SingStar Rock Ballads

As with many SingStar collections, the title of SingStar Rock Ballads isn't entirely precise. There are several tracks which stretch the definition of rock (Sugababes' "Too Lost In You"; Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time"), some which aren't exactly ballads (Queen's The Show Must Go On"), and some songs which are neither rock nor ballad (Duran Duran's "Ordinary World", Marc Cohn's "Walking In Memphis"). Nevertheless this is one of the strongest track lists for a SingStar game, full of recognisable songs, mostly from the eighties or thereabouts.

The best aspect of singing power ballads is getting to belt out long, loud notes liable to shake the building and wake up your neighbours in the next street. These tracks have this sort of vocal in spades, giving you more time to hit the correct pitch and really stretching your lung capacity. However, what SingStar Rock Ballads shows up is the way SingStar games have no scoring for dynamics (that's the way you change the volume of your voice as you sing). So it makes no difference whether you sing close to a whisper throughout, so long as you are singing loud enough for the microphone to pick up your voice it won't affect your score.

Although there are more male vocals than female in this game, a lot of the tracks are by singers with voices at the higher end of the scale. So the lower your vocal range, the more likely it is that you will need to sing a different octave than the artist. In other words, if your voice is like Barry White's you will find some songs in this game slightly harder.

There's a little less variety than on most SingStar games, since for some reason both Mr Mister and Roxette have two tracks each. It's almost as though the developers ran out of ideas for artists and bands to include (how about Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Van Halen, or The Rolling Stones? I could go on, but you don't need to know the entire contents of my music collection), and just added some pop and a few extra tracks by the same bands to pad things out a bit.

Meatloaf's "I Would Do Anything For Love" suffers from the way both the backing and the main vocals are scored, even though they are more or less back-to-back. There's a similar problems with "Too Lost In You", which is designed to be sung by three people. Neither song works very well in solo mode, because there aren't enough pauses for breath. The developers could have put in more non-scoring sections, so why didn't they?

Unlike some versions of this game, SingStar Rock Ballads lacks an introductory video. This is no loss, since it's just one less thing to skip past as the game loads. On the whole, in spite of a few small flaws in game design this is one of the best SingStars to date, with a satisfying track list that carries very little dead weight.

Features Common To All SingStar Games

The concept behind SingStar is very simple. You sing the words as they appear on screen, and bars appear indicating how high or low the notes should be sung, and how long each note lasts. If you sing in tune, the bar lights up, and if you're off-key a line appears above or below the bar to show how far out you were.

After a few songs you may realise that the scoring is rather generous. On the Easy level you might gain points for hitting nearly the right note. Singing too flat or sharp can sound just as bad as singing a note that's half an octave out, so nearly is not good enough. It's not until you move up to the Hard level that the game requires a decent level of accuracy. However, this does give you a chance to measure your progress even when you can't sing your way out of a paper bag.

Playback is a fantastic feature for analysing and tracking your progress. You can use it to record your singing (if you have enough space in your memory card - it does take up a lot if you do this several times), or you can play it back immediately. This can be excruciating, but it really does help you to critique your singing. It also does confirm the accuracy of this game's scoring, if you had any doubts.

There are various battle, duet and multiplayer modes, which are good for parties. You can also load songs from other SingStar titles without having to start a new game each time, a feature which is handy if not crucial.