Is it fair to say that SingStar Guitar has gone the way of SingStar Dance, and feels a little bit thrown together? Or, is this a polished product that everyone who loves Guitar Hero and/or Rock Band should rush out and buy?
Well, I’m sorry to say that it most certainly isn’t the latter. If I’m being generous, I’d say that what we have here feels a little bit like My First Guitar Game, a product that Fisher Price could feasibly come out with at Christmas in order to cash in on the almost decade-old craze. The problem is that SingStar Guitar is simply the bog-standard SingStar that you’ve been playing since the days of the PS2, plus the ability to play something a little bit like Guitar Hero over the top. And – I’ve said this for so many different SingStar versions that it’s becoming boring now – that is it. There’s no career mode, and there’s no challenge mode. In fact, if you discount the ability to play and sing at the same time, there are no new modes of any kind.
And to be fair, we’re used to that. Each SingStar release is the same as the last, with a lone new gimmick to lure in the punters. If these new gimmicks were worth having, the series would sell even more than it already has. Anyone who played the first SingStar will remember the career mode, which worked relatively well for when you didn’t have a party going on. Was it expanded in future versions? No. In fact, we never saw it again and, honestly, it was the only time the game has ever had any single-player appeal. But, lo and behold, we have the same formula yet again. So, what exactly is SingStar Guitar’s target market?
More dedicated guitar gamers will notice that SingStar Guitar’s note charts are very, very simple to follow. I’d say that even though the hardest difficulty setting here sees you using all five buttons, anyone who can survive medium level on any of the Guitar Hero or Rock Band games won’t be far off being able to ace any track on offer in SingStar Guitar on the top level without breaking much of a sweat. There’s a distinct lack of any sort of “Star Power” or “Overdrive” mode too, not that you’d need them given SingStar’s insistence that nobody should be called a failure at any time. The other use that these functions have – to gain points – is also negated by the sloppy note recognition which, quite often, decides at random to call a fudged button-press a success, meaning that high scores are usually on the cards for all players. The opposite – funnily enough – almost never happens.
With hardcore music gamers ruled out, the die-hard SingStar fans come under the microscope. What SingStar Guitar offers them, is more tracks. The tunes on offer are much as you’d expect from a standard SingStar expansion disc. You’ve got your classics and your recently popular tunes, with the “pop” part of that word being very much the focus. I’m still trying to work out how Tina Turner’s “Steamy Windows” and The Veronicas’ “Untouched” (no matter how damned catchy it is) managed to get shoe-horned into a game that focuses on the guitar, but there you go. With my confusion aside, the majority of the bundled songs have already appeared on earlier expansion discs, or have been available from the PSN’s SingStore for a while. And that rules out the SingStar fans.
We’re left with the more casual players, or those who maybe want to get into the likes of Guitar Hero, but which have allowed it to daunt them thus far. Given that SingStar Guitar is sold as a standalone product only, they’ll have to go hunting for a standalone Guitar Hero or Rock Band guitar, which is more than likely to put them off. This especially rings true when you consider that they can dodge any confusion over instrument compatibility by buying the guitar and a Guitar Hero or Rock Band game together (probably for a similar price as this game and a guitar separately would cost), meaning that they won’t need SingStar Guitar. So, that’s them ruled out.
Which pretty much leaves the Christmas present buyers, who will – bless them – buy this for their music-game loving son, daughter, niece or nephew, probably without realising that they need a guitar peripheral to go with it. It might be the view of a cynic, but they’re truly the only people that I can see as being even close to an appreciative audience for this product. SingStar Guitar is utterly devoid of invention, and when it won’t even appeal to the absolute hardest of hardcore fans of the franchise, what chance of success did it ever have?
Review contributed by: Ken Barnes