Few expected the pairing of the Karaoke Revolution franchise and the popular American Idol television license (previously tied to a horrifying 2003 dance game) to produce such a genuine, revitalized iteration of the aging sing-along series, but it happened - and we're better singers because of it (maybe).
Thirteen months later, Konami is back with Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol Encore, and the addition of that final word to the title should tell you a lot about what to expect from this multiplatform sequel: it's more of the same. As with the last game, you'll ascend through the ranks of a mock singing competition by matching the vocal pitch using the included USB microphone, though the songs can be tackled individually as well. Randy and Simon from the show are joined this time around by Paula Abdul (who sat out the last game), and their post-performance barbs/kudos pack a little more spice, but still repeat on occasion.
Bands often save their best song(s) for the encore, and while we can't be sure of a concerted effort in that regard from Konami, there are some unexpected classics among the 40 included tracks. Notable favorites like "Tiny Dancer," "In the Air Tonight," and "Bohemian Rhapsody" lead a rocking back catalog, while "Unfaithful" and "Lips of an Angel" - along with others that aren't adultery slow jams - will keep younger warblers intrigued. Cover songs are still the norm for the franchise, which typically isn't a big deal, but a handful of curious interpretations had us longing for master tracks.
Online play marks the most notable addition to the Xbox 360 version of American Idol Encore, and while the currently sparse servers made it tough to get a tournament going, we enjoyed the lag-free head-to-head matches we stumbled into (and promptly dominated). Encore doesn't make any significant visual leaps with the hardware upgrade, but the HD glaze results in some compelling backgrounds and noticeably improved character models.
Each of the prominent singing games on the market has a hook - SingStar has authenticity (via original songs/videos) and Rock Band has the multi-instrumental appeal - but the Idol license alone doesn't set this genre originator apart from the pack. Encore is a solid sequel and an enjoyable experience, but in 2008, Karaoke Revolution is starting to feel a bit outdated compared to the emerging competition.
Feb 11, 2008