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Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol Encore 2
Score: 65%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Blitz Games
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Rhythm/ Miscellaneous/ Party

Graphics & Sound:
Graphics and Sound: Although I didn't review Karaoke Revolution Presents American Idol Encore, I did borrow it from a friend for comparison purposes to the latest iteration, Karaoke Revolution Presents American Idol Encore 2. All I can say is, "what have they done with my favorite karaoke game series?" While Randy, Paula and Simon look a bit more like themselves, they still take a long ride into the uncanny valley. Vacant, hollow eyes, odd expressions and weird gestures are the order of the day here. Oh, and don't even get me started about your avatar! There are 16 characters to choose from, initially, and several more that you can unlock. However, gone are the days where you could totally customize your character. While you can make some changes, it's not nearly as robust as it was in the old days. You can change around clothing styles and such, but that's about it. Once you have selected a character and you begin to perform, your character will sing and dance about on the screen in front of the judges. Now come on, I used to watch American Idol back in the day, too, and most people, at least most sane people, didn't behave this way. If they did, they were laughed off the stage. But there your avatar is, acting like a moron. Sometimes it's downright painful to watch.

Now, even with the unbearable avatar behavior and the creepy judges, at least we used to be able to count on awesome song selections and really good covers of those songs. Oh well, not anymore. While there are some decent song selections, some of the covers of them are reprehensible. The cover of Sheryl Crow's "If It Makes You Happy" makes me absolutely cringe, which is a shame, because I rather like the song. Whoever sang it sounds like they have a terrible cold. John Lennon's "Imagine" isn't bad and neither is Coldplay's "Speed of Sound," but they aren't enough to redeem this game. In fact, Geck0 was watching me play and commented that it sounded like they literally pulled people in off the streets to sing these songs - people who may have been living on the corner just moments before. Sure, you can download new songs online, but when I looked at what was available, it looked like old songs from pervious versions and nothing worth checking out. Overall, Karaoke Revolution Presents American Idol Encore 2 earns an "F" in this department.

Well, I always used to be able to compare SingStar (KR's main competition in the karaoke videogame department) to Karaoke Revolution and say, why can't SingStar be more like Karaoke Revolution? Well, no more. I know Harmonix is off doing bigger and better things with Rock Band, and thank God for it, but why did Blitz Games have to change so much about this series? Sure, it is still a karaoke game, but apart from that, it's simply not the same game series that it was during its glory days.

After you have selected your character, you can opt to play Quickplay, which is just a matter of picking your character, venue and an available song, selecting the difficulty and singing away. If you want to unlock content such as unlockable songs, additional clothing, accessories, videos and characters, you'll want to play in Tournament Mode. Here, you'll get the full American Idol experience as you work your way through the famous venues with the judging critiquing you all the way. You can select whether your contest length will be Mini, Short, Medium or Full, each depending on the number of songs you will perform, and you can decide whether or not you want your accruing score to be displayed during your performance or not until the end. If you do well, you'll pass through the elimination round and move on until you have worked your way through to the final round to become the American Idol. Finally, you'll be asked to perform an encore, just like in the show. It will be a repeat of a song you've already performed and it won't be scored, of course.

For those who just want to do one song and not the full tournament, you can sing a Single Song. If you have friends, you can compete in a Multiplayer Contest with anywhere from 2 to 8 people with rounds from 1 to 7. You can also opt whether to have CPU contestants involved and also whether or not to have Eliminations in effect. If not, everyone keeps playing until the final round where the score tells who won. When you are playing with another player, you can either sing cooperative duets or you can battle them. While in Battle, you can play Head to Head, in a League or in Duet Battles, which is a team-based battle with 2 to 4 duet teams.

If you don't have any friends to come sit in your living room with you, you can play online in either Quick Match, Custom Match or Create Match. Quick Match means you join the first available online game, whereas Custom Match searches for matches that meet your specs based on number of rounds or opponents. Finally, Create Match lets you customize everything. You can also compete in Arcade League, which is a tournament - just online.

Finally, if you prefer not to be scored, you can play in Karaoke Mode where you simply sing the song with no scoring whatsoever. You don't even have to plug in the mic, but where's the fun in that?

Difficulty is based on the song you select, who you play against and quite frankly, sometimes just looking at the judges. It's painful, I tell you! When you select a song, you can choose between Easy, Medium, Hard or Expert and, depending on which one you select, you will be judged either more easily or more strictly. Songs themselves range in difficulty as well. Songs with one star are the easiest, while songs with three stars are the toughest. You can also select whether to sing the full song or a shortened version of it, it you think it's going to be too difficult to make it all the way through.

Game Mechanics:
As always, Karaoke Revolution Presents American Idol Encore 2 provides you with a pitch bar to make sure you are singing on pitch and the words scrolling below the pitch bar, so you can see what you are supposed to sing. This has always been the optimal interface, despite what SingStar would have us believe. With the visual pitch bar, you can tell if you are too high or too low based on where you singing falls on the scale. Also, you don't have to sing the exact words, either. As long as your pitch and timing matches up to what the game is expecting you to sing, you'll do well. Note Tubes will appear as the song progresses and when you sing in the right pitch and at the correct time, the Note Tubes will fill, awarding you points. Song parts are broken up into phrases and as you complete the phrases, you'll receive a rating such as Awful, Bad, Okay, Good or Great. This is a pretty good indicator of how you are doing. Depending on what your phrase ratings are, you can build excitement with the crowd. Get a lot of Good or Great ratings and the Crowd Meter will fill. Do poorly and the crowd loses faith, along with the judges, eventually resulting in you being asked to stop singing. If you spot sparkling Note Tubes, nailing these will net you a Crowd Boost which can send your Crowd Meter way up there, so these are good to watch for if you are doing badly.

If, however, you can keep up the magic and you continue to get Goods or Greats in a row, you can earn combos and really rack up the points. Then high enough, the number of total points for a song can also earn you Silver, Gold or Diamond records for that song. Earning these high scores and the corresponding records will allow you to unlock the additional content mentioned earlier.

Ok, so everything I have said sounds pretty much like the old Karaoke Revolution games, back when they were great. The truth is, this game just isn't fun. Slapping the American Idol veneer on what was once a terrific game has really brought it down and changed the entire game such that it's simply not a joy to play anymore. Working your way up the American Idol ladder would seem to be something that would be fun, but listening to the judges ramble on and on, far more so than they ever do on the show, is just a chore and while you can skip what they say, you'd do better to skip this game, altogether. While some of the song choices aren't bad, the covers of those songs are mostly terrible and the judges are creepy. Do yourself a favor and go buy the older versions on Ebay.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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