There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and thinking you’re a great singer when you’re in the shower. Be honest, you’ve sung along to “SexyBack” or “Survivor” between shampoo and conditioner. If you're hungry for more, Sony’s “SingStar Pop” might feed your need to be a diva. It’s fun, but be forewarned: if you can’t sing, “Pop” is going to be a sour note.
"Pop" (Rated E10+. MSRP: $29.99, $49.99 for the microphone bundle) for the PlayStation 2 is the latest in Sony’s worldwide karaoke-style series. “Pop” is bright, bouncy, and colorful. It’s simple to get into and pretty intuitive: Sing into the microphone to lyrics from one of 30 tunes and try to match the song’s pitch and timing. The game grades you on your performance line by line, so you know in real time how good — or bad — you’re doing.
“Pop” comes with songs by artists ranging from The Clash to My Chemical Romance to Destiny's Child, offering a nice span from punk to modern bubblegum. Songs come with their original videos, although the image quality slips from video to video. "Feel Good, Inc.," by Gorillaz, looks divine, but others (like U2's "Vertigo") look a little grainy. That said, having the videos playing lends some eye candy to the game.
Once you pick your song, it’s a non-stop challenge to sing along with the song’s pace. Match it and you’ll find yourself on the road to virtual stardom. To boost your score, you’ll have to hit “golden notes,” a highlighted lyric that pops up and gives you bonus points if you nail it. Don’t be surprised if you have to go through a song a few times to get the hang of it.
“Pop” delivers what it promises. You get a shot at singing chart-topping songs, and if you enjoy karaoke and modern pop tunes, you’ll get some enjoyment here. If you are a fan of the previous "SingStar" titles, staples from previous games return: practice mode, a pass-the-mike contest, duet (the microphone bundle comes with two mikes), and more. The latter modes make for good party-game potential. You and you friends can save your best performances to play back, even tricking them out with sound effects.
Sounds fun, right? Sure, but only if you can carry a tune. The game doesn’t offer any singing lessons or even bend the rules for the vocally challenged. Moving past the "Easy" setting is a humbling experience, and ultimately, a frustrating one. Talented players will wipe the floor with the opposition, making those party games just a bit awkward.
What’s worse, “Pop” is a one-hit wonder. With 30 songs, you'll burn through what “Pop” has to offer in a hurry. There's no online play, or even extra tracks you can download. In the end, "Pop" is an appetizer without a main course, especially considering the forthcoming “SingStar” for the PS3 that promises more options for music and uploading your best performances for other gamers to see and hear.
Skip "Pop" unless you really enjoy the karaoke scene, or if you absolutely need to sing some Ashlee Simpson. You'll do better singing to yourself in the car or in the shower, where you’re a star--at least in your own mind.