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Karaoke Revolution Party

Score: 88%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Harmonix
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Rhythm/ Party

Graphics & Sound:

Music makes or breaks any music game, especially Karaoke Revolution. Sporting a whopping 50 songs (with more available for download over Live), Karaoke Revolution Party manages to provide songs that should appeal to just about everyone's musical tastes. For fans of pop there are offerings like Ashlee Simpson's "Pieces of Me" or Michelle Branch’s "Everywhere", while those with more refined taste in music can sing along to "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas, Janis Joplin’s "Me and Bobby McGee" or Aerosmith's "Crazy". You even have a selection of sappy love songs for guys who want to impress girls, including Edwin McCain's "I'll Be" and "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" from Dirty Dancing. For me the songs that held the greatest attraction were crooner standards like "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" and a healthy dose of 80's classics ranging from Madonna's "Material Girl" to Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. You're not guaranteed to like every song offered in the game, but if you can't find at least one then I weep for your musical tastes.

Karaoke Revolution Party also serves up a nice visual package to go along with the audio one. As with the last game, you begin by selecting a personal avatar to be "you" in the game. As you sing, they sing. The number of customization options offered has been upped, and more can be unlocked as you progress through the game. Aside from a more robust avatar selection, the game doesn't stray far from the visual style of the last game in the series. You still have a number of stylized venues to compete in, ranging from small-time bars to boardwalks to big arenas. You'll also see lots of background set pieces like band members or jumbo-trons.


Gameplay:

As in the game's previous installment, Karaoke Revolution Party tests your ability to sing along with songs as lyrics appear across the bottom of the screen. In order to do this, you'll need either the Live headset or Xbox microphone (which shipped with the Xbox Music Mixer). You'll also need a Dance Dance Revolution dance pad, but more on that later.

Along with the game's impressive song list comes an impressive list of modes, including two-player duets and competitions. The number of modes helps to make Karaoke Revolution Party a great party game since you can always find something to suit your needs. One Mic and Two Mic Party modes are available, each of which is broken down into multiple modes. One Mic Party can be played either alone or with friends passing around one mic and playing Arcade, Medley, KR Challenge or mini-games. Arcade mode has you singing against a group and Medley has you singing three songs back-to-back. KR Challenge mixes up modes with players competing for the title of Karaoke Revolution Champ.

Two Mic Party options are where the game becomes competitive. All of the One Mic options are available in Two Mic Party (only now they’re duets instead of solos). New modes Knock Out (or Knock Out Medley) and Sing Off join the other three modes. In the Duet modes, pairs of singers compete to see who can sing together the best and Knock Out sets up head-to-head competitions and Sing Off has two singers trading off verses to show off who has the better vocal range.

Both One and Two Mic variations of the game score you based on a number of judging parameters. High scores earn you Platinum and Gold records, which in turn unlock new items. These include new avatars, outfits for your avatars and even a few new songs. Some special unlockables can also be earned by completing special challenges, like earning "X" number of Platinum records or hitting certain point totals.

If singing gets old you can also check out a number of voice controlled mini-games such as "Yo! Dude! Rock!", which has you controlling stage divers by yelling out "Yo!", "Dude!" or "Rock!" at certain times. A Pong-like volleyball game is also available. Mini-games are fun the first time you play them, but ultimately feel like they were tacked on at the last minute.

The big addition to Karaoke Revolution Party is the Sing and Dance mode, which involves using both the microphone and that dance pad I mentioned you might need. The idea here is to not only sing along with the song, but also dance -- giving you wannabe Britneys and Justins the "whole experience". A great idea on paper, the Sing and Dance mode suffers from a few problems that may have you ditching it once the novelty wears off. One of the main problems with the mode is that you're simply doing too much at one time. It is hard enough to make sure you're always on pitch, but now you also have to make sure you're hitting the right steps. The timing of dance steps to music is a little off, so even if you've memorized the song, it is hard to keep with the rhythm. Plus you have to worry about running out of steam while playing, which is always going to affect your singing ability.

There is, however, a silver lining to the mode's dark cloud. Each action's judging requirements can be altered independently, so you can play to your strengths if you're dead set on doing both at the same time. The better option is to designate someone as a “backup dancer” and have them dance as you sing, allowing more people to have fun at one time, which is something every Karaoke Revolution Party host should aim for.

Xbox Live support is available, though Karaoke Revolution Party only supports content downloads for new songs. This is an option that will find use mainly by the game's more hardcore fans. Most of the songs that are available are re-releases of songs available in the first game as well as a few new ones meant mainly for the game's added modes. Songs aren't free, so you'll have to make the call on whether or not you think they're worth the download.


Difficulty:

The flaw in the Karaoke Revolution Party's scoring system is that you really don't have to sing along at all and can instead just hum along. As long as you're on pitch you'll earn points; in fact, you can actually "cheat to win" by humming on pitch and skyrocketing your score. This makes the game incredibly easy, even on the harder difficulty levels. Granted, doing so doesn't really accomplish anything in the long run, but still there are always those people who want to cheat the system in order to gain some small dose of notoriety by saying they unlocked everything.

Aside from a slight technical flaw, Karaoke Revolution Party is only as hard as you make it. Judging options can be set to suit anyone's needs, which makes the game accessible to nearly anyone who can carry a pitch. There's no guarantee you'll make it through every song, even on the lower difficulty levels, since some songs like "Crazy" and "I Will Always Love You" are pretty hard (unless you decided to cheat your way through by humming). You can also make things easier on yourself by making friends with people who can’t carry a tune and inviting them to play with you.

Obviously Sing and Dance mode presents its own set of difficulties, but that is another story entirely.


Game Mechanics:

The game is based on racking up high scores, which is done by staying on pitch and holding note lengths. These are both measured by a series of indicators that scroll along the bottom of the screen along with the words; the higher the line, the higher the pitch. A small arrow to the side of the indicator lets you know where your pitch is currently, giving you a visual way of determining if you need to raise or drop your pitch. The object is to hit enough notes to keep the audience happy. If they start booing, the plug is pulled and you're doomed to join such unsuccessful singers as William Hung and Mr. Britney Spears, Kevin Federline.

Not to harp on one issue, but Sing and Dance mode also presents a problem in the logistics of getting the mode up and running. There's a certain amount of shuffling around that has to go on with getting the dance pad set up and having the corded mic in position that you're able to freely move around and dance (if you're still determined to do both at the same time). This becomes a problem with the Xbox version of the game in particular since most gamers will use the Live headset to play. Doing so presents the problem of a short cord and having to hold the controller in one hand. If you're really serious about using this mode, it is probably best to pick up the Xbox Music Mixer (which comes with a microphone accessory) or invest in a wireless headset. The former is the cheaper of the two options since the Music Mixer can usually be found at markdown prices in most retail stores.

If you're a fan of rhythm games, or just looking for a fun party game, Karaoke Revolution Party is worth picking up. The number of play modes available -- even the ones that don't exactly work out as well as they should -- adds a lot of replay value, which keeps the game interesting (at least as far as parties are concerned since the game loses something when played alone), while the addition of content downloads should keep hardcore players happy.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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