Every console needs a singing party game, and these days there is not much to differentiate between them. Some might like Lips, others SingStar, others Karaoke Revolution. But they’re all essentially the same kind of fun – sing along with friends to songs you know. Sing Party is very similar, so any differences are small tweaks or slight preferences one way or the other.
It’s a competent sing-along game with a decent scoring mechanic, 50 good-quality pop songs from many eras (although with no music videos) and some fun percussion bits added using the Wii U GamePad. It’s very hard to score Sing Party highly when we already have so many other sing-along games and this one doesn’t really do anything new, but if you’re looking for something to round out your Wii U library with, Sing Party is a decent option.
At its core Sing Party operates in the same way as other sing-along karaoke games with scoring: the words and pitch of the song shows up on the screen as you sing along and you earn score based on how accurately you sing. The scoring system in Sing Party is fairly simplistic – in each song there is a maximum of 100000 points you can score and there are no multipliers or any such shenanigans. I much prefer this type of scoring system (a la SingStar), but there aren’t any difficulty levels available in Sing Party so the game is very forgiving. There also aren’t any online high score leaderboards. In other words, it’s more designed for party play than for scoring and competitive play.
Sing Party works well as a party game because of the amount of interaction possible by people who don’t have a microphone. Two people can sing at once using the bundled microphone or any previously released microphones for the Wii, while two other players can use Wii Remotes to play shakers or other percussion instruments. Another player can fiddle on the Wii U GamePad to do all sorts of things such as adjust voice or music volumes, choose the next song or also play percussion on the pad. When I wasn’t singing I enjoyed trying out all these percussive accompaniments and seeing what toys the developers have given us in each song – the Wii Remotes and GamePad play different sounds in different songs and even in different sections of songs.
Party mode is the most different bit of Sing Party, a mode that is not really reproducible without the GamePad. The idea here is for the words of the song to only appear on the GamePad, so one person holds the pad and uses it as their singing cues while the others face the singer and party it up. It sounds like it could be a bit awkward, but that will all depend on the group. In this mode there is no scoring and the TV simply shows someone doing dance moves as well as some music visualization patterns. The dance moves are cues for the other people to follow as the performer sings, and every now and then during the chorus the words will appear too in big bold fonts to help the audience sing along. It’s an interesting concept that might actually work with some crowds – perhaps the same crowds that enjoy going to Karaoke night at the local pub, because that’s essentially the same format as Party mode here.
The Team Mode is cleverly implemented and very simple to get going with. Simply assign people into teams, take a photo of each team with the GamePad’s camera, give them a name, choose the number of rounds and go for it. The game tells you what each event is about, from Choir mode, to Relay to Spotlight, and then your team chooses a song and you sing. There is the option to have an impartial judge answer a question about the performance afterwards (such as choosing who was the better “pop star”) which adds to the scoring. The scores are kept but not displayed, instead only the winner is shown at the end and there is a message half-way to say which team is ahead. It’s a cleverly made format as it doesn’t feel quite as game-y as SingStar’s team mode and encourages just having fun in a semi-competitive format.
Nintendo have said that there will be downloadable songs in the near future, but they’re not available yet in the Wii U eShop. There are 50 songs on the disc spanning a range of eras and catering to world tastes, with recent top artists like Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Carly Rae Jepsen, Florence & the Machine, Bruno Mars, Lady Antebellum and stars from the past such as Tiffany, Huey Lewis and the News, The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Gloria Gaynor, Irene Cara, James Brown, Queen and the Jackson Five. I can’t fault the track list – it offers something for everyone and it’s very well balanced for all ages, but more niche genre-lovers might be upset at the emphasis on pop. In order for a singing game to have a big enough playlist so that each different group of people can enjoy it a big set of downloadable songs is necessary, so I hope Nintendo release them soon.
Sing Party is a competent well-crafted sing-along game by FreeStyleGames (makers of DJ Hero) that has high production values, a good tracklist and some clever modes. It’s missing the music videos we enjoyed in SingStar and Lips but it has 50 songs which makes up for this and it also makes it likely the downloadable content will be cheaper and easier to produce. Its downfall is that there isn’t anything really new here other than the “true Karaoke mode” to entice anyone who didn’t enjoy the other games of its ilk that came before it.