Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: We Sing Encore

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            The follow-up to last year’s incredibly successful We Sing is set to launch later this week, bringing with it forty new licensed tracks for players to sing-along with. There’s been no shortage of karaoke games this generation, especially on Nintendo’s Wii, but We Sing somehow managed to standout from the crowd, and publisher Nordic Games is hoping to replicate that success with a second offering.

            That We Sing Encore riffs on the staples established by Sony’s SingStar franchise is no big secret. Every videogame title that has challenged player’s vocal and rhythmic talents – from rival U-Sing to the Rock Band and Guitar Hero franchises – asks not for an ability to sing in the correct key or even hit the correct notes, but instead analyses the player’sElectronic Theatre Image pitch, ignoring what would otherwise be a huge barrier for entry. We Sing Encore doesn’t punish players for their lack of singing ability, instead choosing to reward those who have the courage to pick up the microphone. Embarrassment is the only obstacle to overcome, and when gathered with a group of friends – as is the intention – it only takes one player with a little confidence to break the ice.

            We Sing Encore’s main gameplay component will be familiar to anyone who’s even lightly dabbled with karaoke games on a videogame system. Players can choose from any of the forty on-disc tracks and sing along with the on-screen vocals. The timing bar suggests when and for how long notes should be held, and the pitch bars display the accuracy of your projections. Perhaps the only innovation in terms of gameplay presented by We Sing Encore is that of the R.A.P.S. meter, which is simply in place for recognising and evaluating a player’s rap skills.

Though the multiplayer gameplay is undoubtedly the key component, a singe-player gameplay mode is included. Here, the player can pick any track from the on-disc line-up and build a career score. A little lightweight, to say the least, We Sing Encore’s hidden gem comes in the form of a new single-player addition: singing Electronic Theatre Imagelessons. A series of thirty simple tutorials, We Sing Encore teaches players how to adjust and hold their voice at the pitch suggested in straightforward and easily digested lessons lead by the solfčge scale. While the “fun” may be limited here, We Sing Encore’s lessons are a simple addition that will certainly entertain younger players keen on improving their singing ability for it’s duration. It’s certainly a wonder as to why so few karaoke games have presented any comparable gameplay mode.

The game is complimented by a number of finishing touches that may seem insignificant, but truly allow for anybody to pick-up the microphone and have a go. Supporting up to four microphones, players can verify which they have picked-up (and therefore, which part of the song they will be singing) simply by speaking into it: a coloured bar will flash on the menu screen symbolising which player position the microphone is currently assigned to. The vast majority of tracks include the original music videos as their backdrop, but the occasional track is supported by an animated sequence instead, presumably due to licensing reasons or the fact that, in some cases, no original music video was available due to the age of the track.

The selection of tracks available is quite obviously aimed at a twenty-something market, with a number of modern hits also included to please younger players. The likes of Soft Cell, Right Said Fred, Katrina and the Waves, Jamiroquai and Lynyrd Skynyrd emphasise We Sing Encore’s positioning as a product of the eighties Electronic Theatre Imagechild, with more recent hits delivering both credible Indie and pre-watershed Pop. The inclusion of modern artists such as Rihanna (featuring Jay-Z), The Black Eyed Peas and N-Dubz appears to be somewhat of an exercise in futility, as while this tracks are as competently presented as the rest of the line-up, the impending release of Def Jam Rapstar will undoubtedly corner the market for Rap karaoke. We Sing Encore aims for variety in it’s line-up, but at the same time may distance some interested parties simply by lacking a distinct direction.

Facing staunch competition, We Sing Encore is likely to have a more difficult time in the marketplace than that of it’s predecessor. Beyond that of the series’ established core audience, many consumers may question what makes Nordic Games’ title a more rewarding purchase than any of the competition. But We Sing Encore is not aiming to deliver an insight into a specific genre (as with Def Jam Rapstar) nor be a comprehensive player-interpretation of being a music industry professional (Rock Band). Nor is it intending on being the defining karaoke experience; We Sing Encore is content enough with simply being fun, and in that it’s more successful than most.

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