It’s been quite some time since video game store shelves were this packed with dance, rhythm and karaoke games – for the longest time it was left to Singstar Ultimate Party to hold the torch for the karaoke genre in the current gaming climate. Then came along Now That’s What I Call Sing and the current-gen debut of Rockband and Guitar Hero. Now not only do we have a sequel to 2015′s Now…Sing game, but Ubisoft have also released Just Sing, to sit alongside their Just Dance titles, and even Nordic Games (under their new THQ Nordic banner) have resurrected We Sing – the franchise that was – in my opinion – the KING of the karaoke games during the Nintendo Wii era. In fact I’d argue that We Sing Pop, released in 2012, was the last of the truly great karaoke/singing games…
Back in the days of the Wii and PS3 we were always on the hunt for the best karaoke game so, just like video game developers have resurrected old singing game franchises for the current generation of consoles, we here at Nerdly have decided to resurrect our old review style for these games: the head-to-head!
Any karaoke game lives or dies on the songs available, be it the particular tracks chosen for inclusion or just how many songs are in the game (on disc, NOT on any online store etc.) In the case of sheer number of songs Ubisoft’s Just Sing wins hands down. However there’s a HUGE catch… Whilst Just Sing officially has the most tracks of all three games, a total of 45 available on the disc, only ten(!) are by the original artists – the other 35 are by sound-a-like singers/groups!
The big selling point of Now That’s What I Call Sing 2 is the songs. This game, like the music compilation it take it’s name from, features the most contemporary of tracks – some of which are still in heavy rotation on radio stations like Capital FM! In fact, if there’s a downside to the songs in this game, it’s the fact none of the 30 games in this title are older than a decade (maybe even five years, when was “Sexy and I know It” released? That’s the oldest song here). But then shouldn’t a game under the ‘Now’ banner reflect modern pop music like the albums? There ARE older songs available but only through the two song packs – Best of 80s and Party Classics – in the store; which is new to this version, the first game didn’t have any DLC.
Meanwhile We Sing features 30 songs all from the original artist bundled with their official music videos. As if that wasn’t enough, 26 of the tracks included were international number ones, with the full track list spanning five decades – from the 70s to today. Whilst the number of tracks may be smaller than Just Sing, the sheer variety of genres and artists easily elevates THQ Nordic’s game above the rest of the competition.
There’s no real difference between all three of these singing/karaoke game when it comes to the controls. Just Sing, Now That’s What I Call Sing 2 and We Sing all allow players to use either USB microphones – be that ones you already own (we tested out both a PS3-gen Rockband mic and a Logitech We Sing one from the days of the Nintendo Wii – both worked fine), new mics that you can buy bundled with the games (our copy of We Sing came with two mics, which looked identical to the Rockband mic but felt a little cheaper), or… you can use your mobile phones as mics by downloading the individual FREE apps for each game and connecting your phone to your console. Which is a great idea until you consider the battery life of most mobile phones these days!
Now it may seem like a small niggle, but both Just Sing and We Sing left the mics open at all times, meaning that the slightest movement of the mic could be heard during the menu screens etc., which is surprisingly annoying. However Now That’s What I Call Sing 2 did not, instead player activate their mics before each track starts by singing/shouting into it. It’s a small difference technically but, it turns out, a major one when it comes to the gaming experience.
Here’s where the real difference lies between the three games… Let’s get this out of the way first: unlike the majority of singing/karaoke titles gamers will have eperienced, Just Sing does NOT feature any music videos! Instead players pick “battle screens” which play animated sequences – with titles such as Mosaic, Bling and Pixel Cat. It’s fun idea but it’s surprising just how much the music videos are missed. The animations are actually distracting, there’s way too much on the screen at one time: in a two-player game you have to look in the very bottom corner of the TV to see the note bar to see if you’re hitting the right notes! The design of the game just makes the entire experience overly complex to be fun. And the bad news rolls on for Just Sing - on a number of occassions the game hung on the “retrieving data from server” screen (at 88% every time), meaning the game wouldn’t even start!
Thankfully Now That’s What I Call Sing 2 is a much more pleasant experience. In terms of what’s available in game, the variety of game modes hasn’t changed. Classic, Duet, Pass The Mic and By Heart are back, as is the need to build up VoxPoints to unlock game modes, making this a much more “game-like” experience – think of earning VoxPoints much like leveling up in RPGs… The game features all the music videos for all the tracks included and the visualsations, the note bar etc., stick to the standard format as seen since these types of games debuted – which means there’s a real familiarity to Ravens Court’s game, making Now That’s What I Call Sing 2 much more of an intutive pick-up-and-play title for casual gamers and fans of the genre alike.
The grand-daddy of the genre, We Sing features all the bells and whistles you’d come to expect from such a long-running franchise. Not only do you get to play the game, but you can just watch the videos in Jukebox mode as background noise for a party perhaps. There is a downside though – because the game is so massive, the track library so vast, there’s a LOT of scrolling around the menus and it can feel a little more complicated than it surely needed to be. For example, L2 and R2 cycle up and down through game modes, the charts (aka leaderboards) and the options screen. Scroll to the Sing section and you have to use the d-pad to move through the songs, not only left and right but also up and don to switch between genres (though you can just select the “all” playlist). Oddly the entire moving/scrolling experience feels sluggish – you have to press the d-pad with just the right force to move, too little and the icons wobble, to much and you end up flying through the selections! Visually We Sing looks a lot more like karaoke, rather than the more familiar Singstar model of gameplay seen in Now That’s What I Call Sing 2 – the lyrics live large at the bottom of the screen, whilst the scores are tucked away in the top left corner, almost insignificantly. As for hitting the right notes: in a two-player head-to-head challenge there’s only one note bar, which is a really odd experience – you can’t judge your own performance and adjust you vocals as per other games in the genre. Though to be fair, if THQ Nordic were going for a karaoke experience rather than a gaming one, they’ve hit the nail on the head… When it comes to actually playing the game, We Sing works much more like a traditional karaoke machine would.
Whilst there is no clear winner – Now That’s What I Call Sing 2 has the better gameplay and We Sing the better song selection (though should Ravens Court keep releasing song packs for Now…Sing 2 things may change) – there is a clear loser: Ubisoft’s Just Sing. Which, all hyperbole aside, is honestly the worst example of the genre you will ever [not] hope to play… However, if you really want to know which karaoke/singing game is for you, the best way to help you decide is this: if you want a karaoke machine replacement (for a party etc), then We Sing is the game for you. If you want an actual video game, complete with challenges, goals and achievements then buy Now That’s What I Call Sing 2.
All three titles are currently available at Game: Just Sing right now is heavily discounted at £14.99; whilst Now That’s What I Call Sing 2 is available on prmotion with mics for £30 or without for £20. We Sing retails at £39.99 with two mics.