I didn't really become aware of the existence of the game until I saw some Raptr tweetage of "I'm playing Karaoke (360)" from one of my friends. I had to go googling around to find out what it was and talk to some of my other friends who play karaoke style games.
After learning what it was and working to get it downloaded on my xbox (which turned out to be a real pain of trying to find it first of all), I gave it a shot and decided instantly that I really wanted to be able to upload videos from the game. I also have been wanting to write about the game since having played it, but due to recent events (that I honestly am happy for, so I won't complain about it), I haven't really had the time to sit down and write a blog about games as I had/have other priorities.
Anyway, on to the game!
Cost: Not Like Other Games
First of all, you should know that this game isn't like any other game you are used to playing on the xbox for one reason: payment method. The payment method is both the game's advantage and weakness. Xbox Karaoke Application is free to download and there are 5 free songs that change every day, however to fully enjoy the game you will need to purchase a 'session pass' (renting, if you will). A session pass gives you FULL library access for the allotted amount of purchased time. Session passes are purchasable in the following denominations:
- 2 Hours- 240 msp (3 USD/ 2.88 EUR)
- 6 Hours- 600 msp (5 USD/ 4.80 EUR)
- 24 Hours- 800 msp (10 USD/ 9.60 EUR)
Unfortunately, these session passes count down in REAL time which kind of sucks if you don't have the amount of hours you buy set aside to play to get the most out of your money. Personally I buy the 2 hour passes (because I play alone) and play the entire 2 hours straight and bite off the head of anyone who interrupts me from getting my 3 dollars worth.
However, the concept of session passes can be a good thing. For someone who only plays occasionally, or for parties, I think the session passes are reasonable. The concept is supposedly (the only karaoke I have done has been in bars or restaurants and free, so I can't really say) modeled on karaoke bars where you would pay for a room and spend an evening with friends, and on that level the prices offered the application are very good from the comfort of your own home with access to ALL songs without having to purchase separate DLC.
On the flip side, for someone like me who plays these kind of games very often, for long amounts of time, this pricing model sucks. No matter how much money I throw at it, I will never own the game and be able to play it whenever I want at my own leisure. I can't just pop in the game for 30 minutes and play when I got a little bit of downtime, I'm forced to pay for 2 hours that I won't even get to use and know that I just wasted a pass BECAUSE it counts down in real time. I also didn't find the amount of the songs in the library to warrant the pricing model as a DLC alternative (but that is debatable and a matter of tastes), but I'll get to the songs in a minute.
What I would like to see if the option to purchase the game, or (in the spirit of compromise) a subscription option: 1 month, 6 months, 1 year.. that, or quite simply, have the passes NOT count down in real time.
Share in the Comments: What are your thoughts? Would you buy the game or pay a subscription if such a thing existed? What alternatives would you suggest?
Song Library, No Need for DLC
The Karaoke Application boasts a "library of over 8,00 songs" which really sounds like quite a lot and would totally make the session pass a very reasonable and acceptable pricing model.
However, I find this number to be exaggerated and over inflated. I managed to go through the list of all songs in about 10 minutes. Now, I wasn't counting, but I didn't see 8,000 songs. I think there might be a couple hundred, but couple thousand? No way. I don't buy it. I could be wrong, but go through the list yourself (you can view the songs without a pass) and tell me what you think.
The songs are sortable by genre, artist and name with a search option. You can add songs to the song queue to make game play more streamlined (and make the most of your session pass) and even add songs via xbox smart glass. I have no idea how well that works since I'm probably one of the few people in the world who still doesn't own a working tablet device, (I have an old Archos 7 home tablet my husband's work gave as a gift one year, which besides the fact that it had a worthless version of android 1.5 that was not upgradeable, is now a paperweight thanks to using and following the official firmware upgrade guide from Archos; bricked), I can't test that out and the subsequent achievement for adding songs with it is unattainable for me. I imagine it probably makes things pretty handy though.
There's many different genres to choose from, though personally, not enough in genres I enjoy. You will find a lot of the standard karaoke ones though, pop being obviously the biggest category with a really current selection. As someone who doesn't enjoy pop, avoids current popular music like the plague, only knows pop songs from the 90s, I didn't find there to be much choice.
I poked around a bit in the Rock sections and also found them lacking. So if you much prefer metal, like myself, you're better off sticking to Rock Band and the Rock Band Network. Otherwise if pop is your thing, and you listen to the radio, I think you would probably be happy with the choice.
All the songs are always available to you and there is no ability or need to purchase DLC.
Gameplay & The Karaoke-Kinect Experience
Overall the game is pretty typical of what you expect from karaoke. You can use your USB microphones or even the wireless Lips microphones to play. You choose your song (you have the option to remove the lead vocal voice if desired), and you will see your avatar sing on a stage while the words scroll across the screen. Pretty standard stuff.
