip lyrics and videos from tiny song files, so you are left with nothing more than an mp3 player, in which you can sing over. Sure Lips will put a random video selection over the song and you will be scored for your sensational voice; but why or how you are scored is beyond a mystery. It simply is not worth it.
For what it is worth, Lips provides enjoyment for the selection on offer. Time has clearly been put into making sure the title is very simplistic to navigate with clean and crisp interfaces, high quality videos and playlist features your grandmother could use. Instead of simply playing the songs on offer you can also opt to run them over one of three competitive game modes, such as Time Bomb a mode in which you must sing well in order to fill a glass with water, which you can then pour over a bomb fuse by tilting the microphone. If only singers had such power to defuse bombs in reality. As random as these modes are the variation is exactly which is wanted, if only there was more of it.
Alternatively you can stick the game into a jukebox mode which is more fitting for parties, playing over an assortment of tracks where anyone can join in by simply picking up the microphone and shaking it. Any and all achievements and rank from completing said modes and songs go towards your online profile, allowing for you to mould your bragging rights into a fantastic e-peen for everyone to see.
If you are prone to having many house parties and find moments in which you would desperately want to embarrass yourself, or those around you, Lips could be just the game to spice the mood up a little. On the other hand if you consider yourself a ‘hardcore’ gamer or expect to enjoy Lips solo, you may be better off giving your lips a reset and wait for a successor on the 360.