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SingStar Country
Score: 70%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: London Studio
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Rhythm/ Party/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:
Another SingStar release and another slew of tunes so you can sing your heart out. This go round, it's all about the country music. SingStar Country has plenty of tunes from mega stars like Alan Jackson ("Chattahoochee" and "Good Time"), Brad Paisley ("Online"), Keith Urban ("Days Go By"), Martina McBride ("A Broken Wing") and Rascal Flatts ("Bless the Broken Road"), plus American Idol alums Kellie Pickler ("Red High Heels") and Bucky Covington ("It's Good To Be Us"). Strange and obvious omissions include country music smashing success Carrie Underwood, who is nowhere to be found, and also old standards like Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. And I know I am not the biggest country music expert, but I have never heard of Willie Nelson's "Pancho and Lefty," personally. Seems like one of his other classics would have been a wiser inclusion. But they did include two Johnny Cash tunes, so that is cool. "A Boy Named Sue" and "I Walk the Line" are present and accounted for.

Now, once again, I'll admit I am not the biggest country music fan, but since I have the SingStar mics and am the designated SingStar reviewer, this title fell on me. So I polled all of my friends who are fans of country music and apparently, there's a fairly good mix here of somewhat recent top country 40 stuff. All I know is undoubtedly, some of these songs are a lot of fun to sing, so you can't argue with that.

The interface is typical of what we have come to expect from a SingStar game. Very clean and slick, quite easy to read and understand. Behind the songs, you'll see the music videos playing, and on the songs that came from a time before MTV (Johnny Cash and such), SingStar has created graphics to play behind the songs. They do the job and not much more.


Gameplay:
There's a good chance that if you are reading this, it is because you already have a SingStar game and you just want your injection of country lovin'. But if you are new to the SingStar world, let me give you a briefing. SingStar Country is purely a karaoke singing game and tends to be more of a party game than a single player experience. Gather your cowboys and cowgirls together and you've got yourself one helluva rodeo here. Basically, there are no unlockable songs or anything like that, just a list of songs to choose from. Select your mode and style of play and you are off and running.

First, decide whether to Sing Solo or with other players. If you choose to Sing Solo, then you simply select your level of difficulty and whether you want to sing the normal or short song length, then away you go. In a party situation, you have multiple choices. You can select between Pass the Mic or Team Games. Within Pass the Mic, you will face rounds of challenges including Battle, Medley, First to the Post, Duet, Keep It Up, Micro-Medley and Pass the Mic. The challenges range from hitting a high score, to keeping your performance bar above a certain range, to fighting it out with another player to get the best score on a certain song. Team Games is the same thing, you can just have more players (up to 4 per team) and you will form Red and Blue teams. You can also play Freestyle, which doesn't score you.

If you are really proud of your performance, you can save it and hit Playback to watch it over as many times as you want. If you like tweaking with things, then you can add a range of sound effects to your recording, anything from voice changers to special effects. If you have an Eyetoy camera, you can see yourself performing in the background instead of the music video.


Difficulty:
Your options are to perform the song on Easy, Medium or Hard and this will affect how strictly you are scored. The highest rank you can achieve on a song is SingStar, although there are some really depressing ranks like Hopeful or Tone Deaf as well. But unlike Karaoke Revolution type games where you are trying to unlock songs and progress, the SingStar is all about singing and really, who cares if you score perfectly? Just have fun doing it! Some songs will be more difficult to sing than others, especially if you don't really know the sings, but they are still a fun mix of tunes and you can learn them in Freestyle.

Game Mechanics:
In SingStar Country, just as in all previous SingStar releases, when you choose a song, the lyrics will appear at the bottom of the screen and the pitch and timing indicators will show in the middle of the screen, with the requisite music video playing in the background. The gray bars will show you what pitch you need to reach to strike just the right notes. The more elevated the gray bars on the screen, the higher the pitch. The length of the bars determines how long you will be required to hold the notes. As you complete song stanzas, you'll get scored and the phrase rank that pops up will tell you in no uncertain terms what SingStar thinks of you. You can sing pretty much anything you want to, as long as you keep in time to the music as if you are singing the the lyrics. Additionally, there's a performance meter which tells you how you are doing overall, plus how you are currently doing. Green means you are doing well, yellow means you are holding your own and red means you are not doing well. If you have been doing terrific all the way through and then start to mess up near the end, then your bar won't immediately drop to red because you've built up a stockpile of green, essentially. When you start a song, it starts dead center in the yellow, so work to increase it. There's also a handy dandy track time counter near the top of the screen, although its really pale and sometimes barely able to be read, depending on the background video. This tells you how much of the song you have finished and what remains. Lastly, Golden Notes are the really difficult notes, either super long or high notes. When you ace these, they rack up extra points for you.

All you really need to know is this - do you like the list of available songs? If you are a country music fan, then you probably will. Check the list and make sure before you invest. Here's a song list to help you make your decision.


-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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