Games for Lunch: Lips
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: Nov. 18, 2008
System: Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: E-10+
Official Web site
0:00 I became a huge fan of karaoke as soon as Harmonix's Karaoke Revolution hit. I think I've owned every karaoke game that has come out since. Except for the ones based on Disney Channel shows. And Boogie, of course. That game sounded awful.
0:05 Because I'm bitter, I'm deducting the five minutes it took me to open the annoying blister packaging this game came in and to install the batteries in the swanky wireless mics.
0:06 And another minute off for the obligatory update.
0:07 The game just called my new wireless mic "fancy" and told me to hold it about an inch from my face. Groovy.
0:08 The game starts off with this video of a shy guy serenading a girl across the couch at a party with the Lips microphone at a party. She joins in and before long, the whole party joins in dancing and singing to music from a Zune. Doesn't seem too realistic to me, but it still makes me feel guilty for playing alone. Screw it ... it's Friday and I want to sing!
0:10 The loading screen tells me to make poses during the song to activate Star Power. OK!
0:11 Jumping right into "Sing!" mode which arranges the 40 included songs in a neat little 2-D grid. Pretty easy to navigate. Excuse me while I find a song that fits my amazing vocal range.
0:14 I dive into B.B. King's "Stand by Me" only to find that my microphone doesn't work. I can't even turn it on. Oh ... I have to HOLD the power button. Let's restart that song.
0:16 The mic is on, but still not registering my voice. This never happened with the wired mics. Time to crack open the manual, I guess...
0:17 Gah! I had to hold the power button a second time to sync it with the Xbox. These guys have never heard of a sync button? Let's try this one more time.
0:21 Wow ... that was just ... COOL! The interface combines the best parts of SingStar and Karaoke Revolution: The notes appear as static tubes on-screen with the lyrics right below (and also appear at the bottom of the screen). Your own vocal level is subtly displayed as you sing, and there's none of that annoying SingStar delay between voice and display. Singing well charges up a meter, which then activates a motion-sensitive pose, which then allows you to gain bonus points/stars for more good singing ... much simpler than any other scoring system I've seen. I like being able to shake the mic to make percussion sounds during the vocal breaks. Also, it's nice to know that apparently I have a nice vibrato, as I got 10 or so "vibrato bonuses" as I sang. The only bad part ... the auto-generated video for this old song made no sense. Why are people breakdancing to "Stand By Me?" Anyway, I got 175 stars and earned the rank of "Sunday Soloist." I think I'm in love.
0:24 I load up a two-song playlist with Duffy and Sheryl Crow, because I secretly wish I was a girl, apparently.
0:28 So near the end of the Duffy song I decide to test the vocal recognition by making a bunch of random, atonal sounds instead of singing. Surprisingly, I STILL do kind of well. The game detects quite a few perfect notes, and I even get a vibrato bonus. On the one hand, bad singers won't be embarrassed. On the other hand, shouldn't this require some singing talent? This demands more evaluation.
0:33 At the start of "Soak up the Sun" I do my awful pitch/lyrics thing again, and get about half as many points as I would with perfect singing. At first I'm mad that the game even gives that many points for my awful wailing. Then I get over it and just decide to enjoy myself. I love this wireless mic ... I'm bopping around the room like it's going out of style, and the LED lights are a nice touch. This is embarrassingly fun. I'm kind of glad no one else is around.
0:35 NO WAY! THIS GAME HAS "WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN"?!?! AUTOMATIC GAME-OF-THE-YEAR AWARD RIGHT HERE!
0:39 So the game keeps activating my Star Power when I didn't want to, but who the hell cares ... I'm singing along with the Bangles! My grand ranking is up to "Lounge Act," and I just got a 40-point Achievement called "What's cooler than being cool?" ICE COLD!
0:40 OK, now for the feature that's supposed to put this over the top ... singing along with my own music. In the "Get Music" section there are already 32 songs to download from Xbox Live, including ... "The Dreidel Song" by Sister Hazel. Really?
0:55 The past 15 minutes were spent looking for a USB cable, plugging in my MP3 player, realizing the game only supports songs from the hard drive, quitting out to the Dashboard, trying to find a good song to sing on my MP3 player, realizing the Xbox wouldn't let me copy my MP3 player's songs to the hard drive (or alternatively, realizing I didn't know how to do this if it's possible), looking for a CD to burn, finding my favorite Fountains of Wayne CD, and burning the disc. In that order. Your mileage may vary if your Xbox is already a music-filled machine or if you're not an idiot like me.
0:56 Back in the game, trying to load up the excellently catchy "Hey Julie". The game is freezing up as I scroll through the song list for some reason. This is not confidence-inspiring.
0:57 Hmmm, the problem seems to be my still plugged-in MP3 player, which the game has now decided to detect. Turns out I could have played directly from there. Anyway, the thousands of songs on there are slowing down the menu. Not exactly like the intro video's smooth experience ... I'm finally ready to play the song now.
1:01 The "Freestyle Mode" as it's called was ... decent. The game seems to do an OK job detecting when my singing matches the music -- the points went up much more slowly when I was singing random notes. Then again, the game also gives points when I sing over the instrumental parts. I'm realizing now that karaoke is a lot harder without lyrics and/or notes on the screen. All in all, this mode has potential, but isn't the pre-packaged experience I was unrealistically hoping for.
Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? An excellent interface, excellent songs (with more to download), an option to use your own music, nice wireless microphones ... this might actually sit side-by-side with Rock Band at parties!
This column is based on a retail copy of the game provided by Microsoft.