SingStar Ultimate Party Review

The party’s over. Or at least it should be, no matter how much SingStar Ultimate Party would like us to keep on rockin’.
According to SingStar Ultimate Party, I make a mean Kylie Minogue.

A mental image you may have trouble getting out of your head.

Mind you, with the beard, the lower voice, and the fact that the dress stretches in some very unflattering places, it’s more that I make a mean Kylie Minogue. Still, that’s SingStar Ultimate Party’s verdict on my Kylie impersonation, as it tries to deliver what it’s calling the “Ultimate” Party.

Hosted by this guy, if they’re genuine about the “Ultimate” part

Sony’s plugged away at the SingStar brand for a long, long time now.
No, I didn't just meet you. You've been around for years.
No, I didn’t just meet you. You’ve been around for years.

In fact, I’ve just gone to look it up, because I couldn’t quite reconcile quite how long it’s been churning out Singstar games. It’s been a decade since the first Singstar game — that would be SingStar, naturally enough — for the PS2 emerged. Now in 2014, we have “SingStar Ultimate Party”, promising the same karaoke-based gameplay that SingStar pretty much always has done, but this time, on your PlayStation 4.
You can feel the tense party excitement, right?

Nope, not present

SingStar Ultimate Party takes the route that Sony kicked off in the Playstation era offering a smattering of songs on the disc, and a larger selection through the SingStar store. You can’t please everyone with every selection, but I’ve got to admit that I struggled to find much gold in this little lot.

  • 5 Seconds of Summer – She Looks So Perfect
  • Avicii – Hey Brother
  • Bridgit Mendler – Ready Or Not
  • Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe
  • Clean Bandit Feat. Jess Glynne – Rather Be
  • Coldplay – Magic
  • Demi Lovato – Let It Go
  • Disclosure Feat. AlunaGeorge – White Noise
  • Ed Sheeran – Lego House
  • Ellie Goulding – Burn
  • Icona Pop Feat. Charli XCX – I Love It
  • John Newman – Love Me Again
  • Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get You Out Of My Head
  • Lady Gaga – Born This Way
  • Lionel Richie – Hello
  • Lorde – Royals
  • Naughty Boy Feat. Sam Smith – La La La
  • Olly Murs – Dear Darlin’
  • One Direction – Best Song Ever
  • One Republic – Counting Stars
  • P!nk Feat. Nate Ruess – Just Give Me A Reason
  • Paramore – Still Into You
  • Pet Shop Boys & Dusty Springfield – What Have I Done To Deserve This?
  • Pharrell Williams – Happy
  • Plan B – She Said
  • Selena Gomez – Come And Get It
  • Swedish House Mafia Feat. John Martin – Don’t You Worry Child
  • The Lumineers – Ho Hey
  • TLC – No Scrubs
  • Train – Drive By

Not having the Idina Menzel version of “Let It Go” is, essentially, a hate crime. Or it should be.

Also not present

New songs cost $2.05 each from the SingStar store, which isn’t incredibly expensive, but it’s worrisome given that there are plenty of online reports of previous SingStar Store buyers from the PS3 era unable to transfer their previously purchased tracks to the PS4 version, presumably as the result of changes in the rights scheme. A joyous posting on the SingStar blog suggests checking back after each SingStar update because “There may be lots of tracks waiting for you!”
Grandpa don't want no scrubs.
Grandpa don’t want no scrubs.

Sony, there may be all sorts of things waiting for me when I power on my PS4.
A solid gold Lamborghini heading up my driveway.
A new Jumping Flash game.
A system update.
Actually, that last one is quite probable any time I turn on any Sony gaming machine, but my point is that “may be” is in the pantheon of weasel promises, along with “up to” for print speeds and battery life. It’s not like the SingStar Store architecture is some new and brave effort on Sony’s part.
What’s even more galling here is that I could reach out an arm and grab handfuls of previous SingStar titles, all of which ostensibly play the same as SingStar Ultimate Party, save for some high resolution visuals, and all of those discs wouldn’t mean a thing to my singing enjoyment unless I pop them into a PS3 or PS2. Yes, I know, there’s no particular backwards compatibility for PS3/PS2 titles generally on the PS4, but I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to suggest that with over 70 titles worldwide carrying the SingStar brand, that there might be some file similarity at play here. You could throw the fanbase that have kept SingStar going all these years a digital bone, Sony… but you didn’t.
The other innovation in SingStar Ultimate Party is the use of smartphones as microphones. Instead of trying to find the mics (or fight over them), you can download an iOS or Android app and use your phone as a virtual microphone. Just grab the free app, make sure your Playstation 4 and phone are on the same wireless network, and you’re a four-digit code away from singing bliss.
Added bonus: Product placement for Xperia phones.
Added bonus: Product placement for Xperia phones.

At least, that’s the theory. The first time I tried to pair two iPhones, neither worked. Same story with Android. An eventual reboot of all phones, PS4 and the router got them to at least see the PS4, but not for terribly long, with the iOS version of the client giving the most grief. Even when they did work, there’s something mildly dissatisfying about singing into a phone compared to a microphone. It’s also bewildering that SingStar Ultimate Party sticks to a duet style for absolutely everything after all these years. It’s not as though Smartphones are a rare and endangered species; allowing additional players could only add to the party fun, but apparently Sony’s parties don’t extend beyond twosomes. Ahem.
You can’t even (officially) play Pass The Mic any more in this version, although if you don’t care much about scoring, there’s nothing stopping you swapping phones or mics (but not a mix of the two, because SingStar Ultimate Party doesn’t like that idea either) amongst your singing enthusiasts whenever you like.
Despite all this, there is something somewhat satisfying about belting out a tune, whether you’re a vocal virtuoso or a singer with more enthusiasm for talent. Not that I’m suggesting you fit into either category. I’m quite comfortable with my singing ability. I just sing badly so that other people will feel better about themselves. That’s quite believable, no?
Part of Sony’s problem is that for the most part is that it got SingStar “right” about… a decade ago. Everything else has largely just been a matter of extending the song catalog, and that’s what SingStar Ultimate Party doesn’t in fact do. There are newer songs here, but anyone with a reasonable library of older tracks — and I can reach out and grab everything from ABBA to Queen, with the Wiggles and the incomprehensibly hard Disney SingStar along the way — is left out in the cold. That’s not much of a party.

The Beastie Boys had it right. Also (you guessed it) not present on this disc.

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