Karaoke games – they're a genre that can be made or broken by their song selection. And while the We Sing series do generally have impeccable taste in track lists, sometimes you want something a little less, well, pop-y. Tired of the Girls Aloud, Amy Winehouse and Lady Gagas of every karaoke game on the face of the planet, the people behind We Sing have come up with a solution for those tired of singing along to the impossibly happy beats of mainstream music, in the form of We Sing: Rock. From Alice Cooper to Whitesnake, the forty songs cover a wide range of 'rock' music, from several different decades - with a few more "pop-y" rock tracks thrown in for good measure (we're not convinced Sheryl Crow's really a rocker, for example...).
We Sing: Rock is the fifth game in the We Sing series, following on from the solid karaoke foundations of it's predecessors We Sing, We Sing: Encore, We Sing: Robbie Williams and We Sing: UK Hits. It's not brand new, it's not revolutionary and it doesn't do anything different to the other games – but it's still as much fun as the games that came before it - and at the end of the day, isn't that all that matters? To be honest, there's not really much more they could do but give us a new batch of songs to murder – maybe they could add a few more modes, maybe expand the single-player a bit, but as a wise man once said - if it ain't broke, don't fix it...
The We Sing games are dead easy to pick up and play – up to four people can join in, who'll each need their own microphone, although if you want to play with more than two players, you'll need a separate USB hub to plug all your microphones in, as the Wii only has two USB ports round the back. Then it's a simple matter of launching the game, and deciding which song to try first (and maybe which mode, if you're feeling daring). Once you're in a song, you just need to sing along, following the pitch bars, who's vertical position on the screen dictates the pitch of each note relative to each other, and reading the lyrics. The better you sing, and the more points you'll score – and the closer you'll get to winning.
Depending on whether you just want a simple sing-along or a more challenging croon, We Sing: Rock has a difficulty level to suit. As you increase in difficulty from Easy to Medium to Hard, the margin of error you're allowed is decreased to suit, with the pitch bar getting visibly slimmer as you crank up the difficulty. Some songs are easier than others, regardless of the difficulty you're playing on – it turns out The Darkness' 'I Believe In A Thing Called Love' isn't actually as difficult as you thought, providing you can hit the high notes anyway. That being said, you don't actually need to worry about going that high anyway, as We Sing doesn't mind if you sing the same note but in a different octave – an A is still an A, no matter whether it's a deep rumble or so high only your dog will hear it.
Like dancing games, karaoke games are best enjoyed with a group of friends – and this is where We Sing really shines, featuring eight different modes offering a mixture of competitive and cooperative singing:
- 'We Sing' is the standard cooperative mode, where everyone works towards a cumulative score, and no-one's individual performance is shown
- 'Pass The Mic' is a twist on a standard cooperative mode, where everyone shares one microphone, one song and one score. You take it in turns to sing sections of the song before swapping to another, randomly chosen, player
- 'Versus' has you going head to head against the other players in a battle for the best score
- 'Team Battle' is similar, except you're split into two teams, which don't necessarily have to be even, in a multiplayer sing-off
- 'First To X' lets you set a point-based objective, where the first one of you to cross the score line wins
- 'Marathon' lets you create a massive list of songs for you to all sing through, where the winner is declared at the end based on the best average score across all the songs
- 'Expert' is a serious business, as there's no pitch bars or lyrics shown, leaving you and your memory all on their lonesome – like Nando's Extra Hot chicken, you'll need serious skills or reckless bravado to survive
- 'Blind' likes to lull you into a false sense of security, showing you pitch bars and lyrics for a time, before removing them and the sound at random intervals – how rude
Comparatively, the solo mode is quite lacking, leaving you with a choice between singing 'Solo' through the songs, or trying to tackle the deceptively difficult singing 'Lessons' - we can't help wondering if they could have bolstered the solo mode a bit by adding in a few variations, like letting you try the songs in single-player versions of the Expert and Blind multiplayer modes. For a bit of longevity, the 'Awards' section gives you specific objective-based achievements to unlock, from the mundane “sing your first song” and “sing your first random song”, to the more advanced “get 9000 points on each song” and “complete all the singing lessons”. There's also a few random ones, like “pick the developer's favourite background” or “choose the worst combination ever” to figure out.
While there's not really much more you want from a karaoke game except a stellar selection of songs – and on that front, We Sing: Rock definitely delivers – having a formula that doesn't really change much from one game to the next does make the games quite hard to review. But if your game is fun, and We Sing: Rock certainly is, as we've had to be dragged away from our Wii to more "pressing" matters more than once? As it stands, We Sing: Rock may have beaten We Sing: Robbie Williams as my favourite Wii karaoke game of all time - maybe it'll do the same for you...