Whenever a karaoke or dancing game needs reviewing, chances are I'll get wheeled out to do it. Why? It's not because I'm a particularly good singer or dancer - far from it - it comes down to fact that Matthew is as shy as a mouse when it comes to ridiculing himself in public. Me, I'm absolutely fine with it, hence the attention-seeking hair and massive gob. Perhaps that explains why I've been looking forward to Sing Party coming out so much.
Nintendo's new karaoke game is a bit of a strange one. It's been developed by the team that brought us the DJ Hero games. The crew is owned entirely by Activision Blizzard, but this is definitely not an Activision game. It makes good use of the GamePad, for starters.
Despite having a major presence at E3 back in June, Nintendo has been very quiet about Sing Party. So quiet, in fact, that we started to worry about the quality of the game. It turns out that it's an accomplished little title that brings a lot of cool ideas to the genre.
Mix And Match
Technically speaking, this is a karaoke game, but in reality what FreeStyle has created is an entertainment hub. In its most basic form Sing Party enables you to sing along to your favourite songs (a 50-strong, fully licensed collection encompassing the 1960s through to present day) and earn points for Pitch, Strength and Flair. Points and completion of songs will earn you awards, which are unlocked in a PS360 Achievements-style.
If you're playing Sing Party on your own you're missing out on 90 per cent of the fun, but even here you can enjoy some fresh new additions. The ability to hold the GamePad on its side and treat it like a lyrics sheet while you sing into the microphone is a really nice and unexpectedly pleasing touch. The GamePad also has many other uses, thanks to a series of tabs across the top.
As well as being able to scroll through the songs and set up a playlist, you can also change the mix of the music. Being able to alter the levels of the main vocal, the backing track, the mic and the reverb means that you can set up any kind of song you like, from a capella, to instrumental, to a version with faint vocals for those who aren't too sure about how the song goes. All this can be done in real time, too.
Where the game really comes alive though, is in Party mode. FreeStyle has taken it beyond two or even four players by opening it up to the room. While two people can sing along using the GamePad as their lyrics sheet, two other players are encouraged to get involved by playing instruments on their Wii Remotes.
This isn't very well implemented, but we'll get to that in a minute. This is all off-screen action, though and the main TV screen is used to show a character pulling off dance moves and lyrics for the big singalong moments (choruses, basically).
The potential for Party mode is huge, but it doesn't really hit the mark. The Wii Remote 'instrument' players get the raw end of the deal. The main problems is lag: the split-second delay between pressing the button and hearing the instrument is frustrating. You can't choose the instrument sound, either (you're forced to use whatever instrument is coded in for that song), which counts as a massive missed opportunity. Wii Music fans (all eight of them) won't dig it.