High School Musical: Sing It!

Although High School Musical: Sing It! uses the SingStar microphones and has a few inevitable similarities to that series, it takes an entirely different approach to the singing game. So whilst SingStar involves a lot of original music videos, in this game you play a character, and that character changes and responds according to your progress.

Fail to hit the right notes and characters will tap the microphone in frustration and look bemused. But when you up your game their performance improves, and they may even do some extra dance moves. So the game is more dynamic than singing to a music video that stays the same each time it's played.

However, the graphics do have one major drawback: they are unclear. The system is similar to SingStar in that you try to match your voice to the bars that appear on screen. A basketball moves up and down on a vertical bar to indicate where your pitch is. Unfortunately the grey and blue bars aren't always easy to make out over the background graphics, so often it's difficult to visualise how high or low you are meant to sing, and the indication of how far you may have missed a note by is gone instantly rather than persisting for the duration of the line. The first problem could have been fixed by including higher contrast areas with fewer details on all of the scenes. Most lines are okay, but there are several scenes and camera angles that aren't well planned, and this is annoying.

Quick Play, Story Mode and Party Mode are the main ways to play. In Story one of the characters narrates the outline of the movie, and this is broken up by some of the songs. There are no cut scenes from the film, however, so it's just a summary of the story. This mode is quite short, and you don't have to work hard to unlock each part, you just go straight through to the next song. This makes it an appropriate length for completing the whole thing in one sitting, so it's a length that won't strain most people's voices.

The main challenge in High School Musical: Sing It! is not through Story Mode, but in unlocking all of the various goodies available. This can be done in any mode, and the better your score the more can be unlocked. You also need to play the game as a variety of characters. There's an explanation of exactly what you need to do to for each unlock in the Extras section. New songs and environments are open to all players, but new outfits are only available to the profile of the person who unlocked them. This means that as well as striving to get high scores on 30 songs, there's a lot to aim for. There's only one difficulty level, though.

The songs themselves won't be familiar unless you've seen the movies, since there are no famous covers amongst them. Like a lot of modern pop the lyrics tend to be fast, and in some of the songs there's an almost breathless pace. This makes them relatively difficult. The lyrics are available at the back of the game booklet, which may help. Yet the only chance to listen to the songs without competing is on the song and character selection screen that comes up just before you play, so there's no opportunity to listen whilst watching the note bars. The music itself is pure pop, entirely forgettable but inoffensive in small doses.

Some of the profiles may be named after movie characters, but this doesn't mean you have to stick with the Troy character for Troy's profile, for instance. You can even sing duets with two instances of the same character. The game developers didn't bother to lay down separate vocal tracks for each character, so this means it's possible to have a female character singing with a male voice, and vice versa. It's a little odd, although in a game featuring such utterly conventional characters a little oddity doesn't go amiss, even if it is accidental.

One point to note is that the default volume for the players is probably too high, and this can result in an unpleasant sound from the microphones if you hold them too close. There are options to adjust player, character and audience volumes in the Extras section. Audience sound effects can be created during a song by using the regular controller, meaning that 3 people can play the game simultaneously.

Also in the Extras section you'll find a number of short videos. The cast interviews and dance rehearsal footage are predictably dull, but there's also a video that goes over some of the dance moves for a few of the songs. It's a good short tutorial of the basic moves, presented by cast members.

Overall High School Musical: Sing It! has a lot to please existing fans of the music. It does have a few flaws in its execution, but it gives a new spin to the singing game and has a reasonable amount of durability because it takes a while to unlock all it has to offer. It won't suit all tastes, but for those who like vanilla pop music it could give hours of U-rated enjoyment.