Karaoke, an exclusive Xbox 360 game from Microsoft and Stingray Digital Group, is available today for download from the Xbox Live Marketplace. Last week I had an opportunity to take Karaoke out for a test sing and had a pretty good time. Karaoke is a polished, easily accessible singing experience that’s perfect for friends/ parties/ vocal warm-ups for your The Voice audition (oh I hope Adam picks me!!). The game (which installs as an app in your dashboard) functions just like a home karaoke machine and gives you access to an 8,000+ song library. How you access those songs might surprise you but more on that in just a moment.
Fire up the game, pick your song (or songs), get on the mic, and start singing. It’s that easy. Songs stream instantly to your Xbox so you don’t have to wait for your favorite jam to download and the game makes a minimal footprint on your Xbox 360. You can even use the game’s built in SmartGlass integration to queue up songs on your phone or tablet if someone’s hogging the mic (protip: there’s an achievement for doing that).
Just like your local karaoke bar, a fairly decent instrumental rendition of your song choice plays while the accompanying lyrics light up on the screen. Unlike your local karaoke bar, your Xbox avatar rocks out to your song on a virtual stage, gathering virtual fans when you properly match the lyrics. The more fans you get, the more “moola” you earn. You use moola to buy in-game props and wardrobe which, in turn, bring more fans. There’s also Kinect integration (at certain moments the game asks you to match your avatar’s pose to attract additional fans) and achievements. Ultimately you don’t have to participate in any of videogame elements of Karaoke but their inclusion round out the game’s fairly successful attempt to please the gamer crowd and the karaoke crowd.
Karaoke is free to download and features a free track list of 5 songs that change every day. Pretty cool right? The catch is you have to pay for blocks of time to access the rest of the song library. Pretty... murky right? 240 Microsoft points ($3) gets you a 2 hour block of full access to the 8,000+ song library (there’s also 8 hour and 24 hour blocks you can purchase). My kneejerk reaction to this business model was “something’s fishy, I don’t like it”, but as I played around with Karaoke my stance softened. There’s a hell of a lot of music available and the game easily lets you create and save playlists, tag your favorite songs, and search song history. Fairly reasonable for $3 but that’s really up to you.
Hopefully you have an Xbox wireless microphone (or compatible USB microphone) because singing into the 360 headset while holding the controller didn’t feel like the optimal setup for gettin’ down. I still managed to crush several Stone Temple Pilots songs using the headset but juggling the controller in my hands definitely broke the illusion that I WAS Scott Weiland.
Bottom line: Karaoke is fun and provides exactly what you want/ expect from a game/ app called Karaoke. It’s also free so it’s worth a shot. I have a feeling karaoke fans will dig it and if you’re not into karaoke at all then I’m kind of surprised you’ve read this far. For my little achievement freaks out there: I was able to get about 35 Karaoke achievements in 20 minutes using only the 5 free songs that were available the first day I tried Karaoke out.