Thursday, December 11, 2008

Player's Club: Lips reviewed

Posted By on Thu, Dec 11, 2008 at 8:51 PM

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Rated T for Teen


Xbox 360

Developed by iNiS

Published by Microsoft

All you need to know about Lips is that it’s a karaoke game. If you like karaoke, you’ll probably like Lips. If you’re a fan of Karaoke Revolution or Sony’s Singstar series, and have been hoping something similar would come to the 360, then here you go. If karaoke frightens or repulses you no matter how many scorpion bowls you’ve downed, then Lips is most certainly not for you.

It's very similar to Singstar, because really, how many ways can you do karaoke? Lips' Japanese developer iNiS did, however, make a few choices in both presentation and mechanics that make the game a more enjoyable experience. The microphones combine wireless convenience with a pulsating visual display and a motion-controlled score multiplier bonus similar to those found in Guitar Hero and Rock Band. The versus and co-op modes are smoothly implemented. There are a few mini-games built around the motion controls that might offer some amount of entertainment to those tired of just singing. Singing’s still the main draw, though, because, um, this is a karaoke game.

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Karaoke games are only as good as their playlists. Lips’ 40-song set is fine, despite a fairly limited variety of genres. The game skews a little too far toward recent pop music. Almost half the 40 songs come from this decade, and most of them are either pop, R&B, or rap hits by the likes of Alicia Keys, Beyonce and Avril Lavigne. There’s a tiny smattering of country, rock, and classic R&B, including stalwarts from the Jackson 5, Johnny Cash, and Ben E. King, but if you aren’t a regular listener of contemporary Top 40 radio then a lot of these songs will be new to you.

That lack of diversity is a bit of drag. The more Euro-flavored Singstar features somewhat obscure numbers from bands such as Bloc Party and Scissor Sisters. I’m not asking for the Blank Dogs or Krysmopompas, but it would’ve been nice to see some more independent music. The closest is probably Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks," which also happens to be the game's best duet in the game. Regular downloadable content updates could broaden the game’s stylistic scope, but the pricing might be a bit high at $2 a song. For the same two bucks you can download a song for Rock Band or Guitar Hero World Tour, and not just sing but also play fake guitar and drums.

One of Lips’ primary selling points should preclude complaints about diversity. You can hook your Zune, iPod, or other MP3 player into your 360 and access the non-encrypted files through Lips. Basically, Lips will let you sing any MP3 in your collection. This is an interesting feature, but obviously the game can’t generate lyrics for any random song you load up, so it’s less like karaoke and more like singing along with your stereo. It still scores you on your ability to hit the right pitch, so some element of the core game play (such as it is) still remains. Still it's not quite as awesome a component as one could hope.

Lips is without a doubt a party game. With only 40 songs, though, the fun might not last too long, and neither the MP3-functionality nor the downloadable content offerings are perfect solutions. Lips might not do enough to stand out from the karaoke game pack, but it’s a perfectly acceptable alternative to Singstar for those who own a 360 instead of a PS3.

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