'Karaoke Revolution: American Idol'
(PlayStation2 / ASIN: B000GLKQCA / Rated: 10+ / $39.99)
Features: Compete in the new American Idol mode, which can be played in single or multiplayer. Also features popular Karaoke Revolution game modes such as KR Challenge, Medley and Quickplay. Up to 8 people can compete in head-to-head or team-based modes. Players can sing together in Duet Mode to see who has the most star power.
Description: 'Karaoke Revolution: American Idol' lets you sing and perform using a USB headset/microphone as you compete through a fully recreated virtual season of the #1 TV show in America. Play the part of an American Idol contestant as you audition, earn an invitation to Hollywood, and ultimately perform on center stage at the finale. As you progress through the game your popularity with the crowd and comments from Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson, both positive and sometimes outrageously negative, will affect whether or not you move on to the next round of competition.
Verdict: In truth, this was the first ever Karaoke game I have ever played ... and I was very quickly surprised to find myself addicted to it after just 30 minutes of singing! I started off with a terrible voice but after many days of practice, I'm probably much closer to being an average male singer. No, I still can't remember most of the words to the songs until I see them pop up on the screen, but my singing has improved enough to get several Diamond records (highest you can get) on the easiest of the 4 difficulty levels; for some of the easier songs like 'Piano Man', 'Can't Help Falling in Love' or 'Breakaway.'
Even with only 40 songs, it's fun to try to better your high scores, and if you have all the other 5 Karaoke Revolution games, you'll have over 230 songs to sing, so repetition is less of a problem.
There are also 100 unlockables in this game, including about 24 videos (some fullscreen and some widescreen) from the American Idol Tv show. None of the clips are for entire songs and generally only run 90 seconds or less, but they do feature Kelly Clarkson, Katherine McPhee,Clay Aiken,Taylor Hicks, etc.,(singing songs only from this game) and sometimes join 4 different singers spliced together singing the same song. There are also some funny auditions included, like William Hung's 'She Bangs' and the Wasp guy. It's too bad the singing clips are so short but it's better than nothing. Of the 40 songs in the game, only 4 need to be unlocked and it's easy to do. To unlock 'Flying Without Wings', you just need 500,00 total points. To unlock 'Piano Man', earn 4 platinum records. To unlock 'Straight Up' earn 6 platinum records. To unlock 'The Real Thing', just get 1.5 million total points in the game.
As for the all important graphics, the cartoony characters are basically the same (if not identical) as in the previous versions and are still nice enough to look at, although until you learn the song melody well enough, you'll be spending most of your time staring at the pitch arrow and the note tubes to see how accurate your pitch is. Then of course there's always the lyrics to learn, if you want to sound even more authentic.
Paula Abdul is missing from the game, replaced by her cheaper but still effective counterpart Laura. However, only Simon is really necessary anyway. Simon and Randy look close enough to their real life selves and some of the background venues have nice touches, but I think all of them (other than the American Idol stages), were in the previous versions with sometimes just slightly different things going on. For instance, here in the beach venue you see an airplane in the background, which has a banner trailing behind it which shows your name on it and it says, 'Happy spring break with (insert your name) on the mic.'; whereas in 'Kar. Rev. Party' from last year, the plane's banner said, '(Insert your name) will you marry me?', which is much funnier. The Central Station venue with the subway train going by you is still nice and looks basically the same.
Also, if you sing poorly, your crowd meter goes down and you'll notice there are fewer people in the crowd because people are walking out on you and some will hold their hands over their ears. Occasionally, I sing poorly on purpose, just to watch all this and other various things happening!
The various clothing choices are cute, and it's always fun to create a fatso or a skin and bones starlet, and the better you do, the more stuff you'll unlock.
As for actual gameplay, just like before, the game grades you on how accurately your pitch matches the singers. An on-screen pitch arrow rises or falls as you raise or lower your voice, trying to match it up with the note bars that appear on screen. The more you fill your meter up, the higher rating you get for each phrase. String several good or great ratings consecutively together for each phrase and you'll get a combo bonus and also increase the crowd meter and soon double your scoring. You'll soon start to glow and the crowd will cheer more. You DON'T have to sing the words correctly, but if you sing the phrases (that are sparkling) well enough (pitch-wise), you'll also get a crowd boost. If the crowd meter goes to the bottom red part for too long, you'll be booed off the stage before the song even finishes. Unless you stop singing, or are completely tone deaf, this will never happen to you so don't worry about it.
So, in all truth, this is basically the same game as the previous versions, except with the American Idol contest added, and that you can play as either an 8, 13 or 18 round game. It's easy to win on the easy difficulty level. Just save the songs you're good at (for the closing rounds, once you sing a song it's removed from the list and you can't sing it again in the contest), till the last 3 rounds or so and you'll do fine.
For more of a challenge, let the game randomly choose what song you sing in each round or try the harder difficulty levels, which will have larger meters to fill,so it's tougher to get "Good" and "Great" ratings for each phrase. As well, try singing without the note bars or the singer, to see how good you really are.
Some people think this game is tougher than the previous versions of the game, but they all seem about the same to me. However, I think this version may be a bit easier than some of the earlier versions, but I could be wrong.
In the 18 round American Idol contest, only in the first 4 rounds do the judges decide if you advance. After that, the fan voting comes into play. You only hear Ryan Seacrest's voice, but never actually see him. Nor do you see or hear the other contestants. You just see their names and yours and how many stars each of you got for your song. In round 5, four people are eliminated and 20 stay. Then from round 8 onwards, only one person is eliminated. After you win there's a dull screen saying you're the American Idol Champion and you also get to sing your encore without being judged of course.
Also, you can save after each round so you can quit and resume the contest at anytime. Also, if you lose, they let you retry the song or pick another one right away. You can even play the American Idol Quick play mode which lets you sing one song and then hear what the judges think of you. Your high scores will still be saved in this mode as well.
The problem with the judges is that they sometimes get the facts wrong. Once, during a contest, while I had over 20,000 points and singing well enough, the judges were covering their ears and at the end said my pitch wasn't good and that I shouldn't have sung this song again because it was even worse this time around. Not only do I not remember singing that song in the previous 7 rounds (although I might have?), but more important, is the fact that I got my highest score and a platinum record for this song which then unlocked some stuff. So obviously I sang it better this time (even if Simon was right that I had sung it before?). Most of the time however, they get it right and even though they sometimes repeat much of their dialogue, they have enough different variations to keep it interesting and give you a chuckle or too. Once you've heard it all, you can always just skip their comments anyway.
There's also a Medly mode, again, where you can sing parts of three, four or five songs strung together, but since your scores are NOT saved in this mode I don't play it much. I suppose you could write down your best scores but I'm too lazy to bother.
So, if you only want to buy ONE of these other versions, then just pick the one with more of your favorite songs in it. However, if you want to be able to sing DUETS with a friend , DON'T buy the first one or Volume 2. As well, all of the other versions have about 35-37 songs in them, except for 'Kar. Rev. Party,' which has 50 songs.
In summary, this is a great game for lousy singers who want to improve to at least a bad or average singing level. And even if you're an already good singer, you can use this game to show off to your friends and even learn some of the lyrics to 40 songs. Of course, this also makes an even better party game, but because the game shows you how much you unlocked and how much of the 100 unlockables are still left to unlock, you'll probably have trouble stopping yourself from singing. You'll say to yourself, "Just one more song, and then I'll go to bed" or perhaps, "Uggh, I just missed the platinum record by 185 points, I've gotta try one more time!"
Reviewed by Tab Walker