Doing well increases your "fan meter" (this is the name I've given it, I'm not sure what it is really called or if it even has a name) and there are nodes which represent a threshold that give you more fans when you reach them.
More fans mean more "moolah" (the in game currency) which your manager will then use to buy you more equipment and/or band members and more levels. Each piece of equipment gives fan bonuses and each acquired new band member (more like instrument, the game makes it seem) will ALWAYS be present on stage regardless of whether or not that instrument is actually relavent to the song. I find that a bit lame and cheesy, especially when you start having a DJ and Back-up Singers. At least in games like Rock Band instruments on screen were relevant to the song played (for the most part, excepting dance/pop style songs). The stage can end up looking REALLY cluttered.
I'm not really sure how accuracy is judged in the game. I tried to pay attention and the only things I noticed was that if you start at the same moment as the words that scroll by start the game "likes" that, and it also seems to like vibrato. Vibrato can add something to a song or it can totally ruin it (especially when weak singers abuse it), so it doesn't always mean that doing well will naturally sound good (just like any other karaoke game really). Normally though, one at least has to stay on pitch.
The game also uses kinect.This was an aspect I found highly amusing. While you're singing you will be told "get ready to pose". In those cases you will get a kinect preview window and your on-screen avatar will then strike a pose. You will be expected to replicate the pose. Successful replication leads to another pose until the spotlight wears off. For each successful pose you will get a fan bonus. The poses are pretty silly and sometimes it is tricky to pull them off while still singing, but I imagine this part can be really fun with parties and friends.
If you're curious to see gameplay in action, I have uploaded this video with annotations to try to explain a bit how the game works. You can of course try one of the 5 free available songs that change daily (around 15H/3pm GMT +1) and find out for yourself.
Xbox 360 Karaoke App Demonstration Video
Sound Technicalities, Levels
This isn't really going to pertain to most people, but in my circle there are quite a few of us who play karaoke type games and upload those videos to youtube and this is where these problems are most evident.
I noticed the game isn't having the best sound levels. The background music of the game in general is quite low in proportion to the microphone volume. This generally leads to you wanting to turn up the volume and ends up with you being overpoweringly loud to be able to have the music. It made my 4 year old daughter complain and leave the room.
To compensate, one would naturally then turn down the microphone volume. However, when I did this and found a volume setting that seemed ok, I noticed that the backing vocals (not present on all songs, but present on quite a few) end up being louder than the microphone. As these are karaoke tracks, the backing vocalists are not the orginals and in some cases are (in my opinion) just BAD. In cases of youtube videos you would find yourself drowned in backing vocals which defeats the point of BACKING vocals.
Unfortunately the game doesn't offer any audio options aside from mic volume than can remedy this. So this is a major complaint and negative in my book. It could also be that Rock Band has spoiled me by allowing me to control multiple volume settings, it is just a karaoke game after all and karaoke is not generally something to be taken seriously, but something to have fun with.
Overall ImpressionOverall I enjoyed the game. Albeit, there are only about 50 songs in the library I know and/or can tolerate, it can be fun now and again. The payment system irks me to no end and prevents me from playing it as much as I would if I actually owned the game due to time and financial constraints.
I would highly recommend the Karaoke App for evenings with friends who enjoy karaoke or parties and things like that. However, if you're someone who tends to play alone and more seriously the game is not high on my list of games geared more towards those kinds of players.
Mind you, I'm not saying that you shouldn't give it a go at all, and let's not forget there are 5 free songs every day (better for someone who is current in pop music because you're most likely going to see things like Adele or Gangnam Style /eyeroll), but it will be hard for your to feel like you can get your moneys worth out of the game, and that isn't a pleasant feeling.
For more info regarding the Karaoke App on xbox 360, you can check out their FAQ here:
Karaoke for xbox 360- FAQ
Anexian RelevancyAs for myself personally, I will use the game from time to time. I like that it will help me keep my youtube channel fresh, even if the sound quality from the game and microphones is pretty bad.
My Shure SM 58 A beta + XLR -> USB cable combination doesn't work well with the game at all (you can't hear anything), so I'm forced to use the wireless xbox 360 microphone which really sucks and my voice over powers. I've found a solution that helps a bit of putting a sock over the mic, but then I tend to sound buried (normal).
I've already uploaded a few videos. I regret that due to the session pass requirement, I can't spend more time to try to record something where I sing better. I feel a bit rushed to make the most of my pass, especially with a computer that has taken to blue screening a lot lately (I'm trying to see about getting a new one, especially before The Elder Scrolls Online release). But then again, it is karaoke after all. It is not much different than if were were both at the same karaoke bar.
You can find the videos I have uploaded so far on this playlist and there are more coming soon